Apple To Buy Tidal?

Apple in Talks to Acquire Jay Z’s Tidal Music Service

It’s talent versus market share, old school versus new, Apple versus Spotify.

Despite a reputation for innovation, we’ve learned the internet is mostly about consolidation, establishing a paradigm and then conquering all comers. Amazon owns shopping, Google owns search, Facebook owns social networking and…what exactly does Apple own again?

It might be the world’s most valuable company, but it got that way via monopolies. First with portable music players. The iPod and FairPlay, remember that, its DRM?, and iTunes ultimately closed out all competitors.

And then came the iPhone and iPad. Which dominated through sheer innovation. Sure, there were smartphones before, but not with this level of sophistication. And the iPad was a whole new category. As for the Watch? Hmm…

That’s right, Apple dominated via hardware.

But it appears we’re evolving into a software world. And Apple is legendary for getting this wrong, with services, the original failed MobileMe and the disastrous first iteration of Apple Music. Google gets it right, Amazon too, but Apple? No.

And sure, the iPhone takes almost all of the handset profits, but the truth is products have a lifespan. No one uses Lotus 1-2-3 anymore, and even Windows is challenged. As for hardware… You’ve got a drawer full of stuff too antiquated to use, even though it might only be a couple of years old.

Apple Music is software.

But it’s run by an old school content guy. Reed Hastings is all about content, but he can talk innovation at the same time. Ditto Jeff Bezos. Jimmy Iovine is all about relationships, leveraging them to his advantage, is that a dead paradigm or will he win again?

Turns out no one cared that Adele’s “25” was not on streaming services. They could wait. This is scarier than the death of physical and files, if people don’t hunger for the latest music, we’re doomed.

Jimmy’s theory is exclusives will bond users to you, that the power of stars is unmatched.

But this didn’t work at Tidal, which you could subscribe to for the same price as Spotify (sure, there was a hi-res tier for $20 a month, but there was a low cost, lo-fi option also.) Which is more powerful, the content or the platform?

Hmm…

Apple’s exclusives haven’t put a dent in Spotify quite yet. But if Apple rolls up the Tidal exclusives too, that would be significant, would it impact Spotify?

Now we get to Elizabeth Warren, now we get to a completely different issue, which may be the death of the Cupertino company. Once you start leveraging your assets to the detriment of others, you’re in trouble, this is what hobbled Microsoft at the end of the century. Should Spotify really have to cough up 30% of its subscription revenue to Apple? That’s not fair in anybody’s book, that’s why the Swedish company is now making noise, with Senator Warren on its side. Apple has already blinked a bit, adjusting App Store payments downward in certain instances, but this looks like a cash grab, and when the public learns of this they side with the upstart, which is Spotify.

Spotify is miles ahead of Apple Music in not only paying subscribers, but usability and discovery and… Because, once again, Spotify is run by techies and Apple Music is run by old school Jimmy Iovine. Spotify has vision, Apple Music is about strong-arming insiders to its advantage, never mind the disadvantage of having no free tier.

So how’s it going to turn out?

I’m betting on Spotify. The history of the Internet is the innovator wins, especially if it continues to innovate. Microsoft couldn’t put a dent in AOL, and then it turned out both were superseded anyway.

We want to be where our friends are. Like Steve Jobs preached, we want usability, which Spotify has in spades compared to Apple Music, even if the former is imperfect. Apple Music LOOKS good, but looks are secondary to functionality.

But if Apple gets exclusives on all Tidal artists, builds from there, it could win. Because he with the hits wins in the end.

So, watch this movie.

And be appalled. That the leveling of the playing field we thought the internet would bring is being eviscerated. It’s like radio payola, independent promotion all over again. Sure, Apple might be paying the stars today, but the result is if you’re an up and comer you can’t get real estate on the home page. And, how long will it be before you pay to get real estate anyway?

Exclusives are not fan-friendly.

Then again, there’s a long history of them in the music business, remember how Best Buy helped put a dent in the indie store world?

We’re going in the wrong direction here folks.

But I will say that Jay Z might accomplish his goal, which is to get a big paycheck. In this case not by aggregating paying customers, but talent.

Fifteen years ago the music sphere was up for grabs, all hell was breaking loose.

Today, the doors are closing, the big boys are winning, power is being consolidated that will rule for years, all in the name of killing upstarts like YouTube and Spotify because they don’t pay enough.

Be careful what you wish for.

“Spotify says Apple won’t approve a new version of its app because it doesn’t want competition for Apple Music”

“Elizabeth Warren says Apple, Amazon and Google are trying to ‘lock out’ the competition”

My Uber Driver

He was coming in an F-150.

I’ve been driving the past two weeks, but Felice’s machine, you see mine is a stick and I’m not quite up to that, but today she needed her Lexus so I had to use Uber.

I’m always uptight about using Uber, especially when I need to be buckled in, I can’t put on the seatbelt myself.

