Tag Archives: Taylor Swift

Too Crowded

“On the expressway to your heart
The expressway is not the best way
At five o’clock it’s much too crowded
Much too crowded, so crowded”
— “Expressway to Your Heart,” The Soul Survivors

One of the things that is generally part of the concert experience, almost regardless of size, whether the venue is a comparatively compact club or a stadium that is capable to handling the population of a small city, happens twice, both before and after the event.


First is it a challenge of finding it, which can mean a lot of driving around, looking for a spot that won’t result in a ticket after the show. What’s more, there are other calculations that have to be taken into account: what if it is forecast to rain and the spot happens to be blocks away from the venue: getting drenched isn’t exactly something to look forward to, even if the storm occurs after the show.

Or it could be an event of sufficient magnitude such that when you buy your tickets there is the option to also buy parking in one of several lots or structures. While the destination for the parking is certain, there typically a long line that inches forward into the lot as people scan the QR codes on their phones, a scan that sometimes takes several tries for some of those ahead of you in line.

Anticipation for the show becomes alloyed with the frustration of the lag in actually getting there.

Then there is the exit.

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Numbers, Numbers & a Few More Numbers


According to Luminate, entertainment data accumulator and analyzer, there were one trillion streams globally in three months this year. January to March. A trillion. A one followed by 12 zeros.

Super Fly Fan

Luminate definition of “super fan”:

“a music listener aged 13+ who engages with an artist and their content in multiple ways, from streaming to social media to purchasing physical music or merch items to attending live shows. More specifically, the super fans who were identified in the studies referenced in this report were participants that self-reported engaging with their favorite artists in 5+ ways.”

Seems that there is a lot of them in the U.S.: 15% of the general population 13 years old and above. Roughly 50 million.

How You Can Tell

A field guide to a probable super fan: “people who purchase CDs, cassettes, or vinyl, are more than 2x as likely (+128%) to be music super fans.”

Why Does This Matter?

“They also spend more than 80% more money on music each month than the average music listener.”

Physical Graffiti

Super fans like things that are more manifest than, say, NFTs (what has happened with them, by the way?).

Luminate describes them as “collectable-loving.”

As such, the vinyl boomlet, which, according to stats from the RIAA, has grown for 16 years running.

The RIAA found that in 2022 there were sales of $1.7-billion of physical musical media in the U.S., of which $1.2-billion was for vinyl. Which doesn’t leave a whole lot for CDs and the rest.

(“The rest?” you wonder. The RIAA includes music videos purchases, which accounted for $19.9 million, and “Other Physical”—CD singles, cassettes, vinyl singles, DVD audio, and SACD–that garnered $14 million.)

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Whistle While You Work (By Yourself)

Several years ago I spent some time living with my brother and then-new sister-in-law. Probably because I felt somewhat awkward with them in a one-bedroom apartment, I would whistle so that they would be aware of where I was. Not that I was some sort of great whistler (in case you are, you might want to know that The Masters of Musical Whistling Competition will be held in Hollywood in September), but I figured that it both served its purpose and was somewhat tuneful.

But then my sister-in-law said to me one day, “Don’t you ever whistle a song?” and that essentially ended my whistling then and pretty much since. After all, I thought that I was sufficiently melodious, riffing on well-known songs of the day. To her it was nothing but a series of high-pitched undifferentiated sounds emitted by my lips.

ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, has released an AI model called “Ripple.” Apparently one can sing or hum something into the app and then the AI expands that with an instrumentation. Suddenly, everyone is a musician of sorts.

Realize that during Q1 of this year there were 120,000 music audio files uploaded to streaming services each day, according to Luminate. Ripple was released at the end of Q2.

Presumably a non-trivial number of those 120,000 files made my whistling sound like I was channeling Molly Lewis, not making perceptually random toots.

Now imagine what is going to happen now that there is the opportunity for people to go “hnnh, hnnnh, hnnh, hnnnnnnh. . . .” and achieve orchestration for their efforts, slight those they may be.

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“All I Gotta Do Is Act Naturally”

There has long been an association between music and the movies. Think only of the fact that the first movie with synchronized audio dialogue was The Jazz Singer (1927).

Over the years, popular musicians have found movies as being a medium that helped propel their career. Let’s face it: Elvis didn’t make dozens of movies because he thought he’d give Marlon Brando some competition.

Does anyone think that A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and Help! (1965) were made for reasons other than to get the Beatles more visibility that could be calculated into record sales?

Also in the 1960s there was a series of thematically related movies with an interchangeable cast below the leads that had music as a basis: the Beach movies with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, including How To Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965). Again, Frankie and Annette were there mainly because they were singing teen idols, not because of their acting chops. (Avalon was to appear in another notable music-driven movie of the 1970s: he was Teen Angel in Grease (1978). Annette had made her start as a singer and actor on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” which also gave rise to the careers of Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, the first of whom has also gone on to make several movies, including a role in The Social Network (2010), as Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster, which has had immeasurable implications on the music industry since it was launched in 1999.)

