Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, March 25, 2021

In a move that should surprise no one living in this age of digital music, the music industry is morphing away from the album-centric mode of doing business:

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.

Because of this shift in listener preferences — a trend reflected everywhere from blogs posting select MP3s to reviews of singles in Rolling Stone — record labels are coming to grips with the loss of the album as their main product and chief moneymaker.

In response, labels are re-examining everything from their marketing practices to their contracts. One result is that offers are cropping up for artists like Candy Hill to record only ring tones or a clutch of singles, according to talent managers and lawyers.

Personally, the emphasis on album sales was a key reason for me never getting into music during my formative years. I distinctly remember recognizing that it was a pure ripoff to plunk down several dollars for an 8-12 track album, when all I wanted was the one or two songs that were hits. I adopted a three-song minimum as a requirement for buying an album; if you’re at all familiar with the past twenty-five years of pop music, you can make a pretty accurate guess as to the paltry number of albums I wound up purchasing.

I realize I was in the minority. Plenty of my peers scooped up those albums, and justified it as the only way to get at the popular tunes. The potential bonus was the discovery of an unpromoted gem in the album’s filler tracks; realistically, that was usually just wishful thinking. But for me, it turned me off on developing any sort of music-buying habit.

Of course, I’ve since adopted the cherry-picking single selection via iTunes. And since so many other online music listeners exhibit the same preference — whether via legal purchases or file-sharing means — I guess I wasn’t alone after all. That early conditioning still holds today: I typically avoid buying albums on iTunes, regardless of price, because I figure I’m not going to like any artist/musical theme enough to want to listen to multiple tracks. I also still assume that the usual track-padding is in effect when building an album.

Will the future of the music biz drift exclusively toward singles and other short-form content chunks? I think albums can revert back to what they were in the ’50s and ’60s: Less concept packages and more like compilations of proven hit singles, released after they made their noise. That dynamic’s already made a comeback today, with the proliferation of “greatest hits” albums from artists that had barely three or four notable singles releases.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/25/2007 10:37 PM
Category: Business, Pop Culture
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These days, it takes more than rippling biceps and windswept hair to set aflutter the hearts of Harlequin romance novel readers.

Doesn’t it?

That’s the reading that the publisher of those schlocky potboilers is getting, anyway. Toward that end, Harlequin has put out a casting call for more down-to-earth “real men” to serve as a new generation of cover models for its paperbacks.

Until now, the publisher relied on modeling agencies to supply bodies for its concupiscent covers. But the readership — predominantly female and averaging 42 years of age — was upset when slight, young cover models clashed with the brawny, mature heroes described within.

“Some of the heroes are captains of industry, billionaires,” said Deborah Peterson, a Harlequin creative designer and a judge at the audition. “A lot of the models were too young, men in their twenties… and our audience likes men a little bit older, a bit bigger, than the runway models.”

The cover-art process in book publishing is notoriously assembly-line. For the run-of-the-mill books, it’s completely divorced from anything the author does. What results is a cookie-cutter book design, selected from a practical stock art collection. In Harlequin’s case, I’m sure a good bit of marketing basics went into this time-honored strategy: A flashy cover scene bulging with muscles probably prompts more impulse purchases than a “realistic” visualization. That they’re responding to their core readership indicates that the impulse-buy universe has shrunk dramatically, and so Harlequin is forced to be responsive to its bread-and-butter audience — despite retooling efforts in a post-Fabio era.

As for Mr. Goldilocks, he’ll always have his past body of work to stoke his memories.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/25/2007 03:31 PM
Category: Publishing
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Can trees be considered cool?

Perhaps only in an unconventional sense, and that’s good enough for a list of the 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World.

My favorite: The Banyan tree, represented by the No. 3-ranked Sri Maha Bodhi plant of Sri Lanka. It’s an aesthetic preference for how the aerial roots create a weird wooden webbing effect. That’s independent of surroundings, unlike most of the other trees on the list; but surely, the visual of the Banyan Strangler Fig root structure intricately wrapped around the ruins of Cambodia’s Ta Prohm Angkor is a stunner.

There are a couple of bonus neat-o trees added to the list, along with several commenter submissions. My own contribution there: Dragon’s blood trees, found only on Yemen’s Socotra Island. They look like part of a fairy-tale landscape.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/25/2007 02:06 PM
Category: Creative
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special ed
National Hockey League Special Teams Index through last night. I’d characterize it as the “Spring has sprung” edition, but I’ll spare you. But I won’t spare you a look at last week’s STI rankings.

As usual, most of the action is at the top of the list. In particular, Vancouver’s slow slide downward reflects their late stumbling in the Northwest Division title race, in which they were overtaken by Minnesota yesterday. The Canucks are still dominating with their league-leading penalty kill, but their power play is sputtering. Meanwhile, the Wild’s PK is almost as efficient, and they’re scoring more. It all starts to add up, especially toward season’s end.

STI Rank Team PP % (Rank) PK % (Rank) STI Number
1 Anaheim Ducks 21.8 (3) 84.4 (7) 106.2
2 San Jose Sharks 22.4 (2) 83.7 (12) 106.1
3 Montreal Canadiens 22.6 (1) 83.3 (14) 105.9
4 Minnesota Wild 18.5 (10) 86.0 (2) 104.5
5 Vancouver Canucks 16.4 (23) 87.7 (1) 104.1
6 New York Rangers 18.9 (8) 84.3 (8) 103.2
7 Nashville Predators 17.7 (13) 85.3 (3) 103.0
8 Ottawa Senators 18.3 (11) 84.6 (6) 102.9
9 New Jersey Devils 17.3 (20) 84.9 (5) 102.2
10 Dallas Stars 18.7 (9) 83.4 (13) 102.1
11 Colorado Avalanche 21.5 (4) 79.9 (25) 101.4
12 Detroit Red Wings 17.3 (18) 83.8 (11) 101.1
13 Pittsburgh Penguins 19.6 (5) 81.3 (19) 100.9
14 Florida Panthers 17.3 (19) 82.2 (15) 99.5
15 Calgary Flames 19.0 (7) 80.4 (24) 99.4
16 Boston Bruins 17.5 (16) 81.8 (17) 99.3
17 Carolina Hurricanes 15.1 (26) 84.2 (9) 99.3
18 Philadelphia Flyers 14.0 (28) 85.3 (4) 99.3
19 New York Islanders 17.4 (17) 81.8 (18) 99.2
20 Edmonton Oilers 14.6 (27) 84.2 (10) 98.8
21 Buffalo Sabres 17.6 (15) 81.0 (22) 98.6
22 Washington Capitals 16.8 (22) 80.7 (23) 97.5
23 Tampa Bay Lightning 19.0 (6) 78.4 (29) 97.4
24 Los Angeles Kings 18.0 (12) 78.8 (28) 96.8
25 Toronto Maple Leafs 17.6 (14) 78.9 (27) 96.5
26 Atlanta Thrashers 16.8 (21) 79.6 (26) 96.4
27 Columbus Blue Jackets 15.3 (25) 81.1 (20) 96.4
28 Phoenix Coyotes 16.1 (24) 78.4 (30) 94.5
29 Chicago Blackhawks 12.3 (30) 82.1 (16) 94.4
30 St. Louis Blues 12.6 (29) 81.1 (21) 93.7
by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 03/25/2007 11:49 AM
Category: Hockey
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