And I’m always worried they won’t come up into the hills, so I book early, and when I saw he was driving a truck…WOULD I BE ABLE TO GET INSIDE?

You have no idea what it’s like having shoulder surgery, most of the pain is in the rearview mirror, although not all, but I can’t tie my shoes, can’t dress myself, can’t take a shower by myself… Now I know what it’s like being old, I’ve got a lot more tolerance and sympathy and respect for the aged and infirm and handicapped.

I wanted to cancel. But would I get charged?

You’ve got a five minute window.

But would I be blackballed, I need a five star rating, I need to get picked up without delay. And if I just re-requested would the same guy pick up the call? And time’s a-wastin’ and I’m becoming paralyzed and I tell myself I’m not buying the pickup truck, I’m only going for a one way ride, so I can make it work, I think…

Turns out there was a step. I didn’t think of that. You can never predict the future, best to put one foot forward, or up in this case, and just soldier on, but I’m so worried about possibilities and pitfalls I can’t get started, I can’t get out of my own way.

And the driver started to get out of the car, to engage my seatbelt, to shut my door, but I ended up being able to do those myself. It’s so hard for me to ask for help, I’d rather do it myself, no matter what the cost.

And the driver was wearing no shirt and the windows were down and I’d prefer the A/C but I was pretty ripe myself, not having showered, being home alone, so I rode with it.

And after issuing some directions I pondered, do I have to talk?

Uber is not new. It’s a service, you pay for it, you get to your destination. But I feel too guilty to sit in silence, I feel obligated to speak, I want the driver to like me, I want a good rating.

“So how long you been driving for?”

That’s always the initial question, the follow-up is “Do you like it?”

But I didn’t get that far in this case. Turns out he’d been doing it for six months, he was feeding his eight year old son’s basketball habit. The kid was in two leagues. And right now his regular business was slow.

“What’s your regular business?”

He turned out to be a personal trainer. With clients in the music business. Sometimes they pay him for six months and then go on tour, that’s the best of all possible worlds.

So I told him this was my world and I asked him who.

And he proffered some names I knew, he kept on coming up with people I knew, shocking how small the world truly is.

So now I figure I’ll learn something, find out about the personal trainer business.

And I did.

If you start from zero, you need five sessions a week. No one sticks to the plan alone, you need the guy there. It’s $35 an hour if he comes to your home, if he hikes with you it’s $60. You don’t need machines, he can make it work, it’s all about the client’s desire.

He said he went to school for it.

But when I asked him where, he uttered the name of a highly-respected Beantown institution and I’m reevaluating my opinion of him when he tells me that’s not where he learned how to be a physical trainer.

He graduated and came to L.A., to housesit for a well-known musician who he grew up with who was on the road. And after working at a financial institution he became sick of being indoors and took a job fighting forest fires.

Huh?

That’s right, for six years. It was seasonal business, but he ended up getting full time work TRAINING firefighters after getting his certificate.

So now I’m learning that you wear your regular clothes, with a Nomex suit over that, and you’ve got a fifty pound pack and a shovel and you sometimes have to hike miles to the fire. Sometimes they drop you off by helicopter, but it’s extremely strenuous nonetheless. You have to dig lines. And sometimes you have to sleep, you see firefighters are 24 hours on and 24 hours off.

So you dig a six inch hole and then put your fire resistant tent atop it. You breathe down into the hole. You hope the fire jumps over you if it comes your way. And fires are unpredictable, they’re constantly hopping around.

“It’s dangerous, right?”

You’ve got no idea. He saw a guy slice off his arm with a chainsaw, he fell off a ten foot cliff in the middle of the night, you never know what you’ll encounter.

But then the driver got married and had his son and he doesn’t want to be away from home that long so he became a personal trainer.

And not only did I get an education, I found out where he grew up, where he lived in the Bronx and Manhattan, all about his relationships and then…

We were at my destination.

He gave me his card, in case I wanted to work out.

Needless to say, I’m in a sling and I’m not doing anything for a while. But I’m interested and I feel obligated and who knows?

But what I do know is I was in an awful mood when he picked me up but when I was dropped off I was on top of the world. Life is about people, everybody’s got a story, makes me want to take Uber every day just to hear them.

P.S. My return ride was in a Kia mini-SUV with A/C so good I did not want to get out. This guy said he was an actor, times were slow so thirty days ago he began to drive. But I’m figuring he’s too old to be a complete wannabe, so I tell him this and he gives me his credits, he was on a series for six years, every episode, even directed some, he had guest shots on household name shows, he could touch his pension but his accountant said to wait until 65, so he’s driving…

Facebook Takes News Out Of The News Feed

“Facebook to Change News Feed to Focus on Friends and Family”

And the music business loses out again. So worried about being ripped off, making a third party the new MTV, allowing that entity to profit, the industry requires a huge toll to innovate with its wares, as a result, most techies have abandoned the sphere.

