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Michael Degusta questions David Lowery’s Pandora royalty claims, is partly misleading, partly bang-on

Link: Pandora paid over $1,300 for a million plays, not $16.89

Remember that post from David Lowery about Pandora rates?

Here’s a reply from Michael Degusta, doing what everyone that linked to the original story (including me) should have done and double-checking the maths (with an S please, people!).

His calculations and research tells us what Lowery’s song made in total from Pandora, including a performance royalty that Lowery mentioned in passing but said he’d post about later. In doing so, Degusta makes the argument that Lowery’s total take for the song was more like $230 than $16.89:

Conclusion. By this math:

Pandora paid a total of about $1,370.
The band received a total of about $585.
If Lowery received 40% of the performance royalty, “all he got” for the 1 million plays was in fact around $234.
Whatever one thinks of the fairness of those numbers, they’re all clearly far larger than $16.89.

It’s inflammatory stuff but it’s just as misleading as it claims Lowery was – Degusta’s basing his total on figures that include the performer royalty as well, but if you go back and read the original blog that everyone picked up on, Lowery’s complaint focusses on the songwriter’s royalty. Lowery does mention the performance royalty and clearly states he’ll talk about that separately, and if you go through the comments he repeats that this was his angle, how much a songwriter makes from Pandora.

But Degusta also examines Lowery’s Pandora and US FM/AM radio comparisons:

The main issue here is that Lowery cites only dollar amounts for comparison:

• “For frame of reference compare [sic] Sirius XM paid me $181”
• “Terrestrial (FM/AM) radio US paid me $1,522”

This is quite simple: those sources paid him a lot more primarily because a lot more people heard his song via those sources. For example, AM/FM paid him $1,373.78 for 18,797 spins. That’s 7.3 cents per spin. If only 10,000 listeners heard each spin, terrestrial radio is in fact paying just half the songwriter fee Pandora paid him per listener. And of course it’s likely to have been far more than 10,000 – even the intentionally miniscule South Dakota radio station Pandora just bought manages to average 18,000 listeners.

Degusta concludes:

None of this means Pandora ought to pay less in royalties. … But attacking Pandora with intentionally misleading statistics just undermines the credibility of the argument.

It seems to me a little cheeky to end like that when the basis of his own attention-grabbing headline merges performer and songwriting royalties while Lowery sought only to examine the latter.

Finally, Pandora themselves have pitched in.

I can see what Lowery’s point is about songwriting not paying so well, but he made some poor comparisons to other royalties that didn’t help his case. And when Degusta provided those eye-opening (but in my view beside-the-point) performance royalty estimates, along with ably debunking the radio comparison, the combination further distracted everyone from Lowery’s original point.

I think all we can take away from this is that working out balanced royalties in this new digital age is not easy, and making a living in music is a gamble.

(Via Daring Fireball)

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Does it really matter if Jim Carrey changed his mind about Kick Ass 2?

Today a lot of people are talking about Jim Carrey’s tweets that he no longer feels comfortable with the level of violence in Kick Ass 2 in light of the Sandy Hook shootings, and as you’d expect he’s being pilloried by some and praised by others. The producer of the film, Mark Millar, replied that he’s “baffled” about the decision.

I don’t see the problem, really. I find it perfectly feasible that the experience of performing violent acts during filming felt quite crass a few months later when the tragic massacre occurred in that school. Not that massacres are a new phenomenon, particularly in America, but maybe that was the one that broke him, happening so soon after working on Kick Ass 2.

I was going to write more, examining the range of reactions to the news from around the web, but then I stumbled across this piece by Devin Faraci at Badass Digest and his thoughts chime with mine.

On Carrey changing his mind at all:

To me that’s admirable. It’s possible that the extreme violence on set during the Kick-Ass 2 shoot contrasted with the real life violence of Sandy Hook weeks later is what caused something to switch over in Carrey’s thinking. That’s indicative of someone who is allowing experience in, who is examining his beliefs all the time, someone who isn’t didactic or chained to one belief system in the face of all reason. Yet to many others this is weakness, and an occasion to belittle and attack the guy. He’s bitching, they say. Didn’t he read the script?, they ask. He’s happy to cash the paychecks, they mock.

They, frankly, are the small minds.

The latest trend is for folk to angrily and snarkily demand Carrey donate his entire fee for Kick Ass 2 to charity. They’re doing this all wrong. For one thing his fee is for at the very least his performance (we have no idea what he’s contractually obliged to do beyond that so stop speculating) and he’s not removing his performance. So no, he shouldn’t donate his fee.

But I do think it would be okay for me to say,

“Hi, Jim. I respect your opinion and your having the balls to stand up and say it, and I’m looking forward to the film all the same. Have you considered also making a donation to a relevant charity? It might help make you feel better, and also maybe it would shut up those people on the internet, don’t know if that bothers you but anyway. I’m sure you’ve probably considered it, I’ll leave you be. Loved you in Eternal Sunshine by the way.”

You know, friendly, like?