As for musician/actors: Sometimes it is a matter of talent. Sometimes it is simply a matter of packaging.

Taylor Swift is a talented musician for whom the term “superstar” can be appropriately used. Her career has been one that has endured and her fan base has done nothing but expand.

One could make the argument that given the extensive number of music videos she has appeared in—some 60—and that she’s not just sitting on a stool strumming her guitar and singing, but actually playing roles, Swift has cumulatively made at least two movies (assume three minutes each, so that would be 180 minutes, or about the length of two 90-minute movies).

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Hearing, Seeing, Earning

No Static At All

According to Nielsen, some 47 million Americans listen to AM radio. Given that there are some 338 million Americans, that isn’t a small number.

While electric vehicle sales are still under 10% in the U.S., the number is growing.

And as it grows, the number of AM radios in vehicles declines. Electric vehicles produced by Audi, BMW, Porsche, Volvo, Volkswagen and Tesla are all AM-radio free.

Ford has announced that its immensely popular F-150 Lightning electric pickup, will not have AM starting in model year 2023.

This isn’t (necessarily) a case of what’s known in the industry as “decontenting,” or removing things to reduce costs and increase profits.

Rather, electric motors throw off electromagnetic interference that affects AM reception in a way that it doesn’t affect FM. (The same goes for other electrical phenomenon, such as non-automotive lightning.)

Because Tesla is by far the most popular brand of EVs in the U.S. (and everywhere else for that matter), it is interesting to note something about its entertainment strategy.

What’s involved in getting AM, FM and Sirius Radio (assuming there is an appropriate antenna affixed to the roof) in a Tesla?

The customer must purchase a Radio Upgrade. It costs $500. But to get the Radio Upgrade it is necessary to get the Infotainment Upgrade. According to Tesla, to obtain the Infotainment Upgrade, “Owners of compatible vehicles can schedule an appointment through the Tesla app for purchase and installation. This upgrade is available for $2,250 plus applicable tax, including installation, for vehicles equipped with Autopilot Computer 2.0 or 2.5 and for $1,750 plus applicable tax, including installation, for all other vehicles.”

But wait, there’s more: “Some features enabled by the Infotainment Upgrade require a Premium Connectivity subscription.” And for that: “Premium Connectivity currently is available as a monthly subscription of $9.99 plus applicable tax or as an annual subscription of $99 plus applicable tax.”

Remember when radios were standard equipment in cars?

The least-expensive Tesla is a Model 3 that starts at $46,990.

Well, at least static from the audio isn’t an issue.

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Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Although you don’t often see barrels anymore unless you live in Tuscany, the notion of shooting fish in a barrel is actually quite bizarre.

There is a 53-gallon white oak container full of bourbon water and for some reason it is full of fish. Someone takes out a Mossberg 930 Waterfowl and begins blasting away. Not only is there going to be a lot of fish viscera inside the barrel, but the barrel is going to be full of holes, so clearly that’s not something you’d want to do.

But the phrase is not cautionary. Rather, it is one that refers to how easy something is to do.

Oddly, however, it isn’t like that description of perch or koi or other gill-bearing animals idly going back and forth in a container.

It seems that it is based on when in a pre-refrigeration age fish were packed in barrels with ice. These fish weren’t swimming anywhere. Were someone to shoot in the barrel, odds were really good that something would be hit.

The phrase comes to mind regarding Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour ticketing and Ticketmaster.

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Dead Man’s Wallet

The publication that once self-described as “The Capitalist’s Tool,” which eventually had an unfortunate if apt meaning, Forbes, has, like its competitor, Fortune, long been into creating lists. This was something that preceded the clickbait approach of so-called listicles, which are pretty much predicated on short attention spans. In the case of Forbes and Fortune the lists were predicated on numeric data that their readers could use for purposes of comparison and analysis rather than distraction.

Still, times change for all.

One of the things that is tough to overlook about the music industry—and let’s recognize that what is most visible are the industry participants rather than artisans or craftspeople—is that it is hugely measured in the metric of “hits,” which means “sales,” which means “revenue,” which leads to “earnings.”

In the recent Q3 earnings call, for example, for Universal Music Group, during which it was noted that the company had its fifth quarter running of strong earnings (e.g., revenues of $2.68 billion), Sir Lucian Grainge (and know that Grainge wasn’t knighted because of dragons), pointed out that while there are some 100,000 tracks uploaded to streaming services each day, this is really not helpful because it tends to be “low-quality content,” as distinct from 114-million album seller Taylor Swift, about whom he remarked: “You just have to look at the excitement around the world on a brilliant album by a brilliant artist with this week’s Taylor Swift release. That drives consumption, it drives audience and it drives new people to everything to the products, to the platforms, to other music.” And, of course, it drives revenue.