Turns out people don’t want top-down information, they’d rather hear from their friends. Not only about what they’re doing in their life, but what music they’re listening to. And sure, they do this on Facebook, and sure, you can link your Facebook account to Spotify, you can see what your friends are listening to, but that’s way too complicated, and not emphasized, and all the community in music revolves around the hit acts, when the truth is you go to gigs with friends, you want to know what they are listening to.

Community is everything. And to the music industry community is terrestrial radio, an antiquated medium that squares not a whit with the modern paradigm. It’s limited and phony and has too many commercials and it’s not on demand. Youngsters abhor it. But right now it’s the best way to reach the most people so the industry lauds it and pays fealty to it. Like advertisers continuing to use TV when all the action is at Netflix and  YouTube and the internet.

I’ve got no idea what to listen to. I see the top hits, after that, there’s just an endless fire hose of songs, most of which I’m not into. It’d be like seeing endless posts on Facebook from people who are not your friends. You’d sign off, you wouldn’t go there.

And that is what’s happening at Facebook. The news feed was inundated with real news, which most people didn’t want, they wanted baby and vacation photos, info from their social circle, so news has been de-emphasized.

Now the news business is pretty dumb too. So busy protecting an old model, refusing to cede share to their competitors, everybody built their own site and then it turned out people didn’t want to go to a zillion sites and now a huge percentage of people are getting their news on Facebook. Facebook is way too powerful, but that’s the power of social connections.

Sure, we had Apple’s Connect, but everybody knew that network would fail, because Apple is a top-down company and Ping failed before it and you’re gonna build a social network behind a paywall? Might as well have a concert on a private jet, where you might be able to make some money if you charge enough, but almost no one can afford to go.

The music business keeps bitching about low barriers of entry, the inability or refusal to monetize, meanwhile Facebook and Google built behemoths on infrastructure that didn’t charge for eons. And now Snapchat has done the same thing!

Don’t kid yourself, we’ve got a music discovery problem. Which the industry refuses to address, because it’s so wary of change, so wary of giving profits to others. It’s great that Spotify and the streaming sites have all the songs at one low monthly price. And playlists are somewhat helpful. But they’re not addressing the core issue of humanity, that we want to belong, we want to gossip, we want to push and pull amongst our group, we want to be where everybody else is as opposed to out on an island alone.

That’s what made radio great in the old days, community.

Discover Weekly is damn good, but it’s only for me. What are other people like me listening to, my friends, what is Elton listening to and Tom Petty and can we talk about it, will they talk about it with us, can you come down off your throne and get into the pit with the rest of us?

No.

Even More Brexit

If you read only one thing on this vote/crisis, you must read Glenn Greenwald’s article on theintercept.com. Greenwald delineates the real issues at play, primarily the war between the elites and the have-nots, the contempt the former have for the latter. The educated upstarts believe they’re entitled to a pass because they weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth, they had to fight to get ahead, so when they do things to their advantage they believe it’s just the American Way. But who’s looking out for the little guy? Unions have been decimated, jobs transferred overseas and you just can’t make it in America anymore, no wonder the underclass is mad.

This is a bigger issue than Trump spewing inaccurate inanities. This requires all the so-called “winners” of the world, especially the bleeding heart liberals, to examine their own values and behavior. It really has got less to do with right or left, Republicans or Democrats, and more to do with elites on both sides of the aisle. Elites who have advantages those on the bottom do not, elites who can’t even fathom what’s happening on the bottom. I lose my job to overseas workers and then despite a flat screen costing two hundred bucks I’ve got to work a service job that doesn’t pay the bills? What are all these displaced people gonna do for a living in the future? How are they gonna make ends meet? You can make fun of them all you want, but they’re entitled to vote too. But then you’d have to have empathy, you’d have to refrain from climbing the greased ladder to stop and lend a hand to your brother and sister, you’d have to sacrifice for the greater good.

I’ve been bothered by income inequality for a decade, frustrated that I could no longer get to the top as my brethren have. But I could not foresee this rampant unrest, the contempt for those who think they’re smarter, have all the answers and reign herd over the rest of us. When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose. Bob Dylan said that fifty years ago, the last time this country was up for grabs, when being a rock star was about speaking truth as opposed to garnering corporate endorsements. Which side are you on, indeed. We lionize and criticize the billionaires when we just don’t realize the problem is us, the elites, we’re to blame, the sons and daughters of sons and daughters of immigrants, who grew up with advantages and just couldn’t get enough. The iron curtain may have fallen under Ronald Reagan, but greed was suddenly good, just ask Gordon Gekko. And I believe we live in a global village, but Clinton passed NAFTA and what exactly are those put out of work supposed to do for work? In both cases, a relatively thin layer of people profited handsomely. What about everybody else? We’re asking that question now.

Glenn Greenwald – “Brexit Is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions”