Spotify900x473Contrary to popular belief, CDs are more eco-friendly than streaming. Digital media has a far worse carbon footprint. Surprised? You should expect a less physical product would mean far lower carbon emissions. For sure, the amount of plastics used by the industry has dropped dramatically when streaming took over. But, it's more to the picture than meets the eye. Now and then, I found myself in a situation where I have to listen to tiresome arguments advocating streaming. Apart from the indisputable accessibility, (main)streamers often emphasize the positive environmental aspect. However, the environmental argument isn't correct and you can now stop feeling good about yourself. The energy used to power online music listening is enormous. Storing and processing music depends on vast data centres that use a tremendous amount of resources and energy. Sweden has become a popular country for locating data centres since we (still) have a cold climate and some energy tax exceptions. Is there a risk of comparing apples and oranges here? Not really, since you can compare cd production and the electricity used to store and transmit digital audio files into greenhouse gas equivalents (GHGs). The GHG from streaming are estimated to be twice as high as GHG from physical media. The hidden environmental impact of streaming is enormous. And what about the gothic country genre? The environmental impact is negligible. Often produced in ridiculously small numbers (50-200 copies) and packaged in recycled paper sleeves. Therefore, I can continue to sleep well at night. Physical copies are also the best way to support the artists.

  

missilareflyingWe are living in worrying times with unpredictable world leaders who are quick to take offence and lacks impulse-control. Long ago, I saw the screen adaption of Stephen King's "Dead Zone" with Christopher Walken as the central character. Walken plays a schoolteacher, who awakens from a coma to find he has psychic powers. Despite Walken's extraordinary acting skills it was Martin Sheen (President Stillson) that made an imprint, because of his ghastly un-presidential qualities. Ironically, Martin Sheen later came to play president Josiah (Jed) Bartlet in the television series "The West Wing". The Stillson and Bartlet characters couldn't be more far from each other. "Dead Zone" made a long-lasting impression on me. I still rembember the nuclear button scene. This is how I imagined that the world would end. In flames. Here it the dialogue (it's more of a monologue) in its entirety.   
President Stillson: "Do it, General."
Five Star General: "You're insane. I won't."
President Stillson: "Do it! Put your hand on the scanning screen, and you'll go down in history with me!"
Five Star General: "As what? The world's greatest mass murderers?"
President Stillson: "You cowardly bastard! You're not the voice of the people! I’m the voice of the people. The people speak through me, not you! It came to me while I slept, Sonny…my destiny. In the middle of the night it came to me. I must get up now, right now and fulfill my destiny! Now, put your goddamn hand on that scanning screen, or I'll hack it off and put it on for you! Do it!"
Five Star General: "May God forgive me."
President Stillson: "Congratulations, General."
Sonny Elliman: "Complete the sequence, Mr. President."
President Stillson: "My destiny!"
President Stillson: "Thank you, Sonny."
President Stillson: "Let them come up."
Vice President: "This is not necessary Mr. President, we have a diplomatic solution."
President Stillson: "Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary, the missiles are flying. Hallelujah. Hallelujah."

 
 

Spotify intheredSchadenfreude is the only true joy. It's time to rejoice again. Spotify is in the red. The phrase "in the red" is used to describe a business that is operating at a loss. The phrase “in the black” refers to a business that are profitable and financially solvent. These phrases are derived from the colour of ink used by accountants. It would be more fitting if the colour of the Spotify logo were red. In Q4 2018 their financial report showed that operating income, net income, and free cash flow were positive for the first (and probably only) time. Finally, investors and shareholders would get return on their investments. However, one swallow doesn't make a summer. In Q1 and Q2 2019 everything went back to normal again. The financial report for Q2 2019 is indeed a very gloomy read. Operating loss amounted to €3 million (3,3 million dollar) and net loss was €76 million (84 million dollar). According to the Q2 report Spotify has about 108 million paying (premium) users (of a total of 232 million users) in Q2 2019, which makes 46 percent. The business model is based on conversion theory (by providing freemium, users will upgrade to premium). The share of paying users has increased the last five years, but the growth rate has leveled out. The share of paying customers is the same in Q1 and Q2 2019. After more than 10 years the share of paying users is still below 50 percent. Is this sustainable? Serious business analysts believe that a business model built on freemium will never be profitable. The stagnant conversion rate should cause panic in the board room, but instead the destruction of capital continues. What can we expect in the near future? In the Q2 report there's an outlook for Q3 and Q4 2019. The report is filled with misleading siren calls. The prognosis isn't directly accurate. Spotify expects a very small operating income or a large operating loss. The concluding disclaimer takes corporate bullshit to a new and unprecedented level: "These forward-looking statements reflect Spotify’s expectations as of July 31, 2019 and are subject to substantial uncertainty." Deeds, not words. 


