Over the next few days or weeks, or as long as it seems necessary or relevant I will use the above headline in regards to what we are witnessing transpire in Iran at the moment, hopefully in order to simply and concisely help elucidate a better understanding of the who what when where why and how that’s led our brothers and sisters of the great ancient nation of Persia, now Iran, to this current state of affairs, and where it might be headed.
For it very difficult for anyone in the so called “West” to gain even a modicum of any real knowledge about the true facts, figures, statistics, history and context related to Iran, for the simple reason that over the last few hundred years Western Powers such as the United States, Great Britain, Israel and to a lesser degree France have done nothing but dispel dis and misinformation about the country and it’s history — in order to cover up their heinous mistreatment and opportunistic bullying of the Iranian state and it’s people.
Talk about fake news. American media coverage of Iran is, as it always has been, almost entirely false and deliberately misleading propaganda or just innocently and ignorantly wrong. I was just as shocked to learn that 15 years ago as anyone else would be.
Eventually that shock turned to shame as I learned of the details of the American government’s dealings with Iran, and then to awe as I continued to go deeper into the study of the great country’s 6,000 year old history.
This fascination eventually led me to participate in a fast paced, hair raising, jaw dropping, eye popping two week diplomatic mission trip to all four corners of Iran at a time when Americans were only being allowed in the country for these kinds of events, and only once in a blue moon. As it is today still, it has been nearly impossible for Americans to get into Iran legally for decades. The reasons are obvious. Pre-approved cultural exchange trips, media tours or diplomatic missions are the only possible means of entry. And they are few and far between, depending on who the president is of both Iran and the United States.
At this time Iran refuses to have any official diplomatic relations with the United States, the American Embassy there is a beat up old empty shell of a building, graffiti’d with random anti-American imperialism slogans. So any diplomatic communications between the two countries either go through mutual allies in Switzerland or Pakistan, or through civilian diplomatic efforts such as the one I participated in in 2009.
For today, or at least in this moment — and indeed what compelled me to take the time to write this post this while nursing one hell of a 2×4 whack to the back of the head champagne hangover from last night’s festivities, the most important points to get across are the following:
– Iran spent many millennia controlled by one monarchy or another going all the way back to 4,000 BCE. Some people supported this. Some endured it. Some hated it. Like many other countries all over planet earth in the 20th century the citizens of Iran became a democracy in the early 1950s.
– This Democratic Iran only lasted for 3 years, as Great Britain and the United States were not happpy with the idea of the Iranian people being responsible for the price of their own oil, so they orchestrated a coup of Iran, ousted its democratically elected president, and reinstated another king (or Shah as the word is translated into Farsi) so they could go back to controlling Iran as they always had.
– Together with France they formed a new Western controlled oil company to handle the drilling, refining and embezzling of Iran’s oil. That company was to eventually be shortened to being called British Petroleum, or BP.
– There is more to the story. Much more. And it’s a fascinating story. But this is enough context to understand the causes of Iranian Revolution of the late 70s. Or what the United States calls “the Iranian hostage crisis”. That is cultural relativism at its finest. Bear in mind that historically in the late 70s the Iranian people had a full on people’s revolution, ousted the Americans from their country, demanded autonomy of self determinism and self governance and also demanded that the Shah be returned to Iran to stand trial for treasonous acts against the Constitution and the people.
– Unfortunately what ended up transpiring from this powerful revolutionary moment is that the Ayatollah Khomenei returned from exile as a hero, promising democracy but instead declared himself “supreme leader” and turned the country into a Theocracy, a semi-democratic nation state controlled by the laws and dictates of the religion of Islam. Not exactly what the people were expecting.
– In the 1980s the United States and Great Britain decided to once again attempt to take over Iran, this time by installing a CIA trained dictator by the name of Saddam Hussein, in the neighboring country of Iraq, armed him with billions of dollars and weapons of mass destruction and ordered him to invade Iran and promised him that if he were victorious they would all split the booty later.
– Alas Iraq was not victorious. Like the American colonialists before them against the imperialist powers of Great Britain, the Iranian people fought hard to defend their country and heritage. So the Ronald Reagan administration decided that the best strategy would be to start secretly backing both sides of the so called Iran Iraq War so they could control both countries regardless of who won after all the bloodshed and lost lives. Reagan got caught. This is what is known as The Iran Contra Affair. Eventually both countries called a truce, realizing that the real enemy was the United States.
– For the last 37 years the people of Iran have lived as comfortably as they can under Theocratic rule. They are a remarkably resilient and optimistic people. Extremely intelligent. And more educated than almost any country I‘ve ever visited.
– There are MANY competing factions in the country of Iran. Some like the idea of being aligned with and governed by the tenets of Islam, similar to how many in the United States believe that “America is and Always should be a christian nation”.
– Others would like to see a return of the Shah’s son to power, remembering the good old days when Iran was a freer, more Western styled country.
– Still Others would like to see a full on Green Revolution, as witnessed in other middle eastern countries circa 2011 to 2012 and see Iran once again become a true democracy.
– Now add a few dozen other variants of the above and more, and like Syria, one begins to understand why it is literally impossible for anyone other than the Iranian people themselves to steer their country in the direction it will eventually go.
– This is why it is an extremely misguided strategic action to publicly or privately pledge support or allegiance to any of the many battling factions currently warring in the streets and boardrooms of the country at this time. It may seem like a good idea to go all ra ra sis boom ba for “the people”… and indeed any intelligent compassionate person certainly would love to see Iran finally become a democracy once again (especially if Great Britain and The United States stay the hell out of their business this time), until one realizes that no one as of yet has any idea WHO the people may choose as their elected leader or what kind of government they may choose to be governed by.
– THIS is by far the most important point that needs to be understood at this time. For now we trust that eventually the people will come around to the discovery that though not perfect democracy isn’t such a bad place to end up. But this is their revelation to have. Just as this is their revolution.
[Yes, there is much more to the story. Israel-Palestine, long standing alliances with Russia and China, the bitter fued between Iran and Saudi controlled Arabia, the Sunni-Shiite battle for control over Islam, et al. But we’ll get to all of that and more at a later date.
Right now let us hope that all sides in this historic real time drama err on the side of caution and compassion and non-violence as much as is humanly possible so that something akin to a truly peaceful progress is made for the sake of us all.]
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
I recently watched a brief speech given by Elon Musk on a social media platform where he was speaking about climate change in regards to carbon emissions and our need for sustained energy. But healthy sustained energy. Everyone knows by now that big oil and coal are the enemies of a healthy planetary environment. At least that’s the meme subscribed to by the majority of the human population. Solar power, hydro, nuclear and wind are the most popular solutions being offered. Musk has the most to profit if solar becomes the energy provider du jour. But I personally wouldn’t permit my mind to believe that this plays too much of a role in his business ventures nor in the ideals he proposes. He’s made his money.
In his speech he speaks of all the doom and gloom we can look forward to if we stay on our present course of burning fossil fuels and producing such high levels of carbon emissions. How at least 5% of the world’s coastal cities will soon be swallowed up and wiped away by the oceans.
There’s a moment where it becomes quite moving…. As moving as a speech by Musk can be at least. What will we say when our children and grandchildren ask us “if we knew what we were doing? We will have to tell them that yes we knew what we were doing…”
I’ll share something here that I’ve hinted at before, touched on… It’s taken a while to really get it under my skin in a way where I could speak cogently about it.
As most people know, I spent the better part of the first 40 years of my life on the outer OUTER fringes of society… Never watched TV or played sports or went camping or any of the other things that most Americans spend their time doing. All my free time was spent deeply immersed in a world of music, art, learning and spirituality. Consciousness exploration. Searching for God and truth. Learning studying praying meditating traveling marching protesting & activisting mainly. I was hopeful. Idealistic. Rise and shine.
