Tuesday, November 27, 2007

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Sigur Rós really brings it down a notch in this NPR interview. Is this the fault of the facile interviewer or the utterly uninteresting group?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Hiltons Like White Elephants

A little bit of celeb-surrealism served up this afternoon. I caught this story earlier from MSN.

Hilton Tries to Help Drunk Elephants

Nov. 13, 2007, 10:15 AM EST

The Associated Press

GAUHATI, India -- Paris Hilton is being praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India.

Activists said a celebrity endorsement such as Hilton's was sure to raise awareness of the plight of the pachyderms that get drunk on farmers' homemade rice beer and then go on a rampage.

"The elephants get drunk all the time. It is becoming really dangerous. We need to stop making alcohol available to them," the 26-year-old socialite said in a report posted on World Entertainment News Network's Web site. Her comments were picked up by other Web sites and newspapers around the globe.

(I’ll spare you the rest for now…you can continue it below)

So that's all well and good: Paris doing her thing for humans. Bravo. Nice cause. Drunken elephants.

I then refreshed the page, only to find the following notice (linked here):

AP Retracts Paris Hilton Story

In a Nov. 13 story, The Associated Press incorrectly reported that Paris Hilton was praised by conservationists for highlighting the problem of binge-drinking elephants in northeastern India. Lori Berk, a publicist for Hilton, said she never made any comments about helping drunken elephants in India.

The AP

Damn you Paris and your false drunken elephant promises!

Read the rest of the original story here. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the second page because it had been taken down.

Last month, six wild elephants that broke into a farm in the state of Meghalaya were electrocuted after drinking the potent brew and then uprooting an electricity pole.

"There would have been more casualties if the villagers hadn't chased them away. And four elephants died in a similar way three years ago. It is just so sad," Hilton was quoted as saying in Tokyo last week. She was in Tokyo to judge a beauty contest.

Her publicist couldn't immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Hilton promised to improve her bad-girl image after she completed a jail term in June for violating probation in an alcohol-related reckless driving case.

She announced plans to do charity work in Rwanda, but the trip was postponed until next year.

Sangeeta Goswami, head of animal rights group People for Animals, told The Associated Press: "I am indeed happy Hilton has taken note of recent incidents of wild elephants in northeast India going berserk after drinking homemade rice beer and getting killed."

"As part of her global elephant campaign, Hilton should, in fact, think of visiting this region literally infested with elephants," Goswami said.

Another conservationist said elephant alcohol abuse was just a symptom of the real problem.

"Elephants appear on human settlements ...

(Story Continues On Next Page...)

Thursday, November 8, 2007

In Rainbows

For those of you who've read articles declaring Radiohead's decision to offer In Rainbows on a pay-what-you-want basis a towering defeat, let's step back for a sec.

I’m no fan of In Rainbows (I paid nothing and stayed off the official D/L grid), but I'd like to do some math on the “not total failure” Harvell begrudgingly makes it out to be.

No sales figures have been released for the album, but according to the Idolator source (comScore), “a significant percentage of visitors” downloaded the album. Let’s settle on a significant percentage. Idolator cites a stat that “an E-commerce web site turns 5% of its traffic into sales in any given month”, but in quoting comScore via the Tribune as an afterthought, states that “the conversion rate for Radiohead will be ‘substantially higher’.” Let’s be conservative and say that “substantially higher” means 10%. Then, since 38% of all downloaders paid for the album, we must assume that, by the Idolater/Tribune number, 38% of downloaders equals 10% of all visitors to the site. So we have:

[1.2M (number of visitors) * 10% (percentage of visitors downloading) ] =
[38% (percentage of downloaders paying) * X (number of downloads) ] ==>

X =
315,789 (number of downloads in first month of release)

Then we have:

315,789 (total downloads) *
$2.26 (avg. paid/download) =
$713,683.14 (total sales in $)

We’ll also subtract for set-up, bandwidth and upkeep of the site, and production costs. Let’s be liberal and say that Radiohead’s costs for this relatively stripped-down song cycle nevertheless total roughly $100,000:

$713,683.14 -
$100,000.00 =
$613,683.14 (net profit)

Now, multiple net sources report a $1-per-album profit for a major label artist. Then by these numbers, In Rainbows artist profits look a lot like the profits of an album that sells 613,683 copies in its first month. This has possibly made Radiohead more money in its first month* than:

The Bends (released 3/13/95, certified gold UK 4/1/95 (100k sales), certified gold US 4/4/96 (500k sales))**
OK Computer (released 6/17/97, certified platinum UK 7/1/97 (300k), certified gold US 12/11/97)
Amnesiac (released 6/4/01, not certified UK, certified gold US 7/03/01)

If our estimate is too conservative, than In Rainbows has possibly made Radiohead more money in its first month than:
Kid A (released 10/2/00, certified platinum UK 10/6/00, certified gold US 10/31/00)
Hail to the Thief (released 6/9/03, certified gold UK 1/23/04, certified gold US 7/14/03)

All this, discounting these facts:
(a) Sales of releases in ‘07 are at an all-time low;

(b) In Rainbows hasn’t even been physically released and is by some considered an approved leak;

(c) This doesn’t include profits on the $80 discbox slated for Xmas that will surely sell in the , netting the band ;

(d) This doesn’t include profits on the CD version that is slated to release next year;

(e) Ratcheting the percentage of visitors downloading to, arbitrarily, 20%, brings the number of downloads to 631,579 and the profit to $1,327,368.54
- This is a staggering figure considering comparative sales figures for both the band and 2007 overall sales. I’ll decline to compute the numbers for the percentage figure that I think downloaded the album in this time period (~30%).

(f) Incremental increase in fanbase paying for eg. concert tix, back-catalogue, memorabilia, etc.

(g) Labels don’t see one red cent of the numbers above—thus validating the band’s stated “f*ck you, decaying business model” intent

Circa-2007 me fails to see this as anything but a coup.

* UK/US consistently represents half of all disc sales worldwide and are two countries with highest retail sales for Radiohead albums (eg. popular Radiohead albums not certified within one month of release in France), so we’ll assume that certifications represent 66% of all worldwide sales for these albums

** Rough estimate using gold/platinum certification as a standard, with the understanding that certifications do not always happen immediately as album reaches sales plateau