Tag Archives: Spotify

Seeing & Hearing

One of the means by which those who have bought the seats in arenas that are so high that there are reduced levels of available oxygen, which makes vision blurred in some cases and headaches in nearly all (which makes said person wish they’d have ponied up a few more bucks for the ducat), is for there to be massive video screens above the stage such that all of the people in the arena, especially those in those upper tiers, have the sense they are watching TV.

(A digression: If you are in a situation where your view of a person or persons on stage is really quite reasonable and there is an array of giant screens, to what extent do your eyes tend to drift to the screen rather than to the actual human(s)? I must confess that I often look at the screens, not because it necessarily shows anything that I can’t see by moving my eyes down a few degrees toward 0, but possibly because in a lifetime of looking at screens, there is simply a tendency. So let’s say for the sake of argument that the performers on the stage are simply good look-alike mimics and the audio is a recording of the actual performers. However, the screen shows the actual performance as recorded. Those who have good seats would be able to discern the difference, but the majority of the people in the arena, who are watching the screens, wouldn’t. If they were to watch the show and leave, not knowing that the people on the stage were stand-ins, would their experience be any different than if the bona-fide performers performed?)

Last week in Hong Kong during a performance of Cantopop group Mirror, a metal suspension cord snapped and a giant screen fell to the stage, injuring a dancer who was on stage in support of the band. An AP photo of the falling screen is potentially horrific: it is hard to image that there was only one person hospitalized, especially given that there are 12 members of Mirror, so the stage was crowded. (Earlier in the week, at another performance at the Hong Kong Coliseum, a performer fell off the stage. Performing can be a dangerous thing.)

Maybe the cheap seats for Springsteen have a benefit: safety.

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Also last week Spotify released its Q2 2022 earnings.

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Streams and Schemes

Deep within the Form F-1 that Shenzhen-based Tencent Music Entertainment Group prepared a prospectus for the SEC back in 2018, there is an interesting section titled “Fragmented music content providers and popularity of long-tail content.”

Know that TME, which is the leading music streaming service in China, operates music apps including QQ Music Kugou Music, Kuwo Music, and WeSing. The company’s platform includes online music, online audio, online karaoke, music-centric live streaming and online concert services. Although it is a fraction of the size of Spotify, given that there are about 1-billion internet users in China (in the U.S. for example, the number is along the lines of 312-million, less than half of the number of users in India, at 834-million), there is something to say for the upside opportunities of TME, which reported last month that it has 76.2-million paying users, a 36% year-over-year increase, which is some serious traction.

The fragmented music section includes:

• “China has a more fragmented music content creation and copyright ownership landscape as compared to developed economies. In contrast to the U.S. market where the top music labels have strong market positions, China provides a more conducive environment for online music platforms. According to iResearch, in terms of the volume of tracks streamed, the top five labels in China had a combined market share of less than 30% in 2017, while the top five labels globally had a combined market share of approximately 85%.”
• “China also has a fast growing market for long-tail, niche music content, including those that belong to niche genres, driven by an increasing demand for diversified and personalized online entertainment experiences.”
• “The younger generation in China, represented by Generation Z (born between 1990 and 2009), is also a key driving force of the market for long-tail entertainment content. They are generally technology savvy, creative, expressive, and willing to pay for quality content. They are also actively involved in content creation through interactive online platforms, driving both the supply and demand for long-tail music content.”

While there are undoubtedly changes between 2018 and 2022 and so this focus on niche music may be somewhat attenuated, in its Form 6-K filing with the SEC for March 2022 there is the following:
“As of the end of the fourth quarter, the number of indie musicians on our Tencent Musician Platform reached 300,000.”

Continue reading Streams and Schemes

The Physical Impossibility of Making It in the Environment of Financial Sharks

Damien Hirst’s artworks go for millions of dollars at auction. By several accounts, he is the richest visual artist in the world. The old caution that parents made to children: “Don’t be an artist. You won’t make any money until after you are dead” clearly doesn’t hold. Hirst is 56 so he has a long way to go, adding to his ~$400-million personal valuation.