A few years ago when I hit this age and income bracket that compels some of us to become active investors it was a real wake up call to me. Still is almost on a daily basis… Many of these men and women are my friends now. Powerhouse names in the investing community, but names that most everyday people have never heard of.
And the truth of it is that you just wouldn’t believe how utterly entirely uninterested and uncaring the majority of the people in this particular world are in these matters that people like me spent their entire lives battling. The causes and issues we march and fight and petition and protest for. Big oil is to be prized. We’re talking 7% dividends on some of these bad boys! Drill baby drill! They think the whole global warming issue is a foolish hoax.
Big Pharma may be the people’s enemy. But it’s the investor’s best friend. We need to get government out of our way and raise those drug prices even higher to get that share price moving. Monsanto may be public enemy #1… But forget all that silly talk about them being “bad or evil”; they’re just ONE of the many in that sector and frankly they’re a damn good profit making machine who also pay a great dividend. They’re not going anywhere.
See… “progress” is a relative term. What one group sees as progress, i.e. generating bigger profits and creating more wealth, another group may see as absolutely devastating. To the public good or to the environment for example. And in turn, what this group may consider “progress”, i.e. more regulations, labor laws, higher wage obligations, another group may see as absolutely devastating. To the financial bottom line in this case.
Of course I’m used to this now. This strange dichotomy between these different groups of people…. both of whom I sincerely like and respect. But the much larger group in influence — in terms of access control resources friends in the mainstream political and media influence — is this investor class; and they literally have absolutely no clue about any of the things that this other activist group fight for on a daily basis. It’s mind boggling how clueless they are about the harm or dangers inflicted on the earth or its people by major industries.
In order to save you a lot of time and energy of your own, I will reveal some of the revelations I had while exploring this world and explain the reason why we haven’t and won’t make any progress in these “big arenas” of our lives until it’s way too late –something I myself wondered for years as an idealistic activist.
It is actually very simple to understand if you do what I did and jump full bodied into the business/trading/investing world to soak it all in and learn. THAT little world, though small, literally controls the entire world. It’s the “great wheel” that moves every other little wheel of every industry and aspect of human life on earth. (And in space).
From currencies to commodities (stop now and look up wherever you are…everything you are seeing is a commodity), from every business and industry to every government and political leader or civil servant…they are all controlled and governed by, hell it would be better put to say they are all literally created and put in place BY, this small group — the investor/business class….
People still think that “they’re in the way of our progress as enlightened citizens and activists…..” What they don’t realize is that THEY are literally the car we’re all driving in. They’re not just driving the car. As some might interject. They create the car, decide on whether the car should continue to exist or not, decide on what color it should be –capitalist or communist…the entire system we live and breathe in is created and sustained by this small group.
Headed up and controlled from the top down by Central Banks at the very top, investment banks and the wealthiest individuals who own and control them just below that, and on down….the “people” are way way way down at the bottom of this pyramidic structure. I’m sure you’ve seen this pictorial before.
Money….because of the (perhaps sad and) simple fact that we human beings have created it as THE MOST ESSENTIAL IMPORTANT & NECESSARY OBJECT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL… is the prime mechanism that drives this industry, and this industry in turn controls all that money, which translates to them literally controlling every action and reaction we’ve ever heard of or read about, every invention or intervention, every government and politician, every monarch product service law rule political party idea you name it…the gate of whether “it” is allowed to exist or not AND how “it” is perceived lies squarely in the center of this tiny little world. Controlled by such a small percentage of the human population.
It’s actually quite fascinating. Objectively. If you can find a way to leave your emotions at the door for a while. Really gets the cerebral blood flowing and the heart pounding. Because we are speaking about nothing less than how an entire race of people, an entire species of beings, is governed. What they think, how they think, what they do and how they do it. All of it.
Because “long term survival of others” is not an idea that pops up on anybody’s radar in this group, the ideas and actions that are motivated by that idea are completely ignored. Ignored is the wrong word. They’d have to be thought of or heard to be ignored. And they’re not even thought of, so they’re not even considered. Because it’s simply not a motivating idea in that world.
Short term and even long term profit IS. But survival of “all of us as a group” is not. In case you reach that point in your contemplation of “well what do they plan on doing once 5% of the earth is swallowed up by the ocean?” The answer is they know THEY won’t be THERE being swallowed up by the ocean is what they’re planning. It’s really that simple.
“But what about their children and grandchildren?” you ask… “Don’t they care about them?” Yes, of course they do. But they will be completely shielded and protected from any of the tragic fallout from present day actions just as these people are today. Because they too will have the same money and hence access resources power control and connections that their parents and grandparents have today.
I too am bothered by leaving you here…in such a sullen place… surely there’s more to it, more that can be done… Yes I believe that too. In fact I believe that the more of us from this “other group” who deliberately jump into the world of investing and business the better. Our “strange ideas” of health wealth liberty happiness and prosperity for all will slowly rub off and catch on. For there is great joy–and benefit– in groups. In being part of a group. And in helping others. We just need to keep sharing and vibrating that.
As always, more later.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
Over the last thirty odd years, since as early as I can remember even in childhood, I have noticed that a peculiar phenomenon exists within the consciousness of most people we share the world with, no matter their age, nationality, religion, class or financial situation. Even those considered “intelligent” doesn’t seem to prevent them from operating from this perspective most of the time, despite how limiting and potentially impeding it can be.
Simply put, what we find is that most people are either natural born skeptics regarding anything they believe “does not exist” or “isn’t real”, OR through the years they begin to develop this viewpoint… that one shouldn’t believe in ANYtning, no matter how plausible or enticing, that doesn’t already exist and have the recognition and agreement of “most people”. And when hey refer to “most people”, they’re referring to people like them, in their neck of the woods, in their country, who speak their language. (How many times have we traveled half way around the world to a “foreign” country and discovered something — be it an idea or a philosophy or a physical thing like a new food or a new style of music) — that we had absolutely no idea even existed? It happens, right? But we do find many people who simply don’t believe in things unless it’s what they consider “common knowledge”. Personally I’ve always found it strange. Even as a boy.
For the millions of people who have lived and died since the dawn of man all the way up until the 1500s it was common knowledge and accepted fact that the earth we lived on was flat; AND that the giant fiery sun in our solar system revolved around this flat earth. … That’s what made a year obviously and everyone knew it. No one even questioned it. But a few… And they weren’t treated too well for their questioning. So it’s no wonder that most people tend to stick with knowledge that’s been “approved” by the powers that be and society in general.
The only problem with the flat earth at the center of the universe ideas was that these heavily studied, long established facts simply weren’t true. It took thousands of years for the powers that be to acknowledge this. A knowledge of history reminds us that even after the controlling powers at the time began realizing that these ideas were utterly and completely wrong, they continued to proclaim that they were scientific fact and imprisoned anyone who dared to challenge them.
Humans are funny creatures. As mean, dimwitted and stubborn as they are fascinating and innovative. Of course “power” — maintaining it in the name of a giant all-seeing deity in the sky — was the primary motivating factor behind the above example. Though the world’s major religions will claim today that maintaining power had nothing to do with it and instead they were just trying to defend “the holy word of God” and his “Church”. Underneath it all was a major problem though. The so-called “Church” claimed that it got it’s information from the Big Man upstairs, that the so-called Pope had a direct connection with God Himself. And they’d been promoting these ideas for over a thousand years already. To admit that a mere human being could discover the true mechanisms of the solar system AND that it completely contradicted what the Church and God had been promoting had profound implications. It was no easy pill to swallow I’m sure.