GriefcameridingArtists sometimes behave erratically. How else could you explain why a song is not included on an album. I'm not referring to songs in general, but to outtakes with extraordinary qualities. There are some flagrant examples: "Blind Wille McTell" was left out from Bob Dylan's album "Infidels", "Panic" was left out from The Smiths groundbreaking album "The Queen is Dead" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart" was left out from Joy Division's second and last album "Closer". According to Occam's razor "simpler solutions are more likely to be correct than complex ones". Let's apply this problem-solving principle. The artists may have a vast well of songs to choose from. Yes, but this doesn't explain why the extraordinary song didn't make it. An even more simple explanation is that artists who normally are overly self-critical, have good judgment and impeccable taste sometimes make mistakes. I will not elaborate any further. This explanation will do. Then, the biggest mistake must be leaving out "Grief Came Riding" from Nick Cave's epic album "And No More Shall We Part" released in 2001. The outtake appeared on a bonus CD packaged with a limited edition of the album when it was first released. It would later be included on the 2005 compilation "B-Sides & Rarities", the 2011 re-release of "No More Shall We Part" and the bootleg cd "The Boatman's Call Outtakes" (which means that the bootlegger made a mistake). The latter version is slightly different (and better). The lo-fi piano-based song fits perfectly into the theme and atmosphere of the album. Personally, I would have placed it between "And No More Shall We Part" and "Hallelujah". The lyrics are, as always, of the highest standards. "I started thinkin' about London / And nothing good ever came from this town / And if the Thames weren't so filthy / I would jump in the river and drown". But, what about outtakes in the gothic country genre? Normally, there a few alternative or demo versions, but generally no outtakes. Songs are more likely to be recorded between albums. However, one rare example of an outtake is "Mechanically Separated Blues" that was left out from Antic Clay's classic double album "Hilarious Death Blues" in 2007, read more here (opens in a new window). Of course, there's a simple explanation for the absence of outtakes. There's no time and money for the luxury of endless recording and studio time.  

 
 

Spotify fake1The core quality of good science is brutal honesty. This research is naked brutality, allright. The research team (which Spotify by the way tried to silence, read more here - opens in a new window) have published ground-breaking research results in their new book, "Spotify Teardown". The team have closely mapped Spotify's algorithms, through algorithm auditing, and studied how it works. And, if you think the number of streams shows how popular an artist is, well think again. In one of many experiments the researchers tried to put up a song (cacophonic noise) on Spotify using aggregators. Some aggregators rejected it (for good reason), but when the aggregators were paid the noise suddenly became music and accepted by Spotify. This shows how the Spotify system works and also how it can be manipulated. Fake it 'til you make it. The research team used bots to play the song a thousand times and made it quite popular. The researchers raised the question of how many of the Spotify users are real people? The number of users may in fact be inflated by bots. People or bots, who cares? Of course, Spotify have no incitament to reveal the ugly truth. On the contrary, it would probably be bad for business. I don't think Spotify is losing any sleep or bother to do anything. Instead, they are ripping off investors. Spotify is contaminated with fake artists, fake playlists and fake streams. Fake, fake and fake. And scams. Best known scam hitherto is the so-called "Bulgarian scam" in 2017 where 1 million dollar in royalty were paid out, probably perfectly legal, while it meant stealing money from other artists. Spotify wrote the following in a statement: "We take the artificial manipulation of streaming activity on our service extremely seriously. Spotify has multiple detection measures in place monitoring consumption on the service to detect, investigate and deal with such activity. We are continuing to invest heavily in refining those processes and improving methods of detection and removal, and reducing the impact of this unacceptable activity on legitimate creators, rights holders and our users." Yeah, right. Oh, let me correct myself, please. Best kown Spotify scam hitherto is their reimbursement to artists. This must be a strong contender for the crime of century.  




 

 

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