My blog has moved!

Please check out my new location, now at benstauffer.wordpress.com

Posted December 7, 2011 by reticentben in Uncategorized

why i cut the (cable) cord…and a corollary to the music biz

it isn’t even about money, though it is about COST.

the cost of my time spent in front of digital rectangles has reached a level i’m uncomfortable with. i realized that the dvr is probably the biggest driver of my problem–even though i watched the same half-dozen channels out of the ONLY 80 i had available, i found myself spending hours watching shows that i never would have sat through live.

see, i discovered a secret: the dvr doesn’t only change our habits by letting us skip commercials; when combined with the ridiculous number of channels offered that we would never care about if someone hadn’t invented them for us, it devalues the actual minutes we do spend watching–we can access all the crap for the same price as the “good stuff.”

there’s a corollary here to music–now that the distribution channels are greater in number and are growing far easier to access, we the consumers just have too many options (songs) to filter through to get to the good stuff. the difference with t.v. is that it is (somewhat) limited by the # of channels we receive–but there are no limits on itunes or YouTube to constrain our access to music.

so we rely on those who filter for a living–in t.v.’s case, the “hits” may be driven by advertisements or personalities because of the visual nature of the medium. for music, it’s still radio, to some extent, but why has lady gaga really become so popular, and why did the VMAs have their best rating this year? because of the visuals associated with both.

and this goes to why many have finally realized that YouTube IS the new leader in music discovery, at least among the youth. why just listen to “you and i” when we can see stefani and all of her alter-egos telling us the story?

so by cutting the cable cord, i basically forced myself to watch only those shows i can get on the 10 channels that come through my rabbit ears (see P.S. below). which is exactly what we do when we find that one radio station, those few blogs, or that small group of friends we can trust to provide us with a limited, but decent, selection of music.

and i bet i will appreciate those few shows i do watch a lot more than the cable programs i used to watch with my macbook on my lap and my iphone in my hand.

P.S. if you wanna cut the cord but still get HD-quality network stations, buy an antenna. This one cost me $13 and it’s on-sale for even less right now. test out the antenna for a few days while you still have your cable to make sure that it’s a worthy substitute.

P.P.S. in full disclosure, i am considering getting netflix/hulu plus which may seem hypocritical. the difference, though, is that i will be watching movies and classic t.v. shows that i can’t get on cable. my filter in this case isn’t what some cable company wants to offer me but mostly friends who recommend films/shows they’ve already seen. still, i haven’t decided between one or the other yet, mostly because of the less than stellar streaming catalogs available and the utter ridiculousness of having to maintain 2 different netflix plans if i want the best selection.

Posted September 15, 2011 by reticentben in consumerism, music

My Message to The White House

[Sent September 1, 2011]

President Obama,

While I support (and signed) the “Time To Act” statement yesterday, I was “frustrated” myself with the selection of that particular word as the subject of your email newsletter yesterday as well as by the tone of the message.

As indicated by polls, both formal and not, many Americans are certainly irritated by the perceived lack of interest on the part of Congress to act diligently to make structural improvements to the U.S. economic system in order to pull our country out of recession and to put people back to work. However, the negative and combative attitude expressed in your message does not help and suggests that the White House is, to some extent, trying to “point fingers.”

While I believe it proper for the Executive branch to exclude itself from drafting laws to engender economic reform (that is, after all, why Congress is called the “Legislative” branch), I don’t believe that public derision of those who we are relying on to fix these issues was appropriate. It seems somewhat hypocritical of someone who is “asking lawmakers to look past short-term politics.” I think that my fellow Americans would agree that such attacks are not constructive, whether they be between congressional leaders of different political parties or members of different branches of our government, all of whom should be working together to find an appropriate solution. Let’s all stop the bickering.


Posted September 1, 2011 by reticentben in music

Dylan’s 70

I’m a few issues behind on reading Rolling Stone, but I finally got a chance to check out the article on Bob Dylan’s 70 Greatest Songs in honor of his 70th birthday in May.

I find myself going in and out of periods where I listen to Dylan (especially the ’65 and ’66 records) over and over again and then just have to take a break from it. I don’t think it’s as much about the adenoidal, and later, gravely, voice as it is about how emotionally exhausting it can be to REALLY LISTEN to some of his tunes. Spin either of the 11 minute plus “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” or “Desolation Row” tracks and you’ll see what I mean, but even some of his shorter but still protracted songs take a lot out of me emotionally when I listen to them.

To counter that problem, I’ve simply been listening to more and varied Dylan albums, discovering gems like “Bringing It All Back Home” that I knew more for its iconic album cover than for its great songs.

The in-depth look at each of RS’s favorite Dylan songs opened up a door to even more albums for me, though I haven’t convinced myself to listen to any of his “Christian” records from ’79-’81 just yet.

In the spirit of giving (check reference to Dan Bejar, clearly a Dylan disciple), here’s an Rdio playlist of the 70 Songs from the RS feature, in order of the magazine’s ranking, which, thankfully, gives you a chance to listen to Dylan with some variety if you play it in order.

What are your thoughts on Dylan? On the ranking?

Posted June 25, 2011 by reticentben in music

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Music Survey – Please Consider Taking A Few Minutes to Help Me Out

I have put together a brief 10-question music survey for a project on which I am working for my MBA. If you are interested in participating, please click the link above by next Friday, July 1. Please feel free to share, tweet, etc. I ask that you not complete the survey more than once.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” – Some Quick Math Says Top 40 Spins Feel About Right

Billboard Magazine reported today that Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” was atop the Adult Top 40 radio ranks for the 5th straight week with a record-breaking 5,069 plays last week.

I thought I’d do some math to estimate how often that means Top 40 listeners are treated to this great song.

Here is some math –skip to the bold/underline parts if you trust me:

-One way to look at it:

5,069 spins / 90 reporting AT40 stations / 7 days = 8 spins a day, or 1 spin every three hours

One limitation of this math, I realize, is that stations don’t play static playlists in the peak and non-peak times…so maybe Adele spins 1 time during the overnight and 7 times the rest of the day, leaving you with RITD in your head 1 time every 2.6 hours.

A reaction to this might be that in a 10-hour work day and commute with the radio on at your desk and in your car, you don’t want to hear this song 3 or even 4 times–but is that really so unreasonable for a smash hit? And are you really near a radio on the weekends enough that you hear it 3-4 times EVERY day?

-Here’s another view:

Average advertisement rate = 9 minutes per hour leaving 51 minutes for music and dj talk (this may be a slightly old, LOW number)

So for every three hours (see above) there is 3 x 51 = 153 minutes of music & talk (or 131 minutes assuming the overnights)

“Rolling In The Deep” = 3.8 minutes long so

Roughly 1 out of every 34-40 minutes was spent playing the Adele song. 

This math may sound a lot worse than the first calculation, but it would only be more annoying if every song was played for just 1 minute before moving onto another (TRL, anyone?).

I really wish I had the spin counts for the rest of the list, because for a station that is playing “Adult Top 40,” it seems not at all unreasonable that the top song–in fact, the song with the highest weekly spins EVER– is taking up “1 out of every 40 minutes.”

My conclusion is that if you are listening to a station that says it plays “Top 40,” you shouldn’t be disappointed to hear many of the “Top 40″ songs over and over again. The numbers seem ok to me.

The problem is that there is a general shrinking of playlists across a multitude of formats (I won’t point to any data, but reports on this around the industry abound), leaving listeners who WANT VARIETY stuck with the same old repetition, and more importantly, artists who don’t make the Top of the Charts off the airwaves (and consequently, radio people with tough decisions to make).

-I may try a more detailed analysis at a later date with a genre to which I have more access to statistics (and which hopefully has a wider span of song variety).

THOUGHTS?

Posted June 11, 2011 by reticentben in consumerism, music

delight.

delight - “to please greatly” or “take great pleasure in”

maybe it’s a big Christmas bonus at work, or a really great movie ending, or a really thoughtful birthday gift that you give to a friend.

in marketing, delight can mean the positive reaction a customer has when she or he is pleasantly surprised by the product or service received.

maybe a waiter goes out of his way to make your anniversary dinner special, or your landlord helps you shovel out of your parking space (happened to me), or you buy an album knowing 2 or 3 songs are good but find out the whole record is really amazing (if this happened to you, please let me know which one!).

i wonder how much we really try to “delight” each other–friends, family, bosses, customers–anymore. do we settle for the musts, those things we have to do just to be considered acceptable? do we take it one step further–but not quite all the way–and give them the satisfiers, those things that meet someone’s expectations, like a “hi” in the hallway, or an 8-hour workday, or a song that’s about as good as our last single?

if we get to that “delight” stage, will we be that much more memorable the next time someone wants to do us a favor, or hand out bonus checks, or buy our album? and won’t we feel a little better about ourselves–or have we lowered our self expectations so much that “good enough” is the standard by which we live?

Posted June 2, 2011 by reticentben in consumerism, music

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