That covers why the major powers of the world refused to accept reality; but what about the common everyday person on the street? What prevents them from dismissing potential realities that seem obvious but have just not been fully proven yet? It’s an interesting thing to ponder. Fear perhaps…
But let’s move on and let those sleeping dogs continue their slumber. For our point is not so much about the large institutions and controlling elite, but rather it’s more to do with everyday people and their unwillingness to believe in anything outside the ordinary unless its existence is formally announced to them as “official doctrine” by some alleged self professed authority, AND they feel a relative confidence that “everyone believes it now,” that they’re “not the only one”.
Therein may lie the root of the limitation: the need to fit in, to feel a part of something larger than oneself, to not feel different or, God forbid, “abnormal”. Which is too bad, because we can only imagine how much faster our evolution would move if as a whole we weren’t always being held back by this group of individuals who refuse to accept the reality of anything that hasn’t already collected dust in an old textbook or two for a few decades. It could also be fear of the unknown. Fear of the potential implications of one new reality or another not being as good for us as things are now. We can all relate to that feeling.. But do we let it cut us off from exploring or entertaining the possibility of new cutting edge ideas that at first glance seem radical if not crazy…?
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the temptation to be skeptical of claims that sound outlandish. Healthy skepticism is a powerful tool for self survival. But we aren’t speaking of healthy skepticism here. We’re speaking of those guilty of gross negligence in regards to branching out beyond their own indoctrination to study research explore and educate themselves on subjects that have popped up on their radar multiple times yet they still refuse to look into it, let alone consider the possibility of it being true.
Consider ideas such as dark matter. THIS is actually what led to this Diaries post. Dark Matter holds much more for some future potential major paradigm shifts in how we view and operate in the world than we are now giving it credit for. (Which if we have time, we can dig into a little deeper down below.) But when Vera Rubin first proposed the idea that empty space was NOT in fact empty at all, but rather could actually be filled with particles (matter) that we simply didn’t have the ability to see, it was almost immediately dismissed, scoffed at and poo-poo’d for decades by the world’s leading scientists as nothing more than science fiction. Until we discovered it that is.
Or consider the idea of multiple parallel (or not parallel perhaps…) universes, what some are now calling “the multi-verse”. It’s not easy to guess that most people when asked about the possibility of such a thing would laugh at first and then claim that they find it hard to believe. There is also the idea, first proposed as a viable possibility by Super String theorists, that there may be many more dimensions in the known universe (at least 10 to 12 according to Super String Theory) besides the three that we all so casually accept as truth without a second thought because it’s what they teach us in school from the moment we sit down at those desks. Hell, even string theory — the idea that at the very core of all matter is actually vibrating energy — (for me personally a much more realistic possibility than what is currently believed) is having a tough time being accepted by the majority of the scientific community; and regular everyday non-scientists, most of them anyway, seem oblivious that the idea even exists.
Further out, there are phenomenon like ESP, the ability to feel or read the thoughts and feelings of others, telekinesis, being able to see into the future or past — what some of us call “finely honed intuition”, astral travel, time travel with consciousness in order to overcome the limitations presently being created by our having physical bodies that could never withstand actual physical time travel…the list goes on and on. How often in our day to day life have we encountered someone or a group of someones who when bringing up any of these ideas immediately turn to sarcasm or making jokes or poking fun without even for a moment contemplating the ideas or studying themselves? It’s as if they’re waiting for it to be broadcast on the nightly news or CNN in order to even ponder the possibilities.
Just Because We Don’t Know it Exists Does Not Mean It Doesn’t Exist
This is what I found myself thinking about while studying some of the latest science on dark matter last night. I still remember learning about it decades ago, and frankly to me, based on the reasons for it being hypothesized, the problems it was meant to solve, and some of the readings future scientists were getting while studying the theory themselves, it seemed a rather sane logical elegant and brilliant solution. But as many know, we were in the minority if we felt this way. Now of course it’s quickly becoming a “thing”. Accepted.
Last night I asked myself, “Why is it that I am so naturally inclined to step out, explore and even entertain the possibility of these more esoteric, unproven ideas? Compared to others who lean more logical, science-based and pragmatic. Then it hit me. I’d been doing it all my life.
The method is simple. In order to break free from this commonly held limiting belief that “it doesn’t exist unless I can see it” is to simply spend a few minutes reflecting on history, either the BIG history of the universe, or even just the shorter history of humankind, focusing your attention especially on major transformative events (the advent of the first wheel as a tool, or the mastering of creating controlled fires rather than just always being victims of them). Then spend some time reflecting on the myriad profound moments of discovery and innovation — such as the invention of flying machines, or the immensely powerful energy of fossil fuels such oil, or the discovery of how to harness and use electricity…). All things that until their discovery or invention had always been dismissed as fantasy, pipe dreams or the ramblings of mad men. These past events offer proof that just about anything is possible if we set our hearts and minds to it, no matter how outlandish it may seem in “the present”, for there’s one thing we know for sure, we aren’t going to stay in the present for very long. The implications created by contemplating things from this angle can be quite profound if one allows their imagination to run free. Given enough time, theoretically speaking, one could posit that nothing in the world is “impossible”.
Now take a moment and consider the world of today and all the many things that we in the modern world accept as realities to the point of taking them for granted. Consider jumbo jets in the thousands flying above our heads no strings attached transporting tens of thousands of people from one point on the map to another. You can guarantee that if you showed this reality to someone, anyone, living 200 years ago they would surely think that either you or they were insane and you’d be lucky if they didn’t immediately think you were “practicing witchcraft or the work of the devil”.
And let’s face it, jumbo jets and being able to fly is just one of countless examples of the new realities we’ve created or discovered throughout our evolution. The point — and the real power — is that even a few minutes of contemplation on where we’ve been and where we are now reveals thousands of “things” that were once considered not to exist or impossible, and yet now are as common as a box of tissue. So to me it’s always seemed quite odd when I encounter someone who just flat out refuses to even accept the possibility of something that is not as yet considered thoroughly proven to be true.
A question arises… So just when DO most people start believing things exist that they once thought impossible? Is it when they see it with their own eyes? Or when they hear other people casually talking about it or announcing it on the nightly news? Most of the time, by the stage that a new reality reaches this point of broad impact and acceptance in the mainstream it has already been in existence or been known for a few years. At least. One would think this is an experience most people would want to avoid, always being the last to know about the latest and greatest; operating from archaic knowledge and thus making important life decisions from there, or even worse, always being that person who insists on arguing that something is not real true or possible when others already have experienced it and know it to be true. These are those “I’m not saying I don’t believe that YOU BELIEVE you had that experience….” You’ve heard the rest of that sentence before I’m sure. No need to repeat it.
Besides the awkward social ramifications of walking around with that kind of “I’ll believe it when I see it” mindset, there’re even more important considerations. Specifically in regards to service to our fellow man. I’ve always referred to it through this quote, “If you’re not on the way, then you’re in the way.” Simply put, for every person who is unable or unwilling to believe in things as of yet considered unproven impossible supernatural paranormal or pure fantasy, that’s one less person helping others on our journey to make “that” (whatever that happens to be) a reality. And all that does is limit manpower, potential resources and perhaps most importantly the creative force of mass consciousness when united behind one goal or mission. For every person who remains stubbornly persistent that some incredible sounding potential reality doesn’t exist or will never exist, general progress slows down and is limited. And that affects everyone.
One Final Note
For other purposes I often practice a similar exercise as the one above, but it’s inverse. Put as simply as possible, I take a specific moment in time when I know I have free time avail and for anywhere from ten minutes to a few days, I attempt to envision and ponder the discoveries, innovations and inventions of the future. Going out at least twenty-five to fifty years I believe is the minimum needed. Going out further just requires more imagination and vision. Of course this requires more imagination than memory or thought, (though remembering and thinking both help the eneavor as conscoiusness weaves in and out of all three spontaneously depending on what it’s going after in each moment). One cool thing you may notice once in a while is that you will jump from imagination right up into intuition. It’s subtle at first. But you’ll get this visceral feeling of excitement and/or perhaps a mental “ah hah!” as you recognize that you are no longer imagining something from the future, but you’re most likely either seeing it (intuition) OR perhaps even inventing it (but in that future time period). I take notes whenever I chance upon something we could use here-now. But in general It’s a beneficial and fascinating way to stay connected with a much larger section of the timeline itself AND has the potential to yield some brilliant discoveries.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone
It’s interesting to me that both of these — being gay AND being Christian — are identities. And then I wonder – What is the value (or the agenda, perhaps?) in a public *display* of an identity? I’m thinking of the Avatar Masters’ Integrity Course materials….
Yeas, totally. Why bother spreading identities all over the place when it would be better for the enlightenment of the world to let loose with a whole lot of them so we can all become more idendentityless pure awareness so as to achieve less strife, drama and pain and instead increase peace and civility in the world… I’m with you. I get what you’re saying. Other than one being pure Source or staying in “Observe Mode”, it’s ALL identities.
For me, well thought-out (and/or FELT-out…), deliberate identities are how we navigate the day to day world as creative beings. (I’d personally LOVE to just float around in Observe all the time. Probably wouldn’t get much done (see LD book). But it would be fun. So we strap some on that we believe might help us shift the world in an aligned helpful direction… there… that feels good. And off we go to do our best to make the world, and ourselves and our friends and families lives better…The best that we can do.
Specifically about a few identities, I don’t believe that being gay (or most likely a few or all of the LGBTQ labels) is an identity as much as a genetic thing. In a broad sense, sure. I was born “male” and have exhibited a lot of male identity traits through the years (as well as a ton of female identity traits, much to the confusion of my family and friends through the years). And yes, when they’re not deliberate they can be impeding. But overall, I’ve got “maleness” down. And I’m comfortable with how I express that identity. I am after all “male”. So presenting various different aspects of “maleness” (identities) is pretty natural. (Again, especially when examined lovingly and objectively and worn deliberately.).
I feel the same way about people who are born “gay or straight”. If we look at being born “straight” for a second, PLENTY of people are born that way but have a TOUGH time dealing with all the identities that come with it. You know, sexuality and gender identification in general… It’s hard for all of us at first as we breathe forth from young adulthood into becoming full fledged lifers. So it’s not like “gay” people are THAT different really… We all struggle with these things. Identities. I guess more in which identities we choose to wear or which ones just seem to wear US, and how we present that to the world…..BUT…there does seem to be an exception for people who are currently and have been waving the PRIDE flag high. (I too gave this a lot of thought through the years — especially every time I attend a Pride parade…) Because they were being labeled so maliciously and with such prejudice, I believe that turning the potential “shame” that can come from those experiences into PRIDE, being proud to be gay, not shying away from it privately or publicly, gave them a newly born sense of, well, pride, happiness, self respect, dignity. And voila it HAS worked! Gay is not so “bad” as it once was 20 to 30 years ago, or hell, even 10 years ago. They just let that flag fly and they changed consciousness. And in that respect, those public displays helped. The agenda was clean, the mission clear, And they’re damn close to accomplishing it. Everyone who has participated should feel proud.
What about the “being a christian” identity? Lord I know… for me personally that’s a tough one. Because I’m more the type who keeps that kind of thing on the DL. BUT every now and then I deliberately pull it out with a clean clear mission, an agenda if you will. Sometimes it’s to show a different side to the identity of “being Christian”. Hell, if I can’t show people that “all Christians aren’t the same, don’t think the same way”, then no one can. So as a gift to my community AND the larger community of all religious people, AND to the world at large (because let’s face it, a lot of pain and struggle stems from religion in our world still….) I put on the brave face and wear my religion/spirituality publicly and deliberately just as a way of showing that sometimes it can be a really groovy and beautiful scene being religious and being a part of that community. It’s a service.
I received a message this weekend from someone with a few questions regarding the potential of a “conspiracy” around the upcoming US presidential election. I don’t get a chance to respond to all messages I receive. I would say that the process is almost “random” at this point. Some just catch my eye. Many i simply never get a chance to read. But I try. I really do. In any case, here is one that I felt particularly intrigued to respond to for some reason.
“Ed… I trust yr opinion on politics….what do you think of this theory which keeps being tossed around. this was posted on the new Reddit Sub.. “Political Revolution” by a anonymous poster (don’t know if you go on Reddit but it is all anon) interesting times as Harry Palmer would say. hope you see this .. would love yr input….–]YourPoliticalParty [score hidden] 14 minutes ago
“Sigh Here we go again: Donald Trump is false-flagging as a Republican (thanks to the right-wing popularity he got from pushing the Obama “birther” nonsense in 2008) to discredit the Republican Party, to distract from Hillary Clinton’s scandals/investigation, and to force voters to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election as the “lesser-of-two-evils.” Trump and the Clintons have been close-friends for years. Hillary sat front-row at Trump’s 2005 wedding, while Trump endorsed her and donated to her 2000 Senate and 2008 Presidential campaigns. Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are golfing buddies, and have regular phone conversations where they discuss golf, politics, and the Clinton Foundation. Even Chelsea and Ivanka are friends. Now, after locking in the GOP nomination, Trump ramps up his divisive rhetoric and self-sabotage to situate himself as more unfavorable than record-breaking Hillary. That’s why every single thing that comes out of the Clinton campaign ultimately goes back to Donald Trump, because his role-playing as the right-wing menace is supposed to be her guarantee to the White House. They are putting on a show for the American people, where Donald Trump plays the ignorant bigoted businessman trying to run away with the country, and Hillary Clinton pretends to be the upstanding progressive hero who will stop him.””
Re this post, this is pretty typical/classic conspiracy thought. Nothing wrong with that. I first learned about, started studying and hooked up with the patriot movement (which is a term i prefer over “conspiracy theories…) back in ’94 when i was just a youngin’. So i’ve heard it all over the last twenty years.
What i find personally is that posts like this are way too simplified compared to reality. Reality is just a very complex system. And sure there are PLENTY of real live conspiracies at play right in front of our eyes. No denying that. (9/11, the EU, this insane increase in “mass killings” in the States is certainly suspect…since it’s such a new phenom.)
But regarding this particular issue you bring up, let’s just look at the “facts” (as best we can) and not necessarily try to make any conclusions, but rather just check them out…
Trump was a long time Dem, always has been. And then mysteriously switched to the GOP. This might seem suspect… BUT this was for rather obvious reasons. No way he was going to win a primary in the modern Dem party. Just not a chance. And he knew it.
[to me personally that seems an intelligent though crafty slimy move by someone with not much left in life to achieve except “becoming president”. You know, some people desire to serve. Other’s desire to achieve. Becoming president could be viewed as a “great achievement” by some, and if one listens to Trump, it sounds like he sees it as just another great thing to achieve. By all accounts he’ll probably spend most of his time on the golf course and trying to stay a TV star. Being president of the U.S. will grow old and tiresome and too much work for him quickly. And soon it will be just another buck head on the wall. Sooooo, no real surprise there.]
Trump does happen to be good friends with the Clintons and has been for 30 years. So isn’t it weird that he’s attacking Hilary so badly?
[From a small suburban mindset, sure; no one would want their longtime next door neighbor to treat them that way… It would be shocking. BUT…these are the games that modern american politics have turned into. It’s a blood sport now. It’s reality TV at it’s absolute worst and absurd. No love will be lost between these two. They get it. It’s a show. Trump will LOVE becoming president despite his friendship with and (maybe even) love for Bill and Hilary. And he will expect Hilary and Bill to take it gracefully. We are after all talking about “the highest office in the land” — at least to many folks. And as some say, “all’s fair in love and war”. I never liked or felt aligned with that sentiment. But many less evolved believe it’s smart to abide by it.]
Trump swept the Rep nomination in a record landslide manner that we haven’t seen in the 21st or 20th centuries.
[Conspiracy? Nah. Trump just recognized how the game has completely transformed and what it’s transformed into in the last 4-8 years. Does one really believe that Cruz or Rubio or BUSH for God’s sake didn’t REALLY WANT and work hard for that nomination? Seriously? It would be a really silly short-sighted and ignorant (simply meaning not possessing much knowledge about the subject) thing to believe. Trump won it fair and square. Sad? sure. Scary. Hell yeah. Disturbing because of what it implies about at least 50% of our fellow Americans and where their heads are at? My God yes. But a conspiracy? No. He won it. The people wanted it.]
What about the whole thing on a bigger level being one big false flag in terms of “them” KNOWING Trump doesn’t stand a chance of being elected in the General, and thus being able to secure the agreement they made with Hilary back in ’08 (remember that not so secret coming out party that the Bilderberg Group had when they handed the presidency to Obama and gave Hilary Sec of State and most likely promised her POTUS in 2016?)..?
[Okay, yes, from an informed widened back perspective, this seems highly likely and some would say downright obvious. And unfortunately, that just seems to be where Americans are today. It’s all image and soundbites and not many seem to care about research or facts. So… SOMEONE has to be in charge besides “the people”. “The people” are just too damn busy doing other things now to care about how they’re governed. So these wealthy small multi/super-national elitist groups control things and keep the peace from behind closed doors. And as long as everything seems to remain relatively calm peaceful and healthy financially, the people seem to be fine with it.
(Admittedly this proposition does suck. It’s a sad idea to ponder.) BUT I will say this, after more than 25 years of studying these issues and ideas, from the whackiest to the most fact-based and obvious realities, ultimately “the people” (here at least) still get to VOTE. SO even IF the powers that be promised Hilary the presidency, if the people don’t appear to be taking the bait, she will be out. Period. Place crash, sudden illness, a drop out “to be closer to her new grandbaby…” You’ll see. These small elitist cabals that control the goings-on of global finance and politics do NOT care who appears to be in charge. Just as long as they play along with the myths. They no more “like” Hilary than anyone else they could put in her place. WHOEVER is “selected” gets briefed on how things work, who’s in charge and what’s expected of them. It’s not like they just jump in and do whatever they want. By the time one gets to where Hilary is, they’ve known who’s in charge and what the rules are for a long time.
BUT that doesn’t mean in any way that they get a free pass. I mean, just look at how HARD Hilary has had to work over the last year and a half!!!! I despise Hilary’s actions as an alleged so-called civil servant over the last 25 years. (I don’t know her personally, so I have no opinion of her person..) But i have been in awe of how hard she has worked to achieve this goal of her’s. I mean sheesh! She is on turbo. I don’t know how she does it. It just looks like she REALLY WANTS IT.
But don’t be fooled. She’s still going to have to win it. The powers that be are very aware that the American people LOVE and cherish the potus election aspect of their beloved republic and are NOT ready to give up the myths of this process. They know full well that the people need to “feel as though” THEY are electing their president. And in some ways, they still are. Just not “completely”. They’re electing the choices handed to them from a small group of people who are willing to play ball who are selected and offered up to them by others. BUT this is how it’s been in the US for a very long time.
Well isn’t that a conspiracy? Yeah, sure it is. But it’s not a new one. We’ve already known this for decades. At least since they did away with JFK MLK and Bobby for not playing ball. Is it a conspiracy if everyone knows it’s happening? Conspiracy implies secrecy. And these matters are not very secret at this point. We already know and have known that bigger figures — much bigger than any president — “control things from the shadows” (as some people like to say. I prefer “from behind closed doors” because it is more realistic). Our world has ALWAYS worked this way. For centuries. Hell, for millennia.
Until the people can take no more and they revolt. It’s cyclic. At which time, the powers that be then regroup and form a new structure closer in look and feel to what the people think they want at that time. But they still stay in control. Just under slightly different guises. AND YES the people DO get a slightly altered world that perhaps looks and feels and acts a bit more like they want it to…(civil rights legislation, women’s rights, gay rights, labor rights, the abolishment of slavery and even capital punishment in many states now, etc etc…) So as dark and depressing as this system is, it does offer hope, at least a ray of it in my humble opinion.]
Okay, so to just wrap up your original question regarding the possibility of a conspiracy surrounding the upcoming election of POTUS, i guess the best way to view it is “well yeah, sure, in the bigger picture, of course. Just as it’s always been. Nothing’s changed. Bigger powers plan and implement these things decades before we’re even thinking about them. (just look at how long they worked on creating the EU! (Its founding was in 1941 in Berlin, Nazi Germany, then a little more work in ’44…. Slow, steady, constant…. Fucking amazing patience planning and perseverance to achieve that egregious goal. (28 European countries no longer have the right to national sovereignty nor the ability to vote for their own laws as a people in their own country because it’s all being done for them by selected officials in Brussels — for 28 countries!!!! = WOW! AMAZING what people are willing to give up when they don’t care.)
BUT, here in the States the people are getting a voice still. No one’s going to occupy that House that the people don’t like or want. In today’s America, the powers that be are very aware that that mentality still stands. So we’ll end up with exactly who the majority says we will. And for better or worse, it will probably be Hilary. The better of two evils. And haven’t we been playing that game for a long time….I hope we eventually transcend it. But in the meantime, a good way to sum it up is “It’s not a conspiracy if everyone knows about it.” And at this point we do.
One more thing, since we’re on it. And since you might ask or reflect on it… “But Ed, how are we going to eradicate these selfish greedy wicked controlling forces that operate beneath the surface of things?” you might be thinking…. I know i am.
Well, real quick, just look at them. They’re freaking HUGE.
– The Rothschild banking cartel is GIGANTIC and has its hands in everything in every country and has for over a hundred years.
– Vatican City. HUGE. It’s a freaking multi-national corporation AND a COUNTRY, besides being the world’s most feared and admired religion, and yet most people don’t even know that.
– Central Banks. (one could argue that this is just an extension of The Rothschild empire, and to a certain degree, for at least the purpose of simplicity, they could be said to be right). Private Central Banks like the not-even-a-little-bit-Federal Reserve and the BOJ, BOE, PBOC and ECB control the whole bloody civilized world. The World Bank and the IMF control the rest. So…. yeah, good luck doing away with them.
– The no-such-thing-as-Royal Families. They’re everywhere. Ubiquitous leeches with enormous wealth, the largest land holdings on earth STILL and protections in place that ensure their existence for generations to come. England’s royal family lives in their own PRIVATE COUNTRY withIN England in order to protect their money and sovereignty. (in other words so that they can always be able to do what they want when they want to, just in case the rabble get out of hand again…) It’s called “London” but a different London than the UK city that everyone knows. And this is a fact that even most Brits aren’t aware of. And that’s just England.
– The Bilderberg Group. So called. This is more of just a very small arm of these larger groups mentioned above. BUT research into THEM always eventually leads one to what’s really going on.
The point being is that IMHO we aren’t going to ever eradicate these giant institutions. At least not in our lifetimes. They’re just way too big and way too cemented into human society and our cultural paradigms. Religion, government, banking, the control of money, cultural identification…. These are HUGE archetypes for most people to abandon or discreate.
Best bet is that we keep on working from the outside, one person at a time and eventually we fold these larger powers into the mix like ingredients into cake batter — the same way they did to us — and through our positive influence and vibrations they will slowly evolve into more helpful and aligned institutions and individuals.
