U2 May Be Next to Leave Record Biz

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Roger Friedman, Fox News

I told you earlier this week that the Rolling Stones are looking at a deal with concert promoter Live Nation that would also cover the release of their CDs. The deal is similar to the one Madonna signed in 2007.

Now I'm told that at least two more big acts are in talks with Live Nation along similar lines. The most surprising of these is U2, which has spent its entire career on either Island Records or a company connected to it, Interscope. They are all part of the Universal Music Group.

But times are changing quickly in what's left of the music business, and U2 is said to be wanting out. If they go with Live Nation, their exit from UMG will be a blow to all, including Doug Morris and Jimmy Iovine, the group's principal contacts.

My sources say the group's most recent release, 2004's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," fulfilled their Interscope contract. UMG also released a remastered version of the group's seminal album, "The Joshua Tree," recently. That also may have concluded the contract.

Interestingly, the current U2 movie, a 3D concert film that's received high praise, has no CD soundtrack to accompany it. Considering that U2's catalog is light on live recordings, the lack of an Interscope CD does set off alarms.

A few months ago, you'll recall that U2's savvy manager, Paul McGuiness, told me that the group will have at least two new releases in 2008: their Broadway "Spiderman" musical and a separate rock album.

It's entirely possible that those two releases would form the basis of a new deal, perhaps with Live Nation. The "Spiderman" musical is set to be directed by Julie Taymor ("The Lion King") and may feature members of the cast of her 2007 Beatles film, "Across the Universe."

The other artist I'm told is talking to Live Nation is Christian singer Michael W. Smith. The singer records for Franklin, Tenn.-based Reunion Records and has an enormous following in the Christian niche market.

If U2 makes this kind of deal, along with the Stones and Madonna, soon all bets will be off at the majors over long term or heritage artists. The Eagles are already on their own through Wal-Mart, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell have jumped to Starbucks' Hear Music, and Radiohead deserted EMI for their own company.

Copyright © 2008 Fox News.

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