U2 have signed a 12-year deal with the world's biggest concert promoter, Live Nation, to handle the band's merchandising, digital and branding rights.
The move follows an agreement the company made with Madonna in October 2007 to look after all her rights with the exception of music publishing.
The contracts indicate the direction in which the music industry is heading. As income from CD sales declines and pirate downloads eat up profits, artists are starting to realise that the money lies in touring and merchandising. U2 will continue to release music through Universal Music.
The latest deal cements an already longstanding partnership between the rock group and Live Nation, which has managed U2's tours since 1980. A subsidiary of Live Nation already manages U2's website and fan club. The band's frontman Bono said: "We've been dating for over 20 years now. It's about time we tied the knot."
He added: "We feel that we've got a great website but we want to make it a lot better. We want a closer, more direct relationship between the band and its audience and Live Nation has pledged to help us with that."
Last autumn, Live Nation signed a 10-year deal with Madonna that is believed to be worth $120m (60m). …