Hirst is an artist who creates works that, by and large, are large such that they aren’t things that he can personally execute. Take, for example, what is arguably his most famous piece to date, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, which is a 14-foot-long tiger shark in a large aquarium (84 x 204 x 84 inches) that is filled with formaldehyde. Unlike those sailfish that are mounted on the walls of paneled basements that are meant to speak to the piscatory prowess of the residential fisherman, Hirst didn’t go out on a boat in subtropical waters, catch the shark, then bring it back to his studio, where he wrested the dead, slimy object, which probably weighs just under a ton, into the tank.

He had help.

So because Hirst is as much an entrepreneur as artist, he cleverly created a company named “Science (UK)” that includes staff that at the end of 2020, numbered at 156. As was the case in the U.S., the U.K. had a government program established to address potential job losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Companies would get money in order to protect employees.

Turns out, according to ARTNews, that Science (UK) received £1.31 million (a.k.a., $1.77 million) in 2020.

The same year it gave the shove to 63 of its employees.

Continue reading The Physical Impossibility of Making It in the Environment of Financial Sharks

Aliens

I will not forget when I saw the movie Alien. It was a Sunday afternoon. My wife had no interest in going because while no one can hear you scream in space, they surely can in a theater.

I sat next to a young boy—say 10—and his mom.

There’s the gobsmackingly shocking scene when the xenomorph bursts out of John Hurt’s chest.

The mom looked over at me with her eyes saying, “Say something reassuring to my kid,” and all I could think of was, besides “Holy Shit!” was “You brought the kid here, deal with it.”

That came to mind when I read a story in The Washington Post about actress Evangeline Lilly, who plays the Wasp, a tiny character, in Marvel movies, attending the anti-COVID vaccine mandate rally in Washington DC on January 22.

Lilly, who is known for her arguably blasé approach to COVID (to put it euphemistically), wrote a caption on an Insta post showing protestors that includes, “nobody should ever be forced to inject their body with anything, against their will.”

One of the things that tends to be overlooked about the virus is that just like the aforementioned xenomorph, it requires a human host.

Said hosts, who, say, are walking around in crowds or pulling a Palin and sitting in a restaurant, knowing full well that they have tested positive, have the viruses burst out of their respiratory systems, just like the Alien.

And then, again Alien-like, there are people who are put at risk of bodily harm. Or death. (Just ask >874,000 Americans—wait, we can’t, they’re dead.)

Nobody should ever be forced to have aliens injected into their body against their will by science deniers.

Were COVID characterized by the xenomorph bursting out of humans, if it was characterized as the organic alien that is dedicated to nothing but reproduction (which is what is the case with viruses: they have nothing else to do but try to survive, which is why variants come to be), that would take down the Wasp and even Ripley, perhaps there would be a greater understanding that this is still a situation. While it may have less of a negative impact on people who are healthy (but let’s face it: Americans are generally not particularly healthy: according to the CDC, 16 states have obesity rates of 35% or higher), there are still some 41-million adults under 65 who have medical conditions that put them at high risk of serious illness from infection, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (There are an additional 51 million >65 years old at risk.)

At this point you are wondering whether (1) you’ve gone to some movie site or (2) a medical site.

And at this point I go to the Rogan/Young/Spotify situation, sort of bringing it back to music because I am unaware of the vocal stylings of Joe Rogan, the man who was made $100-million richer by Daniel Ek, when Spotify put Rogan, comedian, podcaster, ivermectin-taker, under contract.

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Audio Adventures

Although the Amboy Dukes were originally organized in Chicago—which is a bit of an exaggeration because people in Chicago don’t consider Arlington Heights to be Chicago any more than they do Schaumberg—the band is better known as being from Detroit, one of the groups that had its heyday in the late 1960s along with a raft of others, including the MC5, SRC, Frost, Up, and the Bob Seger System (although purists would put “the Last Heard” in place of “System”). The first-named continues to resonate given that it had profound effects on bands that made it to a far greater extent than it ever did; the last-named has become known in relation to the Silver Bullet Band (good for him; bad for music; arguably “East Side Story,” “Heavy Music” and “2 + 2 = ?” are cuts that people should still go to school on; the later stuff: it works well in movie soundtracks).

