Tag Archives: Spotify

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

Warner Bails on Streaming Sites

Warner Music has decided against licensing new music to online streaming sites like Last.FM, Pandora and others. Citing his belief that these sites, which deliver his artists’ music to untold potential new fans, was not “positive” for the music industry, chief executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. told the BBC that Warner would not issue licenses to new sites.

“Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry and as far as Warner Music is concerned will not be licensed,” Bronfman told the BBC. “The ‘get all your music you want for free, and then maybe with a few bells and whistles we can move you to a premium price strategy’, is not the kind of approach to business that we will be supporting in the future.”

Instead, Bronfman said Warner will focus on launching their own fee-based service to compete with streaming sites and online retailers like iTunes.

“The number of potential subscribers dwarfs the number of people who are actually purchasing music on iTunes,” Bronfman said. He sees the potential for subscriptions in the “hundreds of millions if not billions of people, most of whom are not today either buyers or certainly heavy buyers of music.”

Yeah, right. Good luck with that.

Continue reading Warner Bails on Streaming Sites

Poll: 75% of Students Prefer Downloads to Streams

iPhone A recent University of Reading study finds that 75% of students polled prefer downloading music to buying hard copies or even streaming, which may speak to a sort of splitting of the difference for how younger audiences view digital music. If there was ever any debate on whether people still want to “own” music, this bit of information sheds a little bit more light.

The popularity of streaming sites like LastFM

, Pandora and Spotify had a lot of nobs who think about these things wondering if we’d eventually hit a point wher nobody owns and keeps any form of music—be that physical CDs and records or digital files. The idea was that as broadband and wireless technology improved and the masses moved to smart phones we’d eventually just have all music available on demand via streaming tools. But is that what anyone wants?

According to the survey of 10,000 university students, “75 percent said they wouldn’t pay for a music-streaming service but would rather use sites such as iTunes to download and keep tracks on hard drives or MP3 players.”

The survey is cited in a press release apparently issued on behalf of TunesPro.com, a new download site hoping to compete with iTunes. Their angle seems to be to undercut on price. The press release quotes a spokesman for TunesPro:

We keep our prices low and concentrate of making money through volume sales. Currently we charge 19c per song and offer a further 10% when a whole album is purchased. We believe this will attract the younger users away from iTunes, which charge almost 6 times more than we do.

So for now it appears many younger audiences still want to possess something for their money. Will that hold as the ease and cost for bandwidth decreases and becomes more widespread? Will you still want to “hold” your music?