U2 were among the first mainstream artists to embrace the digital realm as the music industry slowly shifted from physical copies to mp3s, with the band's longstanding relationship with Apple resulting in the surprise release of their 2014 LP Songs of Innocence through iTunes. However, while the Irish rockers are in a rare position where they can afford to release an album for free, thousands of artists struggle to earn a living in an era where album sales are plummeting and streaming rules. In a new interview, U2 drummer Larry Mullen Jr. recognises the challenges new musicians face, "I think [the music industry] is broken. A lot of younger artists don't get paid. I think that's a real problem."
Mullen admitted that the streaming companies' minuscule pay-per-stream compensation makes it difficult for artists to be successful, and that U2 collectively hope that changes. "We're kind of out of that scenario, but we would like to see artists get paid," Mullen told US radio host Larry Gogan Show. "Companies like Spotify, the new Apple service and all the others are really going to have to pay artists more. And I think it's a matter of time, I think a lot of these companies and the individuals that are involved in them realize that as well. They know that artists are not getting what they should be getting."
As both physical and digital album sales drop year-after-year, Mullen is hopeful that the streaming services can figure out a way to properly compensate artists, for music's sake. "I think there will be a fix for this. I don't think it's going to be instant. I think it's going to take some time, but I'm really optimistic about it," the drummer added. "And again, the most important thing is that people who are going out there, songwriters, that they are able to earn a living from writing songs and releasing songs. The fact that they can't, that just seems crazy to me.