Ultimately, people are always going to knee-jerk and get angry on the internet, they’ll get over it. But I remain rather baffled myself as to why Mark Millar would publicly express confusion at Carrey’s ability to change his mind. It shows a lack of compassion and understanding – he doesn’t have to agree with Carrey, but to me it’s not baffling.

It’s also hardly likely to do any damage to the film, not that for one second I think that was Carrey’s intention either. It’s going to get plenty of word-of-mouth off the back of this alone.

“So violent Jim Carrey doesn’t want anything to do with it!” certain sections of the media will scream, guaranteeing further bums on seats. An oversimplified misinterpretation it may well be but what section of the demographic Kick Ass 2 is aimed at is going to be put off by such a claim?

My opinion? As far as I’m concerned it isn’t movies like Kick Ass that enable or cause horrific shootings – I’m not sure that any element of pop culture should be held ‘responsible’ – so while I think Carrey’s reasoning sounds misplaced in that respect, I can’t argue with him having the courage of his convictions to be true to them.

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Creation, consumption & the ‘post-PC world’

I am getting frustrated with continuing arguments over whether the iPad, or tablets in general, are capable of ‘content creation’ or whether they are only good for ‘content consumption’; and what ‘post-PC world’ even means when PCs are still the most used device in professional computing.

The whole “is it any good for content creation?” question needs to be taken out back and quietly disposed of – for one thing because the answer is “Yes” (that’s why there’s so many text editors, photo editors, drawing apps and music apps available in the App Store), and for another thing because the question is a classic strawman, limiting respondents to a binary answer that doesn’t accommodate all the options.

iPads are, I would wager, largely bought by average members of the public. How many average members of the public ‘create content’ on any device at all, even on their desktops and laptops? Just because a lot of people don’t create content on the device does not by any means relegate it to being purely a consumption device by default, and yet that seems to be the argument so many critics subscribe to.

A much better question to ask, if we’re going to analyse how the iPad is used, is “how can it be used to assist you in your job or hobby?” or to spell it out, “how can it be used for things other than reading books, watching videos, listening to music, and other activities typically referred to as ‘consuming content’?

(And don’t get me started on the glibness of reducing the appreciation of an artists work into mere ‘consumption’ of their ‘content’ – I imagine the sorts of people who use the phrase willingly as soul-less shallow husks of humans. Just so you know.)

Off the top of my head, here’s a few that are neither creation nor consumption as usually defined in this argument:

  • using it as a teaching aid
  • making photo selects during a shoot
  • taking payment via Square
  • flogging wares on eBay
  • running a stocktake from a spreadsheet
  • using a reference book/app specific to your vocation (hello doctors and pilots!)

Why ask this question of tablets, anyway?

Let’s take an average multi-functional office in an average industry that doesn’t focus on creation (think ‘The Office’ if it helps) in which everyone uses a computer for variety of officey-things, such as analysing finances, making purchases, organising shift patterns, closing deals, chasing leads. Whatever. I don’t work in this (or any) office so I don’t have much experience, but you can’t tell me that everyone in that office that uses a computer in some way for their work would categorise everything that they do that isn’t ‘consumption’ as, by virtue of it being the only other option, ‘creation’. Their computer is a tool.

If you wouldn’t demonstrate a computer’s validity as a tool by asking “But can it do content creation?” why is it appropriate for a discussion of tablets?

Of course, just because you can do something work-related on a tablet doesn’t always mean you would want to. I could perform tweaks to my RAW photos on an iPad using Snapseed, but unless I need to in order to send a client a shot quickly, I’d rather just wait till I got home and put them through Lightroom due to the extra power, screen space, functionality and finesse of control.

Instead I use my iPad on a shoot to transfer photos, review them with the client and make selects there and then while still shooting. I’m not creating content with it in this instance but it’s still a valuable work tool and far more than the dumb consumption device it’s often made out to be purely because a sizeable segment of users do nothing else with it.

(I could do this on a MacBook Air and gain powerful on-site editing, but I rarely need the editing, it’s harder to pass around, and the client navigates it less intuitively without my guidance, so I don’t.)

The Post-PC World

That’s another phrase that’s getting everybody riled up for nothing, “the post-PC world” – it’s a currently-hot phrase often used by those looking for a zippy buzzword to tie their computing article to, but it’s been mis-appropriated or at least misunderstood ever since it was handed to them on a platter by some cunning tech man (Steve Jobs?) looking to neatly highlight the shift in computing trends towards tablet-like devices.

The way it’s being mis-used to portend the imminent death of the desktop or laptop is not how it was intended, in my opinion. It doesn’t mean we are in a ‘PC Is Dead’ world, because it’s clear the PC is not dead at all. It means we are in a world where PCs are no longer the only way to compute. Tablets, particularly iPads I guess because that’s all I really know, are computers that have adapted to a new way of using them: with our fingers. So are smartphones, frankly, in so far as they are computing devices that allow you to do computery stuff.

So ‘post PC world’ to me means ‘post All-Computer-Stuff-Must-Be-Done-On-A-Desktop-Or-Laptop world’, which clearly isn’t as slick.

