Authenticity

The 2006 Grammy® Awards confirmed U2 as the top band in the world. I agree. Across three decades, U2 has gone deep musically and lyrically to create pause and thought. They touch nerves, and they inspire millions, because they are authentic. It’s no wonder they swept up five Grammys.

Traveling through Germany last year, I sampled radio stations across the country to learn who the top bands were. Other than the current hits, few bands were ubiquitous, but almost every station played U2. Do you travel? Try the experiment yourself.

U2

U2 has found a way to be worldwide *rock stars* while remaining grounded. Sharing is built into who they are. Sharing creates vulnerability. Think about it – the highest grossing tour band in the world, embodied in the words and actions of Bono, is known for its authenticity – for sharing and vulnerability. Sharing and vulnerability are good business.

Bono reveals his personal and private self in the book “Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas”. Reading it, you encounter the private Bono, and realize that the Bono you saw in concert is the real thing. His vulnerability and desire to influence and impact the world, you come to understand, are sincere. That is why U2 has staying power. That is why a new generation has discovered what many of us first recognized 25 years ago – U2 has a passionate message that speaks from the core of who they are.

Today’s Reality TV audience can spot “staged” personalities and lack of sincerity a mile away. They have forced advertisers to change the way they speak to them. You either spend tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to reach and try to retain your audience, or you are authentic. Manufactured artists and music may work for some youth. But they don’t “connect.” Many labels have become “hit machines,” producing disposable stars. When the audience disposes of them, they wonder what happened. New bands and singer/songwriters whose authenticity comes through can sometimes quickly supplant machine-made pop stars. Consumer pushback has resulted in lower record sales, increased piracy, and, on the positive side, a resurgence of “authentic” people, bands and music. Authentic is easier, and it lasts longer.

Cross over the line to the “manufactured” side, and you can quickly lose your pedestal. A few examples: Gretchen Wilson, Eminem (crossing to the manufactured side?), Jack Johnson … (add your favorite example here).

For more than 25 years, U2 has managed to avoid becoming insulated or inebriated with their success while staying authentic. Perhaps that is what speaks loudest to us. We each, in our own way, find our path through life and seek to do the same as U2… we earnestly search out who we are and why we are here, to enjoy our successes without getting too caught up in them, to live life and employ our gifts with great passion.

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