The end of the album?

The Album, a Commodity in Disfavor – New York Times
Last year, digital singles outsold plastic CD’s for the first time. So far this year, sales of digital songs have risen 54 percent, to roughly 189 million units, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan. Digital album sales are rising at a slightly faster pace, but buyers of digital music are purchasing singles over albums by a margin of 19 to 1.

On the one hand this is to be expected. The wheat/chaff ratio of tracks on pop music CDs is one of the chief reasons for the decline in CD sales and the rise of piracy according to polls done over the last 10 years. Also, it is a natural consequence of radio promotion which promotes the heck out of one song of an album, and then the next song, and so on. So ‘natch, you give people the option to buy just the songs they like or know and what do they do?

On the other hand, this really is more than that. The album has been the primary format of music delivery for a long time. For an artist, you spend x number of years working on an album, you put it out, you promote it, you tour on it, and then repeat. For a label, your promotions people are focused on the current release, working the radio stations, and magazines, etc… For press, you focus so many column inches to music reviews, you can’t focus 1/10 of the space for a song as you would a record, so you can review less. The only part of the business that would probably be ok with this is radio, which has always been singles oriented.

Addressing this shift in the business will be game changing for the labels, I think. The major acts will do fine with their CDs for a little while, but this is really the chance for one to jump out ahead with some well timed and well played moves.

[via dvorak]

you must read this article from the Seattle Times…

Since 2005, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department’s civil-rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee. He has denied wrongdoing.

Read the original article in full. This is some serious evil the Bush administration has been trying to get over on the American people.

Seattle Times: New U.S. attorneys seem to have partisan records

Apple TV

Nope, didn’t buy one… yet. Not sure if I shouldn’t just get a Mac Mini instead.

Turns out that it is a mac super-mini (from The Forums at Something Awful):

bash-2.05b# system_profiler
Hardware:

Hardware Overview:

Machine Name: Mac
Machine Model: AppleTV1,1
Processor Speed: 1 GHz
Number Of Processors: 1
Total Number Of Cores: 1
Memory: 256 MB
Bus Speed: 400 MHz
Boot ROM Version: ATV11.00D9.B00
Serial Number: CLOWNS666
L2 Cache: 2 MB
….
System Version: Apple TV OS 10.4.7 (8N5107)
Kernel Version: Darwin 8.8.2
Boot Volume: OSBoot
Computer Name: AppleTV
User Name: System Administrator (root)
Graphics/Displays:

GeForce Go 7300:

Chipset Model: GeForce Go 7300
Type: Display
Bus: PCIe
VRAM (Total): 64 MB
Vendor: NVIDIA (0x10de)
Device ID: 0x01d7
Revision ID: 0x00a1
ROM Revision: 3144
Displays:
HP LP2465:
Resolution: 1280 x 720 @ 60 Hz
Depth: 32-bit Color
Core Image: Supported
Main Display: Yes
Mirror: Off
Online: Yes
Quartz Extreme: Not Supported
Rotation: Supported

Also it took about 25 seconds for someone to hack it with a larger drive

CD Music Sales Down 20%

Tech Crunch – Good News! CD Music Sales Down 20% from 2006
As the marginal price of recorded music continues to fall towards zero, its natural price, bands will need to make money elsewhere. Live concerts will become more and more popular, and will be the largest source of revenue for many artists. Recorded music will be used to promote those live events. Popular artists will still make a very, very good living. Others will have to decide if love of their art is enough to keep going.

I debating posting this on DMdN, but the above statement stopped me. The reason being… “duh.”

I would say that 99.9% of artists making money these days are making the majority of it from live performance. Not only is it true now, IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN TRUE. Even indie artists who own their own masters and do their own distribution and blah blah blah make most of their money from playing live. The margin on selling music is HORRIBLE. Seriously. Record a record in your bedroom. Put it on iTunes. Ignore the money spent on buying the equipment and your time, the cost of production is zero, right? Well, per song sale, you’ll make on the order of $.70. Which is not too shabby for something that cost nothing to produce, right? Now, play one night in a crappy bar for a $250 gaurentee. You’d need to sell 358 songs on iTunes to make as much money as you’d make in one bar on one night, and if you are only getting a $250 gaurentee, you probably aren’t going to be selling too many songs on iTunes anyway, right?

