Music and movie labels continue to make blunders

Do music and movie labels [sometimes they have the same owners] really know how to bugger things up.

CDs are still outselling vinyl releases 5 to 1 but CDs have been in a decline over the past few years. CDs sales dropped a whopping 26.5% last year.

In comparison, vinyls have had a “revival” or the past few years…. Or have they.

Between 2015 and 2016 vinyl sales in the UK, for example, grew 50% but only 4% between 2018 and 2019.

The problem is that music labels seem to be concentrating more on vinyl releases which tend to be 2 or sometimes 3 times the price of a CD release – when there is a CD release.

Record Store Day [RSD] [and variations] have tried to push vinyl sales over the past year by selling “exclusive” releases to independent store shops which sell almost exclusively vinyl. These RSD sales are in limited quantity and [you guessed it] cost more than a regular vinyl release.

It costs more to produce a “short” run [i.e. limited] vinyl release than a regular release. Because of short run vinyl, an error in mastering could be quite expensive to replace if there is a defect in manufacturing.

Do people like to stand up and walk over to their vinyl player 4-6 times [many recent albums are spread over 2 LPs [which results into a vinyl side between say 7 and 18 minutes in most cases] an hour [only good for exercise] or pop in a CD into a CD player where you can listen to the CD over and over again.

Do people like to hear little ticks while playing vinyl.

Some will claim that vinyl may offer a more vibrant sound – but that depends on the mastering of the CD.

[That said, if you want the best audio experience, try a Blu-ray audio disc.]

Movie labels aren’t much better.

DVDs and Blu-rays have declined thanks to streaming.

At least the younger generation likes to stream movies – but the audio and video quality is questionable.

Physical copies provide years of watching plus the option of watching the extras included. You don’t get deleted scenes in a streaming edition. Most movie buffs love to watch the extras included such as how a scene was filmed.

Why on earth are they still selling DVDs? It is a low quality and generally horrible media. The quality isn’t there. You can fit a 3 hour movie nicely on a Blu-ray than a DVD which will result in inferior quality.

Even then, they are selling Blu-ray “combo” which includes a DVD. Who’s going to watch the DVD?

The movie labels should have announced that they would stop releasing DVDs years ago. DVDs users would either get a Blu-ray player or start streaming. End of DVDs would possibly push physical movie buyers to buy the Blu-ray release but still allow DVD owners to use them.

Bravo to Costco – who while don’t sell many movies – have ditched DVDs. Whether or not they noticed any decline in sales is minimal. It is a tiny section compared to [surprisingly] their book section.

Revenue in TV shows

Yes. This is about entertainment. A rarity in this blog.

Over the past number of years with HBO, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and other channels/services, the number of TV shows released in the US has now gone way over 400 – double from just a decade ago.

With the specialty channels and services, they have increased the boundaries of what can be show [as they don’t follow the same rules as the “Big Four” US networks].
But they have also changed the way shows last.

The majority of these shows on the specialty channels and services last between 10 and 12 episodes. They aren’t limited to roughly 42 minutes an episode [with a ridiculous 18 minutes of advertising an hour]. One episode could be 47 minutes and the next 56 minutes. Season premieres and season finales can be almost any size but are typically lengthier than the typical episode for the series.

The specialty channels and services make money generally off subscriptions and not advertising. By keeping the seasons short but many of them and all year around, they could potentially attract more subscribers.

Which brings me to the “Big Four” networks in the US. Unlike the specialty channels and services, the four make money off the commercials. With a very popular show, you can ask for more than the typical amount for a 30 minute advertising slot. For example, advertising for big ratings The Big Bang Theory would command more than a lesser show.

Most of the typical TV shows in the US have a 22-24 episode season [even then unsure one show on the network will have 22 episodes and another show on the same network has 23 – ran out of ideas?].

But of late, some of the newer and higher ranked show are using short seasons. The wildly popular This Is Us had just 18 episodes for its debut and sophomore seasons. The same for The Good Doctor for its first season. 9-1-1 had just 10 episodes. The Orville had just 12 episodes. All renewed for at least one more season.

You would figure these series would have a full season which would mean extra profits for them if they had 22-24 episodes instead.


Anyone know why?

Gouging people before concerts

The concert business is a real racket.

Having been a fan – but not a huge one – I decided to get a ticket to see Elton John locally on what theoretically should be his last tour [it will be a long tour].

I didn’t want a seat in the nose bleed section. And I wasn’t about to pay for the real premium seats or the ridiculous VIP package – the top one goes for $1200 US per ticket locally but you get all kinds of stuff [champagne, tour of the venue, lithograph (not signed), gift bag and some merchandise].

So I took one in the stands. I got a side of the stage ticket and a few rows up from the stage with a “potential partially obstructed view”.

Now comes the fun part.

They broke down the cost of the ticket. Roughly $100 per ticket but then they added another $20 in various charges which include “facilities fee”, “service charge” [about $12 there alone] and another $4 because I asked for an electronic ticket.

Wow. Most of this stuff would normally be part of the ticket price. So what is a facilities fee? The explanation of the service charge?

Of course my favorite is the amount for an electronic ticket. Now considering no person is actually doing anything physically to the ticket [it’s not like it is being stuffed in an envelope, throw on a label for my home address and then put a postage stamp on], how can they justify that charge?


Of Weinstein and Twitter posts

Actress Rose McGowan went after sexual harassers on Twitter and her account gets suspended by Twitter for a short time. Meanwhile, actor Ben Affleck apologized on Twitter for groping a woman on camera and his account is still active.

While the whole thing is disgusting, Twitter has in their policy the right to suspend accounts that go contrary to their posting rules. While I didn’t read what she said, she obviously said something Twitter did not like.

However Twitter does not have any rules regarding who can or can’t tweet just because they did something bad now or previously. [So theoretically, for example, mass killer Jeffrey Dahmer could of tweet as long as it is within the rules that Twitter has.]

But Twitter has stretched the rules when Donald Trump has been allowed to continue to post even though he has made some nasty comments. [Would you reject the so-called President of the US? Expect major protests from Trump supporters.]

Twitter claimed his account was supposedly not suspended because it was newsworthy – not because he’s the so-called president.

Newsworthy? Maybe but in some case he’s gone across the line.

I think anyone who has been following this Harvey Weinstein harassment mess would agree that it shouldn’t have happened. But now the blame game is going around on how long people knew about what Weinstein did and why didn’t they speak out then.

You can read Twitter’s posting rules here.


Another record chain bites the dust

While this story is more of a Canadian story, it shows [in some cases] the incompetence of management.

HMV Canada, related to HMV in the UK and elsewhere, went into receivership last week after being in business for 30+ years. Currently the largest Canadian record chain in Canada, they have shut down various stores across Canada over the past few years.

I am not really surprised at what has happened. Gone will be 100+ stores and something like 1300+ jobs by the end of April.

Back in the 1980s into the 1990s there were doing well with stores all over. There was country and regional chains competing such as Sam the Record Man, A&A, Discus, Sunrise and Phantasmagoria. Most of those chains have also reduced stores or have closed up but none as big as HMV.

HMV started an online store in the mid-1990s, but sometime in the late 1990s as online purchases were increasing, HMV suddenly closed their online store.

They would later re-open the site more like a catalog where you couldn’t order but then did re-open to purchase online. By then they weren’t doing so well. Add to the problems is that the site was slow and the search engine was slow. Even worse, they would not include any pre-orders [unlike Amazon and others]. As well, no download option available. Many items sold had no description and many had ridiculous prices.

They also opened up a points system where for every purchase you would get points that can be cashed in for discounts. Problem was [for me] I wasn’t purchasing much and they charged a fee to join. It took me 2 years to get back the money to join. I cashed in and tossed my card into the garbage.

I remember the days when you would huddle in the cold outside on Boxing Day [the big sales day in Canada the day after Christmas] waiting for the doors to open with excellent deals and Guns N Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle blasting as the doors opened.

In later years they would change the deals to 4 for the price of the most expensive 3. More recent, they would just give a decent deduction on selected items [very few recently released] while everything else was at their usual price.

HMV was known to jack up their prices during the Boxing Day sales to claim a bigger discount. A few days before, I would routinely walk into the main store near me and “scout” the deals of what they could be selling it for before the Boxing day discount. So something at a selling price of $50 prior to the sale was now $80 but they are offering it at $40. So that $40 off was really $10 off. [An office store is known to do the same thing selling (for example) a printer at a regular price at $150 but the competition’s regular price is $100.] In recent years just hours after the Boxing Day sale began, the number of people in the store looks like any other day. In the old days, you would walk in the store 5 hours after the sale began and it would still be quite busy.

Then there was their policy regarding matching prices [just matching, no further discount]. A regional chain had a promotion for a CD advertised in a newspaper for $10. HMV initially would not match it. It was above the price they claimed they get from their distributer. Eventually a manager allowed the discount. That regional chain had 4 stores at the time versus 130+ stores for HMV. Don’t they have buying power?

Another time they pulled all the merchandise from Elton John after another chain got an exclusive box set. They did the same thing twice to The Rolling Stones and probably others. [They did leave a note that clients could still order from them but did not leave a reason why the stock was pulled. But I’m sure some people guessed.] But when lesser known artists gave another chain an exclusive, they didn’t pull anything. With stock pulled, it was an incentive to just buy elsewhere.

Recently, even with new releases they are just not competitive even with fewer competitors. They’d charge $30 for a new Blu-ray release while the competition could be charging $25. [This was not the norm as you could get some good deals in some cases.] In some cases you would see a CD or a movie priced at $20 and in the same bin the exact same moving at two for $20. Doesn’t make sense.

Finally, they would waste store space in front as you walk in to try and sell you movies and music at discounted prices but it is the same stock they’ve been trying to push for months if not years.


Music snippets

This has been a bad year for musicians. The deaths of Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and George Michaels among others sent shock through the music community. Some of them [Leonard Cohen and David Bowie] had his illnesses and [I guess not coincidently] released new albums just before their death.

Hopefully this trend does not continue in 2017.

2016 seemed to be year of the massive box sets that only the rich and the collectors can perform.

Case in point: Pink Floyd release a box set, The Early Years Box Set, a massive 33-disc collection of CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and 5 vinyl singles. Unsure who can afford paying close to $500 US for this monster. I believe each and every track is released on CD, DVD and Blu-ray. Note that at least some will be released separately at one point in 2017.

Case in point number two: Bob Dylan’s Live 1966 Box Set, a massive box set with 36 discs. Yes. They consist of concerts from a single year and also comes in a reduced version [less memorabilia]. Price tag is about $400 US. [Can you imagine if he does this for every year he was on tour?]

Dylan himself have already released various live albums under the “Bootleg Series” as well as complete [or what could be recovered] recording sessions. [Do you need a dozen (mostly incomplete) versions of Like A Rolling Stone?]

Add to the fact that vinyl editions are out [usually a subset] and still quite pricey.

Seriously, you need to be rich or a very serious collector to buy this stuff.

Finally, in some countries, they are pushing for laws which will make it illegal in some ways to purchase massive quantities of concert tickets [getting around the limit of number of tickets per person] and then selling them for ridiculous prices.

I like music but I am not a fan that will pay more than the face value of a ticket.

My suggestion is to boycott the scalpers until they are forced to sell for a loss [usually right before the concert begins or a few minutes in].


The Rock & Roll Hall of Shame

I’m serious about the title.

Warning: Some may not like my choices on who should and shouldn’t be in.

Now that the 2016 induction ceremony has been shown on HBO, there really should look at who is getting into “The Hall” and why.

For example, this year there were 5 nominees:

  • Deep Purple: A pioneer in progressive metal. They deserve to be in.
  • Chicago: Not huge in the latter years but still have had a fine career.
  • Cheap Trick: Exactly what did they contribute to music that was different from most? After the album The Dream Police, the band when downhill in terms of sales and popularity. One studio album since 2009 [release around the time they were nominated.
  • Steve Miller: Same as Cheap Trick. Unsure what he did to deserve to be in. A few hits and sales but tanked since ….
  • N.W.A.: What the phrack? Rap in The Hall?

To make things even worse, Miller didn’t even want to be inducted but he kept himself on the ballot and showed up. There was even some controversy between him and the two guys from The Black Keys.

Miller has had exactly one studio albums since the 1988 release Born 2B Blue. Overall just 7 albums have been release since the early 1970s.

Going back to The Hall itself, The Hall seems to be widening what is termed “rock and roll” to include rap, funk, [pure] pop while ignoring others.

I’m more of a purist. So where is the rock in N.W.A. or Madonna?

Blues and country are close cousins. Even jazz can be considered as progressive rock has elements of both rock and jazz. But rap?

What’s next? House music? Polka?

Here is a short list of the best artists who aren’t in The Hall: Pearl Jam, Roxy Music, Jetho Tull, Marillion, Judas Priest, The Moody Blues, Yes, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Smashing Pumpkins, Boston, etc.

Surely quite a few in this list should have been in The Hall before Cheap Trick and Steve Miller.

If you noticed two different common types of music in the list, it is metal and progressive rock. With exceptions of a few the hall has barely inducted many from the metal and progressive rock. Those that are in are too popular not to be in.

Son racks up $8,200 Xbox bill, father upset

I’m sure this is not the only story like this out there.

A father in Ontario, Canada recently got the shock of his life when he received a credit card bill of $8,206 [CDN] from Xbox. He discovered his 17 year old son racked up the bill online.

He claimed his son though playing online was free. This even though the father’s credit card was used to play online.

The father asked Microsoft, owners of Xbox, to investigate, which they did. Initially Microsoft refused, but after learning that his son was a minor, the company did refund the full amount. They also warned that there would be no further refunds.

This brings me to a few points.

First of all, the son is 17 years old. Overwhelming number of people who replied regarding an article on a news website thinks the father has not taught his sons how to use a credit card.

Maybe the father should tell the son to get a part time job so he can learn how to use money.

The father is also at fault for letting the son rack up a large amount without any type of warnings [the credit card company could also be at fault].

Every time you make a purchase in Xbox there are several warning screens that you are going to purchase something. With the Xbox One the main account has access to purchase. The other accounts you can restrict purchasing. A password would have taken care of this as well as the son accessing only the secondary account.

Maybe even buying a Xbox pre-paid card at a store would solve things.

Finally, how many hours did the son play online? Looks like the son didn’t come out of his room for the month.

How does US TV survive?

You wonder how the US TV industry survives.

In the US, it used to be just the major network with TV shows. Then came the pay and specialty channels.

Now the main US networks are cranking out the episodes before the holidays, and in some cases take a couple of months of before resuming in Wednesday. Some fill in the gap with short run seasons [6-8 episodes].

We also have Netflix and others who have their own series. Even Amazon has gone into the game competing against Netflix.

It is no wonder that from about the 2009 season until now, the number of series that are out has doubled to a little over 400 series.

[Unsure how they calculate the number of series shown. Do they include just those shown in the US? They didn’t say.]

And of course if a series in the US had bad ratings to start it is dropped.  I’ve even read of a series that was dropped even before filming started. [I pity the people who reserved time in their schedule to appear only to have time off as that series is canceled.]

Of course with the competition out there now between the networks, pay channels, specialty channels, streaming, etc. Let alone competing against those who will wait until the series comes out on DVD or Blu-ray. And let us not forget the illegal [mostly] downloading of shows off the Internet [which isn’t part of any ratings].

So it is not surprising that 2016 begins with a series that started this week – many I don’t recognize. The major networks have few casualties this year – which is surprising. I guess it is because of the costs associated with starting a new show.

Meanwhile some popular [and some not so popular] series are ending for various reasons. Costs, low ratings, high ratings but wanted to go out on a “high”, good rating but not that good, etc.

[Think of why did Breaking Bad end what some would call prematurely. On the other hand it was time for M*A*S*H to end it.]

In any case, with so much competition, ratings have dropped quite a bit over the years. A few shows that should have been canceled are barely hanging in.

Something like CSI:Cyber had a decent short first season, but the ratings for its first full season after about a dozen episodes call for its cancelation. And yet CBS is keeping it alive [maybe nothing to replace it].

Of course there was something like Hill street blues which started out [I think] on a Saturday night and got lucky it somehow survived the first couple of seasons before the ratings went up. Of course NBC then [like now] wasn’t doing well.

Even M*A*S*H was almost canceled after the first season because of ratings [and maybe a comedy about war] but someone got smart and let the reruns show in the summer time. By the time the second season began, it was a ratings hit.

To be a publicity hound

Of course we all know about how Bruce Jenner changed [allow me to call it that] into Caitlyn Jenner [well officially] recently. She is part of the publicity seeking Kardashian clan. Her step-daughters – especially Kim Kardashian – are specialists in publicity seeking/hounding.

On the day Vanity Fair released pictures and an article about her change, it was just hours after Kim Kardashian announced. So the step-mother stole the spotlight.

In the meantime, Caitlyn has been quitter busy announcing her change with interviews on TV and elsewhere and a reality series on her change coming up as well.

So Caitlyn has taken a play out of the Kardashian playbook on how to create publicity.

Let’s do a comparison now.

Remember when the Matrix trilogy was huge? The movies were created by The Wachowski Brothers, as they were listed then – Andy and Larry. Well unsure if they will still use that name since Larry is now Lana.

Notice the difference? Lana’s change made the press but barely. Caitlyn’s change got publicity all over. When the Vanity Fair article was released, it was probably in every major publication worldwide – if not on the front page then probably within the first few pages [well except for countries that wouldn’t allow the news usually for religious reasons].

Is it right [or ethical] to crank out so much publicity?

Obviously for a dull normal that decided to do this, family and friends would know and maybe friends of friends. But that’s it. With the greater Jenner/Kardashian family, I guess this is normal.