Case | HBS Case Collection | April 2009 (Revised April 2012)

Bono and U2

by Nancy F. Koehn, Katherine Miller and Rachel Wilcox

Abstract

This case traces the 30-year development of the rock band U2 and the development of its four members as artists, business leaders, and humanitarians (with particular attention paid to lead singer Bono's global humanitarian work). The case examines the beginnings of the band among four school friends and follows the development of the enterprise as a business and as a powerful social and cultural force in its own right. It also investigates the individual journeys of the band members during moments of great success and significant challenges. The case pays particular attention to the four men's evolving identities as musical artists and to the tradeoffs that have accompanied their fame and larger social commitments. The case takes up the evolution of the global music industry in the face of rapid technological and organizational change, examining how U2 and colleagues navigated such change, built a very powerful brand, and created a successful business model. The final part of the case traces lead singer Bono's involvement in political and humanitarian causes and the potential power of such a model as a framework for artistry, entrepreneurship, and effective leadership in the 21st century.

Keywords: Arts; Business Model; Social Entrepreneurship; Globalized Markets and Industries; Leadership; Brands and Branding; Personal Development and Career; Social Enterprise; Music Industry;

Citation:

Koehn, Nancy F., Katherine Miller, and Rachel Wilcox. "Bono and U2." Harvard Business School Case 809-148, April 2009. (Revised April 2012.)