(A digression: although it began in earnest in the early 1960s, Motown had a more lasting effect on Detroit—and music—than the aforementioned bands. It is incredible to think that out of a studio on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit (now a museum) music from the Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, and others was produced. One might argue that from 1961 to 1971 there was a true musical Renaissance in Detroit, the likes of which has never been bettered.)

The Amboy Dukes had one hit, “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” which was released in 1968 and was the Midwest version of a genre that came to be known as “Psychedelic Rock,” something that should have been left to the likes of Moby Grape.

The most notable sound on “Journey” was the lead guitar playing by Ted Nugent.

It would have probably been better for everyone (with the exception of the Nugent family members) had he decided to hang it up after that searing 3:11 single.

But he is still here.

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It’s All About the Ecosystem [Money]

Because once you get in, it is ever so hard to escape

Apple Music recently released a statement about how it pays artists for streams, which positions the company as being more, um, generous than, say Spotify.

There’s this: “While other services pay some independent labels a substantially lower rate than they pay major labels, we pay the same headline rate to all labels.” Let’s face it, there are plenty of artists whose music you’re interested in that aren’t on the majors (a statement I can make with some confidence given that you’re on this site), so why should they get any less attention because of the company that their music happens to be distributed by?

This one is the kicker: “While royalties from streaming services are calculated on a stream share basis, a play still has a value. This value varies by subscription plan and country but averaged $0.01 for Apple Music individual paid plans in 2020. This includes label and publisher royalties.” Admittedly, you have to have one ginormous number of streams in order to have enough money to order a beer at your local bar.

But when there are other companies that are paying money at rates that are so complicated to work out that you might as well spend your time calculating a variant proof for Fermat’s Theorem, a penny is something that can be readily understood.

This gets into the tricky category: “Apple Music paid out royalties for more than 5 million recording artists around the world in 2020, over 1 million more than in 2019. The number of recording artists whose catalogs generated recording and publishing royalties over $1 million per year increased over 120% since 2017, while the number of recording artists whose catalogs generated over $50,000 per year has more than doubled.”

If we break it down it says there were four million artists on Apple Music in 2019, and now there are 20% more. But the part that is a bit obfuscatorial is the fact that while there is a large percentage increase in the number of musicians who have earned over a million dollars since 2017, not knowing how many made a million in 2017 makes that increase a mystery. That is, if there were 100 in 2017, the 120% increase isn’t a whole lot, which is the same case for the doubling of the $50,000 earners.

Continue reading It’s All About the Ecosystem [Money]

The Disturbingly Small Numbers

The $15 minimum wage is a contentious issue. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. It was established in 2009. 2009 was Windows 7.

Yes, you’d think it would be time for a change.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a minimum wage increase would impact the following:

• More than half (51%) of workers who would benefit are adults between the ages of 25 and 54; only one in 10 is a teenager.
• Nearly six in 10 (59%) are women.
• More than half (54%) work full time.
• More than four in 10 (43%) have some college experience.
• More than a quarter (28%) have children.

The issue here is one of people earning a living.

If we’ve seen anything in the past year it is that people who are working at grocery stores and doing food delivery services were putting themselves at considerable health risk. Odds are they didn’t want to. But it was their job and they had to do it. $7.25.

If someone works 40 hours per week, that is 2,080 hours per year. So at $7.25, the annual wage is $15,080.

And according to the EPI, were a raise to $15 per hour occur (it is worth noting that this wouldn’t necessarily be an instantaneous increase but that there would be a stepped approach, going to $9.50 in 2021 and reaching $15 in 2025) a full-time worker employed year-round would earn $31,200.

To put that into some perspective, know that the average price of a used car—remember, these people need to get to work in order to earn anything—is over $23,000. And that, of course, would mean the need for car insurance, on top of rent, utilities, food, clothing, etc., etc.

At this point—or far earlier—you may be wondering if you’ve accidentally stumbled onto a website dedicated to economics, not music.

Hang on. We’re getting there.