But Swift is still with us, and Forbes has complied a list of the top-earning artists and entertainers who are dead but still minting some serious coin during the past 12 months.

Of the list of 15 people, musicians take eight spots. The first two on the list are J.R.R. Tolkien ($500 million) and Kobe Bryant ($400 million).

But then there is a musician at number three. David Bowie. He (or more accurately, some legally existing entity, but from here on out we’ll just cite names rather than estates, tontines, corporations, and what have you) earned $250-million. This primarily from a catalog sale.

(According to Will Page of Tarzan Economics, which runs numbers related to the music industry, the global value of music copyright is $39.6-billion, which is now 40% more than in 2001, the year of peak CD; now 55% of the value is predicated on streaming.)

At number 4 is a man who has been dead since August 16, 1977. Elvis earned $110-million during the past year. This is mainly a take from Graceland and various variations of Elvis-branded objects. One might image that at some point in the past—maybe 2001—we hit peak Elvis. Consider: 50,000,000 Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong came out in 1959. If they were an average 20 years old then, this means they’re now 83. The only hip shaking most of them are going to do could lead to a fracture. Still, they’ve evidently got some disposable income.

James Brown, the former hardest working man in show business, is in the fifth position, $100-million. This is based on music rights, real estate (evidently hard working and smart), and his name and likeness. Two interesting things to know about him: he was short: 5-foot, 6 inches (according to the CDC, the average male is 5’9”) and he died on Christmas (2006).

Michael Jackson is in sixth position, with $75-million in earnings. Shows in Vegas and on Broadway and his catalog accounts for the major portion of this income. (Speaking of Vegas, while there seems to be an increasing trend toward musicians doing residencies there so they don’t need to travel, it is worth noting that Jackson’s ex-father-in-law performed there more than 600 times, including a run of 58 sold-out shows—that’s entertainment.)

Seventh place, at $55-million, is held by Canadian musician Leonard Cohen, whose “Hallelujah” seems to be a song people like to cover. According to the New York Times Cohen died the night of November 7, 2016, “during his sleep following a fall.” Cohen’s Wikipedia entry has it that “His work explored religion, politics, isolation, depression, sexuality, loss, death, and romantic relationships.” Probably not the life of any party not being held in the basement of a funeral home. Cohen’s earnings were from publishing and his masters.

The most-unexpected musician on the list is in ninth, with $25-million: Jeff Porcaro. Yes, the drummer for Toto. He died in 1992 at age 38 of a heart attack. While some may sneer at Porcaro and Toto, the opening paragraph of article that appeared in 1997 in Drum! magazine by Greg Rule is worth quoting in full because one can only assume that Drum! magazine probably has writers who know a little more about, well, drummers than the rest of us:

“For two-plus magical decades, Jeff Porcaro set the standard. Whatever the session, whatever the stage, when he picked up sticks it was pure magic. Smooth as silk. Deep beyond all comprehension. Taste, impeccable time and attitude for days. He had it all. From his breakthrough sessions with Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan in the mid ’70s to his final notes with Toto on Kingdom of Desire in 1992, the man with the golden groove was consistently brilliant. ‘He was one of the best drummers in the world,’ said Eddie Van Halen at a tribute held for Jeff in late ’92. ‘Definitely the groove master. He was just so heavy.’”

Porcaro’s earnings came from publishing and recording royalties. (Apparently Pocaro’s half-time shuffle beat on “Rosanna” is considered by many to be iconic. Speaking of that song, it was written about Rosanna Arquette, who had been dating Steve Porcaro, Toto keyboard player and yes, Jeff’s brother. Arquette is also the person about whom Peter Gabriel wrote “In Your Eyes.” She’s clearly something.)

Positions 12 and 13, $16-million and $12-million, respectively, deserve a shrug: John Lennon and George Harrison. Royalties and rights for the music in Get Back. One of these days George will get ahead of John. . . .

Bowie illustration by Michelle Rohn for Forbes.

Taylor Swift sells another million albums

We’ve said it before and we might never say it again (who knows!) but it’s always been rare to sell a million copies of an album in a week. But especially now when so few people purchase entire albums that even industry trade publications like Billboard have stopped basing their main album chart on sales. Since 2014, the “Billboard 200” chart has used a “multi-metric consumption” formula that includes streaming data and digital song sales.

Since Soundscan — recently rebranded as “Luminate” — began tracking sales in 1991, only 22 albums have sold a million copies in a week. It’s a weird list and not particularly good. Mostly tweener pop from the 00s and a couple of Eminem albums. Only seven albums have done it since 2010 and five of those are by Taylor Swift. Which is amazing if you think about it. How does she continue to inspire her fans to fork over their cash for her music when they could easily listen to it for free?

I don’t know how but, oops, she did it again. Midnights just sold 1.140 million copies in the U.S. in the week ending October 27. Of those sales, 575,000 were on vinyl, 395,000 on CD, 10,000 on cassette, and 161,000 were digital album downloads.

On top of the sales, Midnights also racked up 549.26 million on-demand official streams of its 20 total tracks plus 190,000 individual digital track downloads. So its total multi-metric consumption was 1.578 million equivalent album units. It still feels icky to write “consumption” and “units” in the same sentence, but hey, welcome to the apocalypse!

Continue reading Taylor Swift sells another million albums

New Christian Lee Hutson: Betty

Video: Christian Lee Hutson – “Betty”

From The Version Suicides, Vol. 1, out now on Anti-.

Christian Lee Hutson’s Beginners was one of my favorite albums of 2020. Taylor Swift’s folklore was another. In a bit of pop culture synchronicity Hutson has just released an e.p. of cover songs, including a version of Swift’s song sung from the point of view of the boy in the love triangle that is explored in a trio of folklore songs along with “Cardigan” and “August.” I can geek out all day on these three songs but I’ll spare you.

“Betty” is my favorite though. It’s the one that sounds most like a real teenager. The other two songs have references to “downtown bars” and bottles of wine, but the narrator of “Betty” talks about homeroom and his skateboard and dances in gyms and it just sounds like a dopey kid who messed up and really, really regrets it.

But if I just showed up at your party
Would you have me? Would you want me?
Would you tell me to go fuck myself
Or lead me to the garden?

In The Long Pond Studio Sessions documentary Swift says something about how she’s written so many songs wishing the boy would apologize and with “Betty” she finally gets her apology. I sincerely hope Betty gives him another chance. He’s only 17, after all. He’s doesn’t know anything.

Hutson plays it straight. He doesn’t amp up the drama but he can’t bury it. On The Version Suicides, Vol. 1 he also covers Abba and Vanessa Carlton. I’m a sucker for acoustic folkie covers of pop songs. Not sure that “Betty” required this re-imagining but it’s not bad. Just not particularly necessary. The original is perfect as it is.

Christian Lee Hutson: web, twitter, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

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From the Legal Desk: The Earth Is Round

One of the more brilliant bits of writing is found in the Introduction of the lawsuit–SMARTMATIC USA CORP., SMARTMATIC INTERNATIONAL HOLDING B.V., and SGO CORPORATION LIMITED, Plaintiffs, -against FOX CORPORATION, FOX NEWS NETWORK LLC, LOU DOBBS, MARIA BARTIROMO, JEANINE PIRRO, RUDOLPH GIULIANI, and SIDNEY POWELL, Defendants—filed in the Supreme Court of New York.

It includes:

1. The Earth is round. Two plus two equals four. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 election for President and Vice President of the United States. The election was not stolen, rigged, or fixed. These are facts. They are demonstrable and irrefutable.

2. Defendants have always known these facts. They knew Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the 2020 U.S. election. They knew the election was not stolen. They knew the election was not rigged or fixed. They knew these truths just as they knew the Earth is round and two plus two equals four.

3. Defendants did not want Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to win the election. They wanted President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence to win re-election. Defendants were disappointed. But they also saw an opportunity to capitalize on President Trump’s popularity by inventing a story. Defendants decided to tell people that the election was stolen from President Trump and Vice President Pence.

4. Defendants had an obvious problem with their story. They needed a villain. They needed someone to blame. They needed someone whom they could get others to hate. A story of good versus evil, the type that would incite an angry mob, only works if the storyteller provides the audience with someone who personifies evil.

5. Without any true villain, Defendants invented one. Defendants decided to make Smartmatic the villain in their story. . . .

6. Those facts would not do for Defendants. So, the Defendants invented new ones. . . .

Not only is this simplicity potentially devastating for the defendants (perhaps not uncoincidentally, Lou Dobbs’ show was canceled by Fox the day after the suit was filed, which tells you something), but the opening is a good description of law suits of all types. Subtract the specifics of the claim, the individuals involved, and note how there are simple things that are known and that people have a tendency to make things up to their advantage. Sometimes the creation of the fiction is predicated simply on the people involved not knowing better. Sometimes it is to try to gain an advantage. (Which is the case in this case: weaving a conspiracy that includes the election equipment and software company in a nefarious undertaking to prevent their Dear Leader from holding on to his position was undoubtedly thought to be good for ratings, and ratings mean money, and Smartmatic’s is a $2.7-billion defamation lawsuit that will undoubtedly make Rudy sweat more than he did outside the Four Seasons Lawn & Landscaping building.)

While it isn’t nearly to the degree of the Smartmatic lawsuit, the CEO of Evermore Park in Pleasant Grove, Utah, has filed a lawsuit against Taylor Swift because she released an album named “Evermore.”

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