Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Live Music: How The Corrs took over the planet

From Dundalk to world domination, The Corrs have taken music marketing to a new level. In advance of their two sold-out Belfast concerts, Paul McNamee traces the trajectory of Ireland's most famous family and finds there's as much business savvy as musical talent behind their massive success

The Corrs are celebrating the success of their fourth studio album, Borrowed Heaven. Already a chart-fixture in the UK, Ireland and Europe (it went to No 1 in the Irish charts) it's sure to significantly add to the band's tally of 30m sales.

The Corrs are celebrating the success of their fourth studio album, Borrowed Heaven. Already a chart-fixture in the UK, Ireland and Europe (it went to No 1 in the Irish charts) it's sure to significantly add to the band's tally of 30m sales.

It's easy to scoff at The Corrs, to write them off as coffee-table MOR, filling the space between Dido and Enya. But beneath the shiny hair and the fiddle solos lie a steely determination and business nous.

Since their inception in 1991, they've been led by manager and de facto fifth member, John Hughes. A middle-ranking musician before he took The Corrs' reins, it was Hughes who plotted a 10-year-plan for the band (they got there much sooner) and it was he who put together the deal that was to prove arguably the most significant moment in their career.

In July 2002, The Corrs signed to sports management and marketing firm IMG. The company is a global player finding and negotiating sponsorship and product endorsement deals for clients, including Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters, Michael Schumacher and Manchester United. The Corrs became their first music clients.

Signing the deal proved the band were no longer just big-selling stars who shifted truckloads of records and filled arenas; they were now a major international brand, capable of selling cola from Bangkok to Ballymena. It served to significantly lift the level at which the band would operate.

And here's the rub. The Corrs are essentially an airbrushed Nolan sisters - pretty faces singing harmony pop songs, swimming in the warmth of family and wholesomeness.

Hughes added a sleek edge, making them the sex Nolans - playing to US presidents rather than holiday-makers on Blackpool pier - but he was still canny enough to keep that essence.

It's a difficult trick to pull off, and ironically U2, perhaps Ireland's greatest musical exports, have also managed to maintain the image of doing it for the music and the fans while riding a relentless business machine.

Much was made several years ago of Bono and Andrea Corr's lunch dates. Perhaps they really were power lunches between the heads of two powerful corporations.

The Corrs' entire career has been built around careful manipulation masquerading as happenstance and good fortune. For example, much has been made of the fact that they got their American break after the US ambassador to Ireland happened in on their first show in Dublin and signed them up for a 1994 World Cup after-party in Boston.

There is, of course, more to it than that. That first Dublin gig came after three years' hard slog in Jim Corr's make-do studio in Dundalk, with Hughes already on board. The ambassador, Jean Kennedy Smith, didn't just pop into Whelan's bar on that fateful night for a quick drink. She was there at the invitation of Riverdance creator Bill Whelan, a good friend of the family - and of Hughes.

When she got The Corrs to play at a party booked by her brother Ted Kennedy, the band had an instant 'in' with the powerful Irish diaspora before they had even recorded an album. Some going.

Of course, hard graft and some talent has had its part to play. The Corrs toured relentlessly through the 90s, and their sound undoubtedly matured. They write impossibly catchy tunes - try thinking about What Can I Do, So Young or Runaway or that new single, Summer Sunshine, without the chorus flashing through your head - and in Sharon they have a frontwoman with a genuinely great, if under-used, voice.

They also look fantastic.

All in all, it seems there is little prospect of the Corrs juggernaut coming off the road any time soon. All the early critics have been forced to eat their words. Whether you like their sugary music or not, dismiss them at your peril. They will not stop until the world is theirs.



Win tickets

We have 10 pairs of tickets to see The Corrs at the Odyssey on June 24. To have a chance of winning a pair, call the competition line on 09068 360304, leaving your answer to the question below and your contact details. Or text BTCORRS with your answer and full name and address to 88100.

The question is: What is the name of the only male member of The Corrs?

Lines close midnight on Sunday. Calls cost 60p per minute. Calls from a mobile or payphone will be charged at the rate of the service provider. Text entry costs £1.50 per text plus your normal operator rate. Usual competition rules apply.

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