Continue reading The Disturbingly Small Numbers

Listen to the Sound of Income

While it has been quite some time since I have been in a movie theater, the remembrance of sitting in a seat waiting for the show to begin is something that sticks with me for the simple reason that (1) when going to a theater with general admission I would generally get there sufficiently early such that I would be able to get a seat that didn’t put me in a spot where the sightlines were less-than ideal (e.g., off to the side or in a row near to the screen that would require an uncomfortable neck torque for a not-inconsiderable amount of time) and (2) theaters, which make more money off of concessions (i.e., pre-pandemic, theater chains made about 50% on the price of a ticket and 80% on the concessions, so if you want to know why that bucket of popcorn takes a bucket of cash to buy, there it is), decided that given the captive audience, selling ads to play before the trailers was a lucrative move.

You might imagine that because you are paying to see something specific (i.e., the movie) you would not be subjected to watching something that the proprietor is making money on. To be sure, for years pre-movie there would be the cartoon of the hotdog, beverage and popcorn box strutting across the screen encouraging you to go get a snack, but it got to the point that you were encouraged to do everything from joining the Army to buying car insurance. And while those ads tended to be well produced, there are even those sold locally to plastic surgeons and car dealers that appear to have been shot and produced by someone’s Uncle Gus.

According to SiriusXM, “SiriusXM is unique because we stay true to the artists and their music by broadcasting 100% commercial-free music. So, unlike traditional radio, all of our original music channels have no commercials – ever!” However, elsewhere it acknowledges, “While all of our music channels are 100% commercial free, subscribers may hear commercials on some of the Sports, Talk and News channels.” That verb may, expressing possibility, is a bit of a dodge. What’s more, while the music channels are without commercials in the sense of things that are promoting the goods and services of a third party, there are more than a few interruptions on the music channels trying to get you to listen to the Billy Joel Channel or a special, limited-duration channel from some performer that you’d prefer Novocain-free dental work rather than listening to. What SiriusXM is doing is trying to keep you within its sphere so that it is going to make money from subscription renewals. Realize that they have built out an infrastructure (e.g., satellites, office buildings) that needs to be maintained, to say nothing of the contract with Howard Stern that is said to be worth as much as $100-million a year through 2025. You need a lot of subscribers to support that kind of outgo.

On February 22, Spotify conducted its “Stream On” event, which it describes as how it “is continuing to go all in on the limitless power of audio—the opportunity and the potential it represents for Spotify, creators, and fans everywhere around the world.

Continue reading Listen to the Sound of Income

Medical Music

When sitting in a chair in my dentist’s office—I mean the chair that brings Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man to mind—the ambient audio system is always playing a lite rock station. Most of the music is of a sufficient sweetness to engender even more cavities in one’s molars. But it is a temperate drone behind the whining of the drill that sounds like it is about to shatter that porcelain spit bowl to my immediate left. Over the years I have spent far too much time in such a chair. I am confident that I have helped put my dentist’s children through dental school. I have heard a lot of that music.

Which brings me back to Marathon Man and the scary things that can happen with sharp implements, as it leads to a recent study conducted on surgeons by Spotify.

Specifically, the research was on what music surgeons listen to while performing their work in operating rooms.

It isn’t soft rock.

The number-one genre among the surgeons for their OR time is rock.

Over 700 responses came from surgeons who are registered with Spotify.

And looking at the top 10 list makes me shutter and hope that I don’t need anyone slicing into me—not that I dispute, wholly, their taste in music, but just that it seems that the nature of the music that they prefer has beats that might make things go somewhat awry should the doctors become too deep into the sound.

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Playlist: The Best of John Lennon

John Lennon released four solo albums before the Beatles officially broke up, but three of these were experimental recordings made with Yoko Ono and the fourth was a live album recorded in Toronto with an under-rehearsed band featuring Eric Clapton. These four albums are generally dismissed as non-canonical, and they were not included in Spotify’s recent addition.

His first “proper” solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, came out in December 1970 and remains the best album released by any former Beatle. It’s raw, honest, and brutal. 1971’s Imagine is very good as well, but unfortunately for John it was all downhill from there. Most of his recorded output between 1972 and 1975 is…spotty, to put it gently. Lennon was uncomfortable with the natural sound of his own voice and buried it in echo and reverb and schlocky production. He took a break from the music business until 1980 when he was inspired to go back in the studio to record Double Fantasy and enough outtakes for the posthumously released Milk and Honey.

Here are the 17 best songs from what’s available now on Spotify.

Continue reading Playlist: The Best of John Lennon