Now I just ignored a lot of the real costs like: promotion, recording equipment, gas, beer, etc… That makes the math easier, but the fact of the matter is that most artists who are full time musicians are on small labels and don’t really sell too many CDs. For each CD they do sell, the band probably only sees a couple bucks (starting a record label as an investment? don’t be stupid). A short tour where the van doesn’t break down and the band doesn’t have to bail someone out of jail can net the band double whatever their CD sales are for a record.  So why would a band record music at all? To promote their live shows, of course! Radio stations need something to play when your band is in town. People who dig you need a way to share your music with their friends. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be the next Dave Matthews or Nine Inch Nails or something and you’ll actually see a royalty check with a comma in it. Just don’t base your musical career on that one…

Of course, once you become as big as U2 or whatever, you’ll still make the majority of your income from live shows and t-shirts and what not. Why? Well, because now you’ll be playing stadiums where people pay $50 for some crappy seat behind a pole. Look at how much money is made on the year’s big music tours. Now, all that cash goes to the artist unless they made an incredibly stupid deal. Sure, they have a lot of costs to cover, but most of that is profit, baby. These days, they can sell sponsorship of their tour with the result being more profit.

In other words, Mike Arrington, stick to whatcha know when you are going to pundit-ize.

The Geography of Nowhere

coverThe Geography of Nowhere (The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape), by James Howard Kunstler

I am a city planning geek. When I was first working on virtual worlds stuff in the mid-90s, I started reading it for work and I got hooked: Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch, Robert Venturi, Lewis Mumford and all their kin. James Howard Kunstler is a well-known author as well, but I’d bought this book a decade ago and didn’t get around to reading it until now.

This book has some good information in it: how America became car obsessed and how poor planning lead to the decline of the small town and the rise of suburban sprawl. Some of this was quite interesting, but this kind of information is covered in every book on the topic.

Once the background is established, however, all the author does is complain about it. The book left me feeling a little flat. There were no solid prescriptions for change, or even a reasonable set of tentative next steps. Rather, there was a liturgy of how ugly the American landscape has become and a wagging finger directed at city planners nationwide.

I think that this book wasn’t meant for me. I already curse suburban sprawl, car culture, strip malls and house facades whose most prominent feature is the garage door. I think that this book was meant for the indifferent Americans, who mostly haven’t thought that much about it. This would be a great book if you were looking for a primer on some of these issues. The writing style is very accessible and the book is an easy read (which is more than can be said for many urban planning books).

It does feel a bit dated at times, but what is striking (especially for a resident of one of the country’s fastest growing cities) is how so little has changed since the author wrote it. The strip malls and seas of parking lots continue to be the most dominant feature around the ever increasing subdivisions of identical homes with two car garages facing the street and no sidewalks. If you are a resident of a town being destroyed like this, a case of these books would be a great gift for your mayor and city council.

Overall, it is a worthy read. If you are interested in the subject already, you won’t learn much new, but you won’t feel like your time was wasted. If you haven’t already read much in the area, you’ll learn a lot and you’ll find the writing makes the subject easy to approach.

Warning on installing Apple Updates

Unsanity.org: Shock and Awe: How Installing Apple’s Updates can Render Your Mac Unbootable and How You Can Prevent it


When you see the “Optimizing System Performance” phase of a software update, Mac OS X is really updating prebinding. Updating prebinding has a very, very nasty bug in it (look at _dyld_update_prebinding). If multiple processes are updating prebinding at the same time, then it is possible for a system file to be completely zero’d out. Basically, all data in the file is deleted and it is replaced with nothing. This bug is usually triggered when updating Mac OS X and every update to Mac OS X has the potential to render your system unbootable depending on if the “right” file is deleted or not. It’s triggered during the “Optimizing System Performance” phase of installing an update. This phase is actually just running update_prebinding. If you launch an application that links to libraries that are not yet prebound, there is a chance one of those files will be zero’d out as dyld automatically redoes the prebinding on that file.

Crush

Life is too short for crummy food, N likes to say. It sometimes makes it difficult to try a new restaurant. Luckily, someone else made the reservations, because we might not have tried it otherwise. Located in a bit of a grim place it manages to convey a bit of high-end feel, although the furniture is a bit too space-age-bachelor-pad. The food and service were excellent with the prices in-line with the quality.

Absolutely recommended.

[link]

Crush in Seattle

White House eating its young

White House Said to Prompt Firing of Prosecutors – New York Times

The administration is blaming the blatantly political firings of federal prosecutors on Harriet Myers, who resigned in February. I mean this is just so dumb. First, you recommend her for Supreme Court justice and spend countless pages of print talking about how close she and the president are. Then, you stab her in the back and claim she’d gone upriver and was doing evil things without the president’s knowledge. Yet again, the hubris of the White House is shown in stark relief. They seem to be under the impression that the American people have the attention span and memory of a gnat.