Of course there is also the possibility that we might also be able to speed up this process through doing work in consciousness from behind the scenes. Avatar Wizards and many others are already consciously doing that. That should give us an exponential increase in velocity and creational yield I believe.
Alas I wish I had “better” news for you. But remember, this is just one idea. Nothing is set in stone. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that. And to bring these high concepts down to earth for a moment, as an example, just look at what the Brits did last week! Sure they temporarily destroyed trillions of dollars in the world’s capital markets, BUT they demanded to take back their right to vote for their own laws and governance. That’s pretty big and impressive.
There is hope in such things.
A caveat: for those more accustomed to, and more interested in, the usually more philosophical, theological or sociological nature of The Diaries, you may want to skip this post. It’s about finance and economics and more technical than usual. Just a heads up. If you do decide to venture in, I will clarify a bit more than usual regarding the economy and investing world to give context — so another caveat, this one for those who are already well versed in all things finance and investing: you may find the first few paragraphs a bit elementary… feel free to skip ahead, but hang on and stay in. This one’s for you and there are worthy takeaways to be had.
The investing world is abuzz with Silicon Valley again and it has been for a number of years now. It feels like 1999 all over again. Both the American and European stock markets have been on a tear — in what is commonly called a “secular bull market” — for almost six straight years. People who are active or even passive investors in “the markets” have been making money hand over fist from doing absolutely nothing but just staying invested. It’s an odd paradoxical dichotomy — and it truly is — that as the American economy continues to drag and sputter, making financial abundance, or even stability, seem increasingly unreachable for the majority of Americans still, the top 1% have been doing incredibly well in “the markets”. This paradox is well known amongst the wealthiest in the country. It’s not a mystery or an unknown. It’s very well known, sad as it is, amongst the people who are making all the money. It’s a given. And there are very specific reasons for it.
One might remember investment guru Warren Buffet commenting a few year ago how ridiculous he thought it was that he pays less tax annually than his secretary does. This surprising statistic is simply due to the fact that the common bread earner in the United States pays a much higher tax on their “income” i.e. the money they earn from their job, than an investor does on the profits he or she makes in any kind of investment. That tax — known as the Capital Gains Tax — is capped at 15%. What this means is that whether you made $100 from your stock market investments last year or $1,000,000, you’re still only required to pay 15% tax on it. With the right kind of finagling — owning a few corporations that make big money — enough to fund even the most lavish lifestyles — but somehow mange to “not make a profit” but instead make a loss (and this is more common than the average person realizes…) and you can even reduce that measly 15% capital gains tax further down and come out paying Uncle Sam next to nothing, as in ZERO. You just have to know the game and how it’s played.
But this post isn’t about that. Perhaps one day we’ll go into further details about this sad but true paradox, because I must admit I do receive a fair share of requests from folks begging me to explain to them how on earth one is capable of making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and paying next to no tax on it. It’s not as hard as most people think. In fact it’s quite easy. Again, you just have to understand how the system works. So yes… perhaps we will get into it one day… But today is not that day.
Another reason for this strange upside down economy is due to Federal Reserve policy. “The Fed” as it is commonly referred to is a large private cabal of banking cartels who control the monetary policy and the money supply of the United States. The funny thing is that the Federal reserve is NOT “federal”; they are not a branch of the U.S. government. They don’t work for the U.S. government. They answer to no one. But they make all the rules. (This is truly a whole book unto itself, let alone too much for even a series of posts — so one is encouraged to take some time to research this incredibly vexing scam…) In a nutshell this organization that controls all things monetary — think the economy — is the primary entity that loans the United States the money it needs to continue to operate. When you hear terms like the national debt or national deficit, this debt is owed to this company known as The Federal Reserve; they being a private bank who exist solely to make money charges the U.S. interest on the money it lends the country, just as any bank does; thus in a way one could say that the Fed has a vested interest in seeing the United States economy do well — at the moment the U.S. owes a staggering amount of money to this organization, something to the tune of 17 TRILLION dollars.
In exchange for all the money The Fed loans the United States to stay “in business” so to speak, the United States government allows the Fed to do just about anything it wants to — including for example keeping it’s books private and sealed. One might have a recollection of a few years ago when then-presidential candidate Ron Paul (remember him?) tried to pass a Bill in Congress to force The Fed to allow the U.S. government to see it’s books — as in take a look at its accounting records. This would seem to be rather a no-brainer, right? All public companies are obligated to make their accounting records open and available to the public — how much money they have, how much debt they have, how much money they are making in gross revenues and net profits, etc. etc. But The Fed is no regular “public company”. It’s ironic if not downright terrifying that 99% of Americans do not even realize that The Federal Reserve is not only NOT part of the federal government, but they are so private that no one in the United States government is even allowed to look at it’s books. The word shocking comes to mind. But terrifying fits the bill even more appropriately considering how much power this private group of banks has over the health and wealth of the whole country.
So how much power DOES this private group of banks have over the United States? Put it this way: The Fed has the ability to say yes or no to the United States government regarding how much money it loans them or doesn’t — as in any day they can collapse the American economy or continue to allow it to wrack up more debt. It’s all in THEIR hands and truly no one else’s. They also of course have the power to set monetary policy in general — this is why it is a fool-hearty idea to ever blame a good or bad economy on any American president, for they simply don’t have much power in regards to the economy, but that doesn’t stop most people from still doing this. The primary thing the Fed does in regards to “setting monetary policy” is they decide what the lending rate is at any given time in the American economy. At the moment it is set roughly around -0-. This is the rate of interest that banks can charge each other to borrow money from one another. This “prime lending rate” has a great influence on all the other interest rates in a healthy first-world society such as mortgage rates or car loan financing interest rates or the interest one receives from investing bonds or savings accounts or bank CDs.
You might have heard the term QE bandied about over the last few years. QE stands for Quantitative Easing, which was the Fed’s fancy term for lowering the prime lending rate down to a record low AND at the same time temporarily loaning the U.S. billions of dollars by buying various bonds from the United States and various other banks — they did this in order to “stimulate the economy”, as a means to get people spending again and to get banks loaning money to people again. So far it hasn’t worked out as well as many hoped it would. BUT to be fair it did at least according to general agreement amongst most experts save the country from sinking into another Great Depression from our recent Great Recession (the recent economic crisis we experienced in 2007 and 2008).
What this policy did do though was stimulate the hell out of the American stock markets. By lowering interest rates down to near -0-, people with money had no other choice but to invest their money in the stock markets — simply because they couldn’t make any money with their money from investing in anything else. Savings accounts, bonds and CDs offered zero to almost zero return, i.e. interest. If you add in even a small amount of inflation — the price of goods increasing compared to the value of the Dollar, and one would actually LOSE money if they had invested their money in a savings account, bond or bank CD due to how low the interest received was. So people with money jumped into the stock market.
This is what has created one of the strongest and longest running bull markets in American history. More and more money has poured into the markets and as long as this mysterious organization called The Fed continues to keep interest rates LOW, then people assume that the stock market will continue to go up. From the outside, from the view of the average American who doesn’t bother to pay attention to monthly and quarterly economic data, things still seem rather bleak to be sure. Unemployment has supposedly declined, though many doubt this claim. Jobs still seem few and far between and raise and promotions seem a fantasy of days long gone by for most.
Except in the world of finance that is. You see, every time we have economic data — the investing world holds its breath: if the data is GOOD, the markets tank, as an improving economy would compel the Fed to start raising rates again which could signal the end of the bull market. So instead people who are heavily invested hope that the data is BAD. In the world of investing this is known as the “bad news is good news” paradigm and without fail every time any economic data comes in that is “bad” for the average American, you can hear and see high fives flying around Wall Street like wild fire. It’s an upside down situation to be sure. Instead of the stock markets flying high due to a healthy economy, it continues to fly high due to hopes that the economy stays bad. This will keep rates low and insure that more and more money will continue to flow into the markets. Again this may sound shocking to the average person, but it’s not exactly “news” to those who invest their money for a living rather than work a regular salaried job. Frankly yes it’s easy to see why anyone first learning of this closely guarded bit of data would claim that it’s fucked up. It is.
In a nutshell there’s your lesson in finance and econ for the day. Now on to the main point of this post.
Today we are going to focus our attention on the Social Media sector of the investment world. [Again just for those who may not know this: the investment world is divided into sectors FYI. There are many of them and savvy investors are familiar with them all. For example there’s the Semi-Conductor sector (what we refer to as “the Semis”), the Consumer Discretionary sector (Tiffany, Coach, Whirlpool — basically anything that is not essential to the consumer but is purchased when the consumer has discretionary money laying around…), there’s the Oil sector — which is further split between the Refiners and the Oil Services companies, and on and on it goes. Believe it or not, once you enter this world — as with any — it becomes very easy to memorize all the various data points, statistics and acronyms.]
Two sectors that have been red-hot over the last few years have been the Technology sector (usually referred to as “Tech”) and the Social Media sector (often just referred to as simply “Social”). Companies like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG), Twitter (TWTR) and Yelp (YELP) are all part of the Social Media sector and even the most distanced individuals have surely heard the stories over the years about the ridiculous amount of cash people have been making from investing in these “hot companies”. Silicon Valley is on fire at the moment, with venture capital spending reaching all time highs once more pouring money into the latest start-ups hoping that they can eventually turn them into the next Facebook or YouTube.
The word on the street for these companies is Unicorn. You may have even heard the word bouncing around lately as it is one of the many newest trending in the social media world. A Unicorn is any super hot start up company that is raising a ton of investment capital — usually to the tune of one billion or more — in the Valley with the intention of eventually going “public” — all long before the company starts actually making money. The companies just have to show growth in their user base and their “potential” to make money and people will throw millions upon millions of dollars at them. A few of the hottest Unicorns at the moment are Uber, AirBNB, and Pinterest. Yes from the inside it all appears just as blatantly stupid as it does from the outside. But this is just how the markets work. They are completely irrational, as they always have been.
At this very moment analysts and traders on CNBC’s midday show Halftime Report are all discussing the Social Media sector. Primarily because during this latest earnings season social media companies have been getting clobbered. After running up to more than $85 a share Facebook is now trading below $79. Twitter dropped from $55 a share to $38 in one day — you have to imagine having say a million dollars of your clients’ money invested TWTR and having that figure lose almost half of it in less than 24 hours to really understand the ramifications of such a dramatic drop. YELP not to be left behind performed the worst out of all of them so far, dropping from a high of $85 earlier this year to a measly $39 as of today’s trading session — losing 22% of it’s value in just one day and more than 50% from its highs of the year. When you contemplate the insane amount of money invested in these companies by hedge funds, money managers and investment banks — in the case of YELP, a smaller player, we’re talking billions of dollars invested, you begin to fathom just how much money that is to lose in such a short period of time. LinkedIn was the latest social player to kick the bucket: In one day their stock fell from $250 to $203, a 20% loss in less than an hour.
But why? WHY are social media companies taking such a beating? All the talking puppets on CNBC, Bloomberg and FOX Business News continue to talk about these companies with big smiles on their faces as if they are viable investment vehicles — no one ever saying what would be clearly obvious to even the least educated in business and finance: the American consumer is sick and tired of being advertised to, and social media companies make their money, or at least they’re supposed to, from collecting advertising revenue. You see, once upon a time Facebook made mention that it might start charging for it’s services — charging the everyday user to have a Facebook profile and communicate with their friends and family on a regular basis. The backlash could be heard in places as remote as the Himalayas! The week they made this announcement, as ironic as it may seem, the FB newsfeed was filled with posts advertising that the BAN FACEBOOK DAY was soon upon us as everyone and their brother announced that they would not stand to pay a single penny to use Facebook and they would immediately jump ship if such a fee was ever initiated. And that was the end of that idea. Facebook learned a valuable lesson from that stunt — people may love you if you’re free, but that doesn’t mean they have any intention of giving you any of their hard earned money. They don’t love you like THAT.
It turned out that Facebook was not as essential as it thought it might have been and thus they had to go back to the drawing board to figure out just how they were going to actually generate MONEY. See, Facebook WAS hugely successful in terms of it’s popularity amongst users. At one point it reached one BILLION users globally. That’s a phenomenal figure when you consider it for a moment: it translates to almost 20% of every single person on planet earth having a Facebook account of some kind. But the company didn’t make any money. The average person on the street, struggling to just pay their monthly bills always has a tough time understanding concepts like this: how can a company be as big as Facebook (or Amazon or Yelp or Twitter for that matter…) but not actually make any money?!? It seems illogical. And in reality it is. The truth is that these companies BORROW the money they have from what you commonly hear referred to as “angel investors” or venture capitalists. They then use that money to grow their business with the hope that one day they WILL make money… Some do. Many never make it. Amazon — one of the largest companies in the free world still operates at a loss every year. Yep. It’s true. They bring in billions of dollars a year in revenue. But every year they report not a profit but a LOSS, meaning that they spent more than they made. How is this even possible? Simple. They borrow more money and go further into debt based on the idea that one day they actually will make a profit. It’s a funny business. One that just about any average American would love to be able to take advantage of in their own personal finances to be sure. Problem is, banks and venture capitalists aren’t interested in you or me and our ability to pay our bills or even have enough money to eat for that matter. Instead they are interested in future profit potential. That’s life in a nutshell. As unfair as it is, that’s just how it is. You’d have a better chance at borrowing money from a bank — millions even — if you presented them with some dumb idea that showed that you could have half a million “users” by year end 2016 than you would just asking them for money to put food on the table or pay your mortgage. It’s capitalism.
So where were we? Ah yes, Facebook. So here’s Facebook, a simple idea, a dumb idea, at best a rip off of MySpace (remember them?) who was a rip off of Friendster (remember THEM?) showing tremendous growth in “users” but no way to make money from these users. So how to monetize all these users? That was the question…. This was back in the days when Facebook had swept Wall Street by storm by going public and seeing it’s stock price go from $16 to $45 in one day and then having it quickly fall back to $17 where it stayed for a few years, leaving many investors sorry they ever heard of the name. Imagine that kind of a loss in your retirement portfolio. Eventually Facebook got smart and created a very simple advertising vehicle for any and every one to use — a way for users to advertise to each other. “Here’s my Page. Like it!” It didn’t cost that much, you could set the amount you wanted to spend each day, and you could actually see your little ads pop up on the side bar of your Facebook screen now and then. It felt good. And it seemed to generate actual results. It was similar to buying an ad from Google to get more traffic to your website. And we all know how well Google had done… Facebook is presently worth about $178 BILLION dollars. Google is worth roughly TWICE that.
So began the great social media company frenzy. It was 1999 all over again. All a company had to do was show that it could grow its user base, forget about making money or generating a profit, and the investment dollars poured in. Twitter soon leaped onto the scene and ran up to $55 on it’s first day going public from a starting price of around $16. This valued Twitter at about 35 billion dollars overnight. For a company that wasn’t even making a billion dollars a year, nor anything close to it. But it was all about the user growth. Twitter still operates at a loss — meaning that it loses money every year rather than makes it. How would you like that kind of job? TO get paid for losing money? But the pundits had valid points: Twitter WAS popular. People did seem to have a valid interest in and excitement about it. The problem was and still is that that excitement is fleeting. Today’s Twitter is tomorrow’s Snapchat or Tumblr. Remember them? Yahoo purchased Tumblr — and what exactly was Tumblr in the first place? a blog for kids? — for some FIVE BILLION dollars. There’s money they’ll never get back. And Tomorrow’s Snapchat or Tumblr is next week’s Meercat or Periscope. The landscape is constantly changing in the hands of the ever-fickle American consumer. The truth is that they really just don’t CARE.
And that’s the big disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street. The average person on Main Street has a life. Family problems, car problems, job worries, relationship woes… They could care less about Facebook or Twitter or Snapchat or Tumblr in the grand scheme of things. When’s the last time you heard anyone even mention Tumblr? But the folks on Wall Street don’t recognize this simple fact of life. These are minor trivialities in the hearts and minds of the average consumer, these “fancy websites” they call social media. They don’t put food on the table. They don’t even offer anything relatively substantial or of value that cannot be had elsewhere. NEW is much more exciting to the consumer than been there done that. It doesn’t mean that mom still won’t keep trying to Message you on Facebook this year. She probably will. But are you really even paying attention anymore?
Environments like Facebook and Twitter have continued to remain semi-entertaining and even useful at times when one has nothing better to do or when there’s big news we want instant access to… But when we’re in the mood for big news, we are NOT interested in ads clogging up our newsfeed. Nor are we interested in ads when we have nothing better to do than scroll through old friends’ attempts at wit or their latest selfie or cat photograph. Let’s face it, social media is fraught with meaningless drivel. Hence the shift back towards more meaningful content platforms like blogs or even texting.
Every social media company is reporting user growth increasing but revenues and profits shrinking. And the simple reason for it is because nobody likes being advertised to. The television world and Wall Street already recognizes this fact as more and more people shift away from traditional TV towards digital alternatives like Netflix or Hulu or flat out stealing online. This is the time of the great peregrination of the consumer away from advertising — why? Because we can. And in an environment like this, you better not have advertising revenue as your main means of generating cashflow or you’re going to be screwed. YELP is the perfect example. Yelp is actually a great tool. Nearly everyone has it loaded on their phone and loves it. The problem is that no one is willing to pay for it. (The music industry is going through a similar shift…) Yelp wants to generate revenue from selling advertising. But the users who use Yelp the most absolutely REFUSE to use Yelp if they believe that any of the data they are reading such as reviews are being influenced in any way by advertising dollars — in other words, people want to believe what they read on Yelp. They want to read ALL the reviews, not just the ones that some company has paid to place there, and they certainly don’t want to find out that companies are able to pay to have negative reviews removed from Yelp. What’s the point of the app then? See the problem? Yelp is basically fucked. A valuable tool with no viable way to make money.
Twitter god love it is in a similar position. I personally use Twitter all day as a means to receive notifications about subjects I am interested in ON MY PHONE. In other words, I set up notifications to come directly to my phone from Twitter about various different subjects or different individuals or even tweets that may mention me — the president of Iran will shoot out an interesting tweet now and then, and where else can one access such data but Twitter? But that doesn’t mean I ever scroll through the Twitter newsfeed or what they call their “Timeline”. The truth is I never do. The notifications come to my phone. I scroll through them. Get the basic gist of what was said. And I move on. All on Twitter’s dime. Or better put on the billions of dollars invested in Twitter by their investors. All without ever paying for Twitter and all without ever seeing an ad. Hell, like most people I’m downright annoyed and pissed off when I see an ad on Twitter. How dare they?!? And yet THIS is precisely how they intend on making their money! From advertising. It’s farcical when you really start thinking about it.
We have to begin to realize and acknowledge that we’ve reached a crossroads in the global economy. We’ve raised a whole generation on free usage based on the idea that we’d make our money from advertising — while at the same time weening them off of advertising on every other platform. There are hundreds of apps now on the market that REMOVE ads from Twitter and Facebook. And one would be right to believe that very soon there will be apps to somehow remove the ads from Pandora and Spotify as well — which is how those companies make the majority of their money as well since they’ve programmed whole generations to believe that music should be free — just about the dumbest thing one could think to do if MUSIC was the one and only product that you wanted to sell in your business. Again, we’re at this major crossroads where at some point soon, something has to give. Investors are going to learn sooner than later — just as they did in the dot com crash of 2000 — that they can’t keep pouring money into businesses who don’t actually make money. And businesses are going to eventually learn that you can’t run a business offering the main product you sell for zero dollars. It’s an illogical business model. And all it’s done is destroy more than one industry, the music business just being one of them. TV is next. Social media never really was in reality. And people are just starting to see that now as these once high flying stocks crash and burn.
As a sidenote with a potential solution, look at the companies who actually DO have a chance at making money. Out of the three Unicorns mentioned above, Pinterest is another Yelp waiting to happen. They’ll garner billions of dollars in investment capital and blow through it all in the hopes of turning all those bored moms and housewives into advertising clicking robots, only to realize that those bored moms and housewives aren’t any more interested in clicking on ads as the rest of us, and they’ll go belly up a year or two after going public IF Wall Street is dumb enough to take them there. But Uber and AIRBnB are different. Both of them actually SELL something besides advertising. Sure there’s a social aspect to both companies. That’s just the new normal — there has to be a social aspect to EVERYthing now. Eventually we’ll have apps where people post their latest and greatest bowel movements for others to see and rate. (If those already don’t exist, which I can’t with certainty…).
But the key is that the social aspect to both Uber and Air BnB is NOT the product itself. It’s a byproduct of the actual product. And that really is the key to this new environment. Social is key. But it can’t be THE key. There has to be an underlying product to be sold. And “to be sold” means to CHARGE MONEY FOR IT. Just as PayPal charges a few pennies on the dollar for every transaction, they’re offering a very valuable product — the ability to exchange money with freinds, family and business associates without ever leaving your home or office, or even your couch for that matter. All from the comfort and ease of your smart phone. That’s smart. Uber and Air BnB are doing the same thing. Small fees. Nothing fancy. But they’re actually making money. And isn’t that the reason to start and run a business in the first place? What companies like Yelp and Twitter are going to do is a mystery. They’ve screwed themselves from the outset with a faulty business model. As have companies like Spotify. The next few months and years are going to be ugly as this grand experiment fails and falls to pieces in rubble all around the feet of Wall Street and Main Street investors. People are already asking “are we in a bubble” everyday now… and truth be told, in the bigger picture of the investing world, no, not quite yet. But in the social media sector we’re beyond bubble territory. We’re in the sloppy frothy messy slime and sludge of a bubble already burst. Most just don’t see it yet. If you’re into shorting, now would be the time…
A few years back I posted an article here suggesting that the television industry needed to institute a radical change in programming and release full seasons of shows all at once instead of sticking to the old model of one episode per week and that they could even charge a premium for it because consumers were changing how they wanted to view TV. Less than six months later the advent of “binge watching” and studios releasing full seasons all at once began when Netflix released an entire new season of Arrested Development. Soon after came House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and once Amazon jumped on board the rest as they say is history.
Well here’s another one for you and I’m going to give it to you free of charge. At some point in the near future we will all hear about an exciting new company — whose title will invariably be one word and be a pun or spin off of another more common word — that gives consumers an opportunity to buy and/or sell to each other their pre-owned digital media such as movies, ebooks, albums, TV episodes or whole seasons.
At one point or another we’ve all sprung for a movie we really wanted to see on Amazon, went ahead and bought it because it wasn’t yet available to rent — and now it sits in our “Video Library” — digitally speaking — even though we may never feel a desire to ever watch that film again. The same is fast becoming true with TV episodes. As more and more of us travel more or ditch cable completely, we still want to keep up with our favorite shows; so we end up “purchasing” different episodes, usually at about $1.99 per OR $39.99 per season.
But let’s say we’ve already binge watched seasons 1 through 