Am I making any sense at all? I do to me, but sometimes I lose sight of what I’m saying as I spew it across the screen. Feel free to get involved in the comments.

(Test link to Skimlinks)

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moo.com: a tale of excellent customer service

When was the last time you were blown away by amazing customer service, and who was it? For me it was yesterday, and Moo.com.

It’s the start of the year and I’m planning to take my event and fine art photography business up a notch, so my website is down for a redesign and I’m in the market for new business cards.

I only trust Moo with my business cards these days. I discovered them a few years ago when the only other well-known option for small order business cards was Vistaprint (yuck) and Moo’s cheerful website, design flexibility and all-round friendliness won me over. But the real draw is their business cards (and stickers, labels, postcards and minicards!), which are beautiful quality and very affordable.

This really sounds like a sales pitch but honestly, they’re great. I always get a compliment when I hand one of my cards out, which each carry a different photo full-bleed on the reverse. Given that most business cards end up in a bin eventually, that “Oooh!” moment when I produce them from my pocket really matters.

Well this weekend my mum, who has been on their mailing list since she discovered their sticky labels and minicards, sent me a 30% discount code she’d just received in one such newsletter. I’ve been unsubscribing myself from anything that isn’t important in an effort to de-clutter my inbox so I didn’t get that newsletter but I could certainly use the code. Over the next couple of days I settled on 30 new reverse photos, uploaded them and went to order 100 as well as a couple of holders that display the cards in a fan arrangement – very useful for embellishing that “Oooh!” moment.

Plans: foiled

Except – tragedy! The code didn’t work; it turns out everyone had received their own code, locked to their own account. And I didn’t have one. That’ll teach me for hitting Unsubscribe.

The offer was due to end in a few hours – what to do? Try and send the designs to my mum via Dropbox and have her upload them and order? (That was bound to end in strained family relations) Sign up to the newsletter and leave my order until the next discount code? (Maybe, but there’s no time like the present, seize the day, etc) Chalk it up to experience and order anyway? (And miss out on a potential £15 saving?!)

Or email Moo Support, explain the situation and cheekily ask if I could have my own discount code to replace the one my mum was never going to use, pretty please?

I’m becoming a believer in at least giving the milk of human kindness a chance, so I went for the last option, then closed the browser window and forgot about it.

Just a few hours later (the same day!) Moo support got back to me:

Dear Owen,

Thank you for getting in touch with the MOO Team.

Yes that’s fine! Please use the following code for 30% off your order:

(my secret code was here and it’s all gone now :D)

This one-time use code expires one year from today. Enter this code when you reach the payment screen during checkout. Be sure to enter the code before you input your payment information.

Please feel free to contact us again if you have any further questions.

Best regards,

Ron C
MOO

Now that’s customer service. They didn’t need to do that – they could have apologised and suggested I sign up for the newsletter (which I have done anyway). Instead they guaranteed a sale, saved me some money and increased my loyalty to the point where I’m now writing this blog to share the love, like the corporate shill I most definitely am not.

When was the last time a company’s customer support blew you away like that?

10% off your first Moo order

Full disclosure – the links to Moo.com on this page use my referral link – you can get 10% off your first order and I’ll get a credit towards a new pack of cards in return – thank you! Alternatively if you prefer to pay full price, you can use this plain link.

They don’t just do business cards – there’s minicards, stickers, labels and postcards, all customised with your own designs or some of their free templates. Use them to seal your customer packages, or put your website address on and hand them out in the street – there’s plenty more suggestions on their site.

Enjoy, and thanks for visiting!

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Editorial Other Photographic

Buying my images as prints, licensing, and all that stuff

I’ve had my images on the web via one site or another for about 7 or 8 years now; I used to use Flickr, then I got my own photoblog, then my own portfolio, then through Photoshelter, then finally I stopped paying the subscription to Flickr. I’ve tried many times to push selling my images as prints, either by using the Fotomoto plugins on my photoblog or advertising them via my websites. I’ve considered signing up to stock agencies but they pay very little and demand a lot of content, which I could shoot if I wanted, but I don’t want to as it would suck every last drop of fun out of photography for me.

In those 7-8 years I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve sold prints to – my biggest sale was to a brewery chain who wanted local images of Putney to use in The Boathouse pub. I get a lot of business from people wanting to commission their own shoots, but practically none wanting to buy a print. However, every so often someone comes by my website from a search for ‘London prints’ or something similar, so I figured I should make it clear to them that I do sell prints and license images, and that with the exception of my movie stills work, nearly every image on this particular site is available to buy as a print.

Simply get in touch, tell me what image you’re thinking of, what sort of size you’d like, where you are based, and I’ll cost it up and quote you a price – my prints are made by Spectrum Photographic and while they are not as cheap as a crappy Snappy Snaps rush job, they are archival quality and worth every penny.

Also, feel free to browse my portfolio; there are less images in there that are available for sale, but you might find things you missed on this site.

Thanks!