Rands In Repose: A Glimpse and a Hook

Rands In Repose: A Glimpse and a Hook

I just read this post, you should read it too. It’s a great follow up to my earlier post about college CS resumes. I agree with “rands” (not his real name) on a lot of what he said, so rather than rehash, I’ll offer how I do things differently…

Your Name. It’s simple. Do I know you? Whether I do or not, I’m going to immediately Google you to see if I should. Oh, you a have a weblog. Excellent.

I may google you eventually, but I usually won’t bother until I’m setting up a screening call. Then, I only care if you’ve posted about something relative to software development, or if your name is familiar.

Company Names. Do I recognize any companies that you worked at? If I do, I don’t look at what you actually do, I assume that if I recognize the company, I’m in the ballpark. If I don’t know the company, I scan for keywords in the description to get a rough idea. Hmmmmm… networking words. Ok, you’re a networking guy.

yeah, this is pretty spot-on. I will add that if I know someone at a company you used to work at, I might ping that person to see if they knew you.

Other Interests and Extracurriculars. Yeah, this is part of the first pass. I’m eagerly looking to find something that makes you different from the last fifty resumes I looked at. More on this in a moment.

I totally disagree here. If I see “Other Interests and Extracurriculars”, I see “Resume Filler”

Skills. I skip the skills section not only because this is information I’ll derive from job history, but also because this section is full of misinformation. I’m not going to say that people lie in the skills section, but I know that if a candidate has heard the word Linux in the workplace, there’s a good chance they’re going to put Familiarity with Linux as a skill on their resume.

I totally disagree with this as well. If you have the skills, but not the job experience, I’ll assume that you don’t have the skills. If you have both, expect to get a lot of questions about the listed skills in the screening call. As I said previously, “Don’t list it if you can’t back it up.”

School. Yeah, this is the first time I’ll notice whether you went to college or not. I purposely do this because I’ve found over years of hiring that a name brand university biases my opinion too early. There’s a lot to be said for a candidate who gets accepted to and graduates from Stanford or MIT, but I’ve made just as many bad hires from these colleges as great ones.Seeing a non-Computer Science degree is not a warning flag. In fact, I’m a huge fan of hiring physics majors as engineers. For whatever reason, the curriculum for physics has a good intersection with computer science. Any technical major for me is perfectly acceptable, and even non-technical majors with a technical job history make for a resume worth thinking about.

I agree that once you’ve been in the industry for a while, your education isn’t nearly so relevant. The fewer years you have been out of school the more relevant a data-point it is. Same with your major. Some of the best programmers I know were music majors. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, your major isn’t really important. If you are coming straight out of college, it is pretty critical.

Never include a cover letter. I don’t read them. Recruiters don’t pass them on. Make sure the key points of your cover letter are living in your career objective and your job history.

Damn skippy.

Include seemingly irrelevant experience. This applies mostly to college types who lack experience in high technology. You’re going to stress that your job history doesn’t include any engineering and you’re thinking your summer working at Borders bookstore is irrelevant. It’s not. Any job teaches you something. Even though you weren’t coding in C++, I want to know what you learned by being a bookseller. Was it your first job? What did you learn about managers? How did you grow from the beginning to the end of the summer? Explain to me how hard work is hard no matter what the job is.

Sorry, but I don’t care what other jobs you’ve had unless they are relevant to the job I’m interviewing you for. If you’ve been in another industry and you switched over to engineering, that would be relevant, maybe.

The comments to that post were really interesting. Some more good tips and a lot of people calling “rands” a jerk. I can understand if you’ve been passed up for a lot of jobs how you might dislike this kind of advice, but man ‘o man, I wish that someone had told me some of this when I was younger. That is why I post about it too. This is stuff that can help you, if you agree with it or not. Something interesting here is how he and I diverge. It shows you that all hiring managers look at different things. Does that help? Probably not. It probably confuses, but at least you have some more insight. I’m sure that there are a zillion more posts like this on-line. Read them all and distill the best advice for yourself.

One more point: unlike “Rands”, I read every line of every resume. Some, I may skim more than others (especially if I have a pile to get through), but I know what it is like to be on the other side. I would hope that most other hiring managers would have the same courtesy.