CSNI've been too nice, too long. It's time for Spotify-bashing again. My penchant for occasionally bashing can be explained here and here (opens in new windows). In this blog entry I will focus on hard economic facts, inflated expectations and historical evidence. First some facts. Spotify claims that they in July 2017 had about 60 million paying customers (of a total of 140 million users), which makes just over 40 percent. The share of paying customers has increased. In 2014 and 2015 the share of paying customers was 25 percent. Most users, however, are not premium (paying) customers and have no plans of start paying. Not even the most degrading, infantile and intrusive advertisment seems to be able to push them over to premium. One would expect that a increasing share of paying customers would lead to a better economic result. On the contrary. The economic result is a pure disaster. Revenues are rising, but so are also costs. Here is some key economic figures.

Minus 412 million dollar in 2016, minus 278 million dollar (2015), minus 182 million dollar (2014) and minus 100 million dollar (2013). Spotify isn't profitable, has never been profitable and most likely is never going to be profitable. The turnover increased to 3 460 million dollars in 2016, 2 280 million dollars (2015), 1 213 million dollars (2014) and 824 million dollars (2013). In any other industry this would mean cut-down or shut-down. Higher deficit and increasing turnover would normally give an accountant with average intelligence gastric catarrh and sleepless nights. But not a Spotify-employed accountant. This is Wonderland. Traditional economic theory isn't applicable. A swedish media and communication researcher made an attempt to explain webeconomics. In this new world profits are not important, it's only about the value of the service itself and what investors think they could get if the service were to be sold. Yeh, right. The swedish researcher should take an interdisciplinary course in economic history. Tulipmania is generally considered to be the first recorded economic bubble and was as a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637. We certainly live in the Golden age of Spotifymania. An IPO (initial public offering) is waiting around the corner. Spotify has a very strong incitament to shift the focus from their huge economic deficits to postive trends like paying customers. They don't have to fool anyone. People will fool themselves. "The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived."

 

CSNI just finished an extremely tedious and time-consuming task. I registered 2 031 cd albums on Discogs (a database for music), cd after cd. I had to do something drastic in order to keep track of the albums I own (so I don't make the mistake and buy them again). Until now, I've been faithful to the basic swedish website pop.nu (opens in a new window), which has existed since 2001. The reasons for this unpatriotic act are that pop.nu doesn't work properly anymore and the lack of interest for its maintenance. But what is Discogs? It's short for discographies and is a website and crowdsourced database of information about audio recordings in all genres and on all formats. At first, I thought the interface was rough-hewn with its close resemblance with early dBASE products, but after using the database a couple of times I realized how ingenious the programming behind it was. Discogs also works extremely well on smartphones. The heart of Discogs is a user-built database of music. More than 360,000 people have contributed some piece of knowledge, to build up a catalog of more than 8,700,000 recordings and 5,100,000 artists. It's a living thing. There is no cost for using Discogs. The revenues to run the website comes from albums being sold through Discogs (Marketplace). I have personally bought 53 albums there and sold a few albums too (works like clockwork). Since it's built on top of the accurate Discogs database, it is easy for sellers to list their albums and buyers are able to specify the exact version they want. The diabolic combination of "crowdsourcing" and "exact" have created a perfect breeding ground for the Jesuits of record cataloging. You can make submissions, get rank points and people can vote on how accurate your submissions are. Discogs is a self-regulating system with a clever incitament structure.

CSNI'm a novice in the world of Discogs. I have contributed with 186 submissions and received 1 004 rank points and have an average vote of 3,58 (of max 5). Since I'm not particularly keen to read instructions or manuals before I start to do things, I encountered some initial problems. In the beginning I got a lot of RTFM-messages from members (in a very friendly way since there are community guidelines for good behavior). Instead the messages began with "Please check" and a link to the database guidelines. After a while I got the hang of it by learning by doing. Maybe you think a cd can be identified by its catalogue number or UPC/EAN number or a combination of them. Well, you have to think again. We are striving for to identify the exact (and not the adjacent) copy here. For this you need some BaOI (Barcodes and Other Identifiers), which is a collective name for identifiers. The most important identifier is the Matrix/Runout which is the factory code inscribed near the hub. Other important codes are the Mastering SID code and Mould SID code. The abbreviation SID stands for Source Identification and were introduced in 1994 by "International Federation of the Phonographic Industry" (IFPI) and the compact disc manufacturing industry in an effort to combat piracy. Read more about the IFPI codes here (opens in a new window). Another identifier is Label Code (LC) which was introduced in 1977 by IFPI in order to unmistakably identify the different record labels for rights purposes. The code normally consists of 4 figures, but nowadays it has been extended to 5 figures. The two SID codes are barely readable with a normal eyesight. In fact, I had to buy a magnifying glass to be able to read them at all. Registration of albums in the gothic country genre is easy. There are not many identifiers, normally just a barcode or even nothing (if it's self-released).

CSNThe more popular an album is, the more variants of the album there are. And if your version of an album isn't already in the datababase: you have to add this variant to the database and write a submissions note. Identification, registration and completion. This is essentially what I've been doing in my spare time lately. It helps to have a monomanic disposition. You must be very thorough and careful. You don't want to get it wrong and incur displeasure. Sloppy errors will not pass undetected. The worst crime you can commit on Discogs is to add a release that is already in the database (however, there exists doublets on Discogs). The second worst crime is to forget to add a release to the master release (a display function that gathers two or more matching releases together - a folder). There are also other less offensive crimes. In the Discogs community there exists "cleaning squads" that detects and corrects errors. In most cases they just detect and alert. You have to correct the errors yourself. Some Discogs aesthetes embrace a clean BaOI. There may be nothing wrong as regards contents in a certain BaOI, but it looks better after a restructuring. This and other Discogs behavior have similarities with audiophilea and is close to the second and anal stage in Sigmund Freud's theory of psychosexual development. But when I come to think of it, we are doing the exact same thing, trying to bring some order in this unmanageable mess. And I respect them for that. In fact, I corrected a wrongly placed album and wrote a submission note and realized what I have become. The converts are always the worst fanatics.    

 

 

CSNI recently lost $50 in a retail scam. I will survive the economic loss. However, I feel a little embarrassed over this mishap. I have an excellent track record when it comes to buying cds on internet. Until now, that is. This is what happened. I was doing my daily trawling in search of rare and hard-to-find albums. This time I was looking for a rare trashgrass album. Usually not many search results come up, but this particular day I found a new acquaintance in the search results. A website with the trustworthy name "Interstock" allegedly had a copy of the album, find them here (opens in a new window). The price of the item was $15.95 and the shipping cost 19.95 (damn US international shipping rates). I was so exited and eager to get the album, I didn't even ask myself the basic question: how come this general website which sells virtually everything with discount have this very rare cd? It seemed like a legitimate business. You could pay with Paypal, bitcoins or a gift card. However, the Paypal method wasn't working at the time and I was left to choose between bitcoins or gift cards. I bought a gift card on Amazon and paid $50. There was a text field for Paypal refund ($14.10) which I filled in. I got an order confirmation and a tracking number. So far, so good. Standard procedure. The shipping courier, USP Service  also seemed trustworthy with their close resemblance to UPS and their DHL-inspired graphic colour profile, find them here (opens in a new window). However, USP doesn't exist (but I didn't not that then). There were more strange details. The item was shipped from Poland, which isn't exactly a centre for rare and hard-to-find cds. The shipping cost from Poland to Sweden is moreover defintely lower than $20. However, I really wanted to believe that the cd would arrive any day soon. Now a tracking inferno started with updates (see table below). The cd travelled back and forth in Poland and after nearly a month later it "arrived" in Sweden. By then, I had accepted the brutal fact that I had been fooled. My Amazon gift card had instantly been cashed in. Of course, there was no refund of $14.10 either. Some things you have to learn the hard way. If I only had googled the website I had found out that the website was located in US, but the real location was hidden, which means high risk and 0% safety according to this anti-scam website, read more here (opens in a new window). Furthermore, there was no way to check up the shipping courier before the order was placed. USP Service are listed on this website, read more here (opens in a new window). The unneccesary traffic inferno (the scam has already taken place) seems only to be intended to delay the realization of this fact.         

 

 Status Location   Date
Accepted at USP Origin Facility Szczecin, PL May 31, 2017, 04:21 pm
Processed at USP Origin Sort Facility  Szczecin, PL June 1, 2017, 04:58 pm
Electronic Shipping Info Received Szczecin, PL June 3, 2017, 06:59 pm 
Departed USP Sort Facility  Szczecin, PL June 4, 2017, 11:45 am 
Arrived at USP Sort Facility Wolomin, PL June 7, 2017, 03:55 pm
Processed at USP Sort Facility Wolomin, PL June 8, 2017, 10:28 pm
Departed USP Sort Facility Wolomin, PL June 9, 2017, 07:22 pm
Arrived at USP International Service Center Warsaw, PL June 11, 2017, 07:50 pm
Processed at USP International Service Center Warsaw, PL June 12, 2017, 06:33 pm
Departed USP International Service Center Warsaw, PL June 13, 2017, 04:30 pm
Processed Through Sort Facility Stockholm, SE June 21, 2017, 12:04 am
Arrival at Pick-Up Point Stockholm, SE June 23, 2017, 01:54 am 
Customs Clearance Stockholm, SE June 24, 2017, 04:29 pm 
Arrival at Post Office  Stockholm, SE June 25, 2017, 02:31 pm

 

Reluctantly I admire the brute force of the scam. But it has some flaws. I like to end this depressing blog entry with some constructive criticism that could help to improve the scam. First of all, the Polish Postal Service is slow, but not so slow. Second, anyone with the slightest insights in postal handling realizes that the cd is destined to go directly from Szczecin Sort Facility to the International Service Center. There's really no need to send it to Wolomin Sort Facility first. Third, if an item is subject to custom rules it goes first to Custom Clearance, not to a Pick-Up Point. Fourth, Sweden and Poland are members of EU since 1995 and 2004, respectively. All imports are free of duty. Read and learn more here (opens in a new window). And last but not least. There are no Post Offices in Sweden. They were discontinued already in 2001/2002 and were replaced by a plethora of postal agents (i.e. convenience stores, tobacco stores, food chains and others). Live and learn. I know I will.

 

    

CSNI was overrun by Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy. Well, not literally but figuratively speaking. Yesterday they played in a small venue called Twang in Stockholm. To my knowledge this is their first time in Sweden. Let it be said. On behalf of the Kingdom of Sweden I want to apologize to the people of Kansas, to the inhabitants of Wichita and, last but not least, to CNS. The number in the audience barely outnumbered the band. What's wrong with you urban hipsters? Still, CNS put on good and rowdy show. CNS started out in a high tempo. When the first song ended the frontman, guitarist and vocalist Jarod Starling ironically asked: "Any questions?". No one had any questions. This wasn't a seminar. Ever heard of a trashgrass band with wind instruments? Well, it has to be a first time for everything. The trumpet and trombone are important ingredients in the CNS soundscape and are given plenty of space to excel. Another weird thing. I've never seen a washboard being handled by someone with his garden gloves on. CNS lyrics deals with social awareness and social criticism with a distinct bite. Compared with the arrangements on their two albums (2 ½ albums if you count the split album with Cletus Got Shot) the songs played yesterday were more elaborate with long and dreamy psychedelic jam sessions. But CNS are best in their short high-tempo songs. One of the highlights was "Way To Kansas". Personally I missed "Obis", "Trying Times" and "I Saw Your Daughter". This is a peripheral remark. I hope CNS can forgive us swedes for not attending and will be back soon.

 

 

TPB Debaser 20170430 500The main reason why I abandoned vinyl and switched over to cd 27 years ago was that I was getting really tired of all the skipping, scratching and significant surface noise. Of course, I didn't treat my vinyl records as I was supposed to. In fact, they were heavily mistreated. The guiding principle for grading is "The Goldmine Grading System", see link here (opens in a new window). The scale from high to low is Mint (M), Near Mint (NM), Very Good Plus (VG+), Very Good (VG), Good Plus (G+), Good (G), Fair (F) and Poor (P). Most of my records were graded G or F. The new cd format offered an easy and carefree handling. When the cd came it was said to be practically impossible to wear out (with normal use). This is true. Almost every cd in my collection plays without any problems at all. The few cds that have some minor flaws are bought from thrift stores. It's appalling but there are people who never put the cds back in their cases, stack them or use them as coasters. For these cd abusers there's a chance to redeem themselves - a machine. I was totally unaware that such a machine existed. However, if you mistreated your cds despite their relative high price you're not likely to invest in an expensive machine that fix them. The product is more intended for those who care about cds. It's not just plastic. It's a format in its own right.

Let me introduce you to the Disc Repair Machine ECO Smart - a single disc, semi-automatic disc repair system for CDs, DVDs, Books on Disc, Blu-ray, and even game discs. Read more here, (opens in a new window). It has color-coded magnetic pad holders. The machine cleans disc's in less than a minute and most repairs take less than 3 minutes. The ultra-quiet design is perfect for a library or retail environment. No hand finishing or cleaning after the repair process is required. The disc comes out of the machine clean, dry, free of residue. The liquid cooled repair process means no heat or damage to the disc. The ECO Brand disc repair systems have the lowest cost per disc than any other machine. The weight is just 35 lbs (approx. 16 kg) and the measures are 9 * 16 inches (23 * 41 cm). However, the price is high, $ 3 695. This is, by the way, the budget version. Why settle for less? Why not aim high and go for the ECO AutoSmart which is fully automatic and processes one disc at the time. The price for this fine machine is $ 5 780. If you want industrial strength I recommend the Eco Master which is fully automatic and have a disc capacity of 50 discs at the time. The price tag is $ 19 985. "What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream...So welcome to the machine". 

 

  

All Blog Posts