Silent night for music sales

Wall Street Journal – Silent Night for Music Sales – I’m so sick of this shit. I’m fed up with the music industry blaming everyone except themselves for the downturn they’re “suffering”, even when the reasons why are staring them in the face. From the article:

Sales of individual digital tracks on services like Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes Music Store have increased — but not nearly enough to offset the slide in CD sales.

This is your first clue. People are buying more individual tracks off iTunes (a service approved and endorsed by the music industry). This is because people are tired of being forced to buy an entire CD when it only contains perhaps two or three tracks that are any good; the rest being filler rubbish. It’s just not an economical way of buying music any more and now that people have a way of avoiding it, they’re taking full advantage. This may well be a can of worms for the record companies, but it’s what consumers have been crying out for for decades.

The article also cites competition for consumer dollars from videogames and DVDs. This is bang on. I can’t actually remember the last time I bought a CD, and that’s not because I indulge in illegal downloads, because I don’t. The simple fact of the matter is that I’ve not had cause to buy any new music, whether on CD or through iTunes, because nothing has taken my fancy. I do however spend lots of money on DVDs and computer games, and I actually do, I don’t download them off the Internet. I spend money on these things in preference to CDs because they are fundamentally better products and offer me far greater value for money than any crummy CD can.

Enjoyment and satisfaction levels aside, I can prove this with simple maths and statistics. A full price chart CD costs £14, whereas a full price chart DVD costs £20. I never actually pay £20 for a DVD, I always wait a few months for it to drop off the chart and then pick it up for £15 or so (something, incidentally, that doesn’t seem to happen with CDs, they seem to stay expensive forever). But let’s assume we’re paying full prices here. My £14 CD gives me at most an hour of music, often less. Per minute, this works out to be just over 23p per minute for my entertainment. The film on the DVD, excluding any special features (which I don’t watch because they’re usually boring as hell) is probably an hour and 45 minutes, working out to be 19p per minute for my entertainment, which is both cheaper and more satisfyng than a CD because it’s a film; it costs far more to produce than an album and you get sound and vision, making the value for money astronomically better than the CD. This is why a DVD is a better product than a CD, and that’s why the movie studios get my money instead of the record companies.

The same applies to video (computer) games. A decent game for the PC costs £40 (Grand Theft Auto and Quake 4 being two notable recent purchases). Now I know that computer games are a slightly different beast because their entertainment isn’t in the same linear format as a CD or a DVD, but let’s apply the same maths in any case. I bought Grand Theft Auto San Andreas in June, a game which I absolutely love and I still play, even though I completed it months ago. My computer claims that I’ve spent over 100 hours playing it since I installed it, and I’ve not finished playing with it yet. So far, my entertainment from GTA:SA has cost me just over half a pence per minute.

Remind me again why a CD is a better product and why I should buy one over a DVD or a computer game? Seriously, let’s have some sales spiel on it. Sell me your product. Convince me why I should purchase it in preference to a DVD or computer game. Work for your living for heavens’ sake. I don’t simply assume that people will automatically buy my products, and I don’t get all hissy and litigious when they don’t; I have to go out and sell them, and jolly hard work it is too. Why should you, Mr. Record Label, be any different?

Granted, nobody can deny that online piracy and CD burning have had an effect on music sales, but it’s hard to believe that it’s the main reason and I think that the music industry are hiding behind it in order to deflect attention away from their own shortcomings, whether they’re doing this conciously or not. Piracy is a red herring, it’s always been around in one form or another and the music industry is still around today to tell the tale. One might even suggest that it’s an occupational hazard and that the record labels should be building in a certain amount of “wastage” into their business plans, just like a supermarket has to do with spoiled stock or indeed any high street retailer has to do with shoplifting and so on.

If the music industry wants me to start buying their wares again then they need to change the product, and not simply assume that because I’m not buying their crappy manufactured output that I must be a criminal, and how dare I question the creative wisdom of the record labels and how dare I deprive them of their profit targets, etc. They’re selling entertainment. If what they sell doesn’t entertain me, then I’m not going to buy it. It’s as simple as that.


Actually a holiday

Having a great time in the US of A. Currently in the middle of our stay in Provincetown, Massachusettes (the discerning gay couple’s choice of holiday destination), known locally, and also for the purposes of this report, “Ptown”. We’re staying at the Crowne Point, which is very nice indeed, very private and very quiet, although the air conditioner in our suite keeps me awake at night.

Provincetown, as it was when we last visited, is a beautiful place. Right on the end of Cape Cod, it seems relatively untouched by globalisation and it’s very “anything goes”, everyone leaves their cars and houses unlocked and there isn’t a megacorp logo in sight, save perhaps for the odd Budweiser neon sign in the windows of various bars. We’re literally doing nothing, sitting around the pool all day, taking walks through the town, perhaps a drive along the cape. It’s great, our holidays are normally much more hectic than this.

This isn’t our first port of call of course. By contrast our first stop was Manhatten, where we spent four night at the W on 49th & Lexington, where we stay every time we come to New York, and will will return there for three further nights next week before returning home. New York is a big, busy and exciting place, yet despite that we find it relaxing there, it’s a place where you just “be” rather than “do”. Since moving to Manchester my tolerance of big cities has increased somewhat, and I would love to live there at some point, if only for a few years or so (my life has, at least for the past 10 years or so, followed a rough pattern of living for 3 years somewhere and then moving on).

Provincetown is a 1 hour 30 minute ferry ride away from Boston, the state capital of Massachusettes. We’ve been there before of course, two years ago, but we might visit again as it’s a really nice place – slower and more spacious than New York. But probably not, it’s not as if we’re short of the city element on this holiday.

Hired the normal Ford Explorer for the drive from Manhatten to Provincetown. Yesterday we found some corners for it to go round, which it didn’t like very much, making this clear by squealing its tyres. For all of the X5’s lumbering appearance, it goes round corners better than most cars, and certainly better than any American car.

Anyway, I’m just rambling now. Back to doing nothing. We’ve been blighted with a number of minor emergencies from the office since we came on holiday but nothing that couldn’t be solved (or at least, deferred) relatively quickly.


War Of The Worlds

Saw War Of The Worlds (2005) in the cinema on Sunday night, and I have to say that I was jolly impressed. I was slightly dubious about it because of a number of reasons, most notably:

  1. it is a remake
  2. of something that was originally not based in the US
  3. and written by a famous non-American author
  4. that has Tom Cruise in it
  5. and is directed by Stephen “Hollywood Ending” Spielberg
  6. and had the potential to be rather similar to Independence Day

The last point proved to be very false (save perhaps for the physical appearance of the aliens themselves), and despite the other points it was actually a remarkably good film. It’s certified 12A, but it is genuinely very frightening in some parts and probably should be a 15. There’s a couple of things I don’t like about it, in that there’s a glaring goof early on in the film when someone’s using a camcorder after an electromagnetic pulse.

There’s also the ending scene where everyone’s alive and well with the grandparents in their fresh, clean Christmas-present knitwear smiling in a somehow unscathed street in Boston, but to be fair this is actually true to the original, where the journalist returns to his alive and well family in an otherwise completed levelled Leatherhead, so that was very convenient for the Hollywood ending.

I liked the way that you didn’t see the big picture. Rather like Signs, you only get to see events from the perspective of the central characters, which are normal working people, rather than presidents and military generals and unsung heros. There was also none of the rubbish like “… and only one ordinary man has the key!“, Cruise’s character isn’t a hero, he’s just a normal man trying to protect his family. The events of the aliens’ demise simply unfold around him, he has nothing to do with it. It was very gritty and very real in that respect, he remained totally helpless and powerless.

Definitely a DVD purchase, possibly even a second viewing in the cinema.


Democracy? Pfft!

People say there’s no reason to be bitter about the outcome of the election. Labour won it fair and square, right? The result reflects the will of the people, like in any good democracy? Rubbish. There was nothing “fair and square” about this election and there’s every reason to be bitter about its outcome.

Now, let me blind you with statistics. Let’s first of all discuss this “will of the people” thing. While it is true that, by a whisker, Labour won the greatest proportion of the votes (35.2%), consider the following:

  • 35.2% is way under half of all votes cast. This means that 64.8% of votes cast were not for New Labour.
  • When taking turnout into account, only 22% of voters voted for Labour. The others either voted for another party, or didn’t vote at all. So now we have Labour winning with less than a quarter of the electorate voting for them.
  • Broadly, the proportion of the UK population that is eligible to vote is two thirds (very broadly: 60 million population, 40 million electorate). Applying this 2:3 ratio to the portion of the electorate that voted Labour means that just under 15% of the population voted for them. Yes, the current (or, technically, the soon to be formed) government was put in power by less than 15% of the population of the country, all of which have to live under its governance and law.

I’d therefore hardly call Labour’s win “the will of the people”, so don’t bleat on about it. The will of the people is apparently absolutely irrelevant when deciding who’s going to run the country.

Observe the charts below. Both show the same data, but in different ways. They both show the percentage of the votes each party received plotted against the percentage of Commons seats they won with that vote, the number of seats won is of course what counts at the end of the day.



Bar chart!

Bar chart!

Exactly how can a system be fair when it can allow a party to gain 24.7% extra seats with only 2.9% extra votes over the next most popular party? How the fuck does that work? I’m not saying that the Tories deserved to win, indeed their proportion of seats is very close to their proportion of the vote, so the system obviously works in their case, but look at the Liberal Democrats: 22% of votes were cast for them, yet they only get 9.6% of the seats. Their votes-to-seat ratio (in terms of percentage) is 2.29, yet Labour’s is 0.63, which means that the Libdems apparently had to work 3.7 times harder to win seats than Labour did.

Seriously, don’t talk to me about “democracy” and “winning fair and square”. There’s nothing democratic, fair or square about this whatsoever. As I’ve said before, don’t ask me to come up with a foolproof alternative, because I don’t have one and as I’m not a politician it’s frankly not my job to do so. But that doesn’t mean that I, as a voter, am not allowed to voice my great dissatisfaction with this so called “democracy”. Indeed, if the UK was a tin-pot sandy country in the Middle East, George Bush would have probably come and enacted regime change by now since the makeup of the government most certainly does NOT reflect the will of the people.


Is there any hope left for Rover?

BBC NEWS | Have Your Say | Is there any hope left for Rover? – what’s wrong with this picture:

The collapse of Rover can also be attributed to Joe Public. Instead of blaming politicians and management, if you had been bothered about maintaining British manufacturing you would have all bought British, instead of buying cheaper foreign imports!
DW, Chicago USA (UK Expat)

Answers on a postcard please, send directly to the MINISTRY OF EX-PAT HYPOCRISY. Also:

I don’t see the directors of MG Rover rushing to put up their own money to save the business, so why should the government bale them out? I suspect that the directors will come out of this far richer than when they started.
Mark J, Stafford, UK

Uh, they put up £45,000,000. Are you living under a rock or something? Keep the fuck up.

This is perhaps more to the point:

As a truck driver, I waited 2 hours to get unloaded at Longbridge. Nobody wanted to know. They wonder why they’re losing their jobs!
Adrian Brackley, Cheshire

Part of the reason why Rover is such a dog is because it’s never really recovered from being crippled by the unions and their selfish, shortsighted jobsworth members in the 1970s and 1980s. The workers were perfectly willing to screw over Rover at the drop of a hat whenever it suited them. Well I’m sorry, but what goes around comes around. I’m sure Longbridge will be turned into a nice callcentre where you can all be retrained into doing something you’ll absolutely hate.

Don’t get me wrong, I regret the demise of Rover, I really do, but I feel sorry for the company rather than its workforce. I’m not saying they deserve to lose their jobs, but I am saying that they did nothing to help avoid this inevitable situation over the past 30 years.

Rover simply cannot continue to make shit old cars that nobody wants. It’s all very well to lay the blame for underinvestment in research and development and BMW’s door, but they cannot be held entirely responsible. After all, for a long time most of Rover’s output was based on Hondas, since Honda own (or at least, did own) 20% of Rover. Why is it that the same blame isn’t at least in part sent their way?

At the end of the day, Rover is a private company, in business, whether it’s got heritage or not. Would the government be bailing my company out if it was about to go under? I don’t think so. I’m sorry, but it’s a dog eat dog world in business, and if you make shit products that nobody wants then you can’t expect your meal tickets to continue to arrive ad infinitum. Let’s see your fucking unions argue with that.


Canada catchup

Not blogged as much as I intended, but then in all reality there’s only so much to blog about when you’re in a ski resort.

We arrived late on Sunday evening after a gruelling 23 hours of travelling (for me, at least, since I had to take a flight down from Manchester to Heathrow; Chris was already at his parents’ house) and went straight to bed. Straight onto the slopes on Monday morning but soon had to abort because my boots were all wrong. I had the same problem two years ago, intense pain in my feet, as if if they were being crushed in a vice. So we took to them to a professional boot fitter in the hotel who did the Canadian equivalent of sucking air over his teeth and muttering “which cowboy did this then?” as he measured my crazily flat feet and then put my boots in a furnace so he could basically change their shape to accomodate my unbelievably crap feet. The pain’s since gone, although it still hurts if I spend a long time on the cat tracks rather than doing downhill turns.

I had a lesson on Wednesday at level 3, which I breezed through and have since graduated to level 4 (of 6), with a lesson at that level tommorow (Sunday). I’ve done some free skiing, but unfortunately not as much as we would normally want because Chris has been rather unwell and has required several trips to the hospital and the dentist. One of his wisdom teeth has caused a problem whereby an infection has taken hold and basically filled one side of his face with pain. He’s now had it removed and is now all doped up on north American-strength painkillers and antibiotics, so no skiing, solid foods, alchohol, driving or pretty much anything else for him :(

The snow‘s been brilliant, especially for the time of year. Apparently, it’s been “the worst year on record” in terms of snow. It didn’t snow from the end of January right up until the night we arrived, apparently, at which point it snowed 10 inches, so that was quite well timed. It’s snowing again now and is set to continue to do so through Monday, which is fantastic considering it is the end of March, and by all rights, Spring. Much better snow than the last time we came, and that was peak season!

We’re going to try and take a trip to Vancouver on Monday to do the city thing that we’re so fond of. We rented a Ford Explorer at the airport after discovering that renting such a car for the whole holiday worked out cheaper than two shuttle services from the airport to Whistler. It also gives us the ability to drive around whilst we’re here too, which has been pretty essential while Chris has been ill. Last full day is on Tuesday and we come home overnight on Wednesday. Horrible jet lag will then ensue so I probably won’t be back on all six cylinders until Monday.

I am taking pictures but they’re going to be pretty much the same as the lot I took when we last came, except this time I have a much better camera.


Three minute silence

Grumpier Old Men :: Three minute silence for the tsunami victims – hear bloody here. This bit in particular is brilliant:

We were recently told by our government to observe 2 minutes silence for a Briton that had decided against government advice to go to a country at war to make a fast buck and was then kidnapped and executed after ignoring the advice of local people who warned him not to go to certain places and without military escorts.

Some weeks later another Briton in that country who had lived there half their life helping the poor repressed people of that country for no personal gain was kidnapped and executed but no silence. Why not?

I personally forgot about the three minutes’ silence and carried on working, and to be frank I didn’t notice anybody else stop for it either, whether in the office or outside my window. Buses didn’t “pull over” as the local rag would have me believe, people didn’t jump to a stop on the pavement, the phones kept on ringing and the builders kept on banging annoyingly.

Yes, it’s a terrible tragedy, but please, for the love of God, standing still for three minutes isn’t going to help anyone. It’s tacky, it’s nanny-state, it’s inconvenient and above all it’s extremely unnecessary. I refuse to have that hand-wringing sanctimonious Tessa Jowell telling me how I should feel and how I should mark those allocated feelings.

I’d also like to point out that the oh-so-generous United States’ contribution to the tsunami disaster relief fund amounts to just one and a half days of Iraq war costs. So fuck you Dubyah and your holier-than-thou aren’t-we-everyone’s-friend speeches. Your country is so fucking rich partly due to getting fat off the backs of countries such as India and Indonesia. I present exhibits A and B: Union Carbide and Nike. So yes, get your fucking money and marines over there as soon as possible, and take that fucking halo off your head. That is all.

By the way, Grumpier Old Men is what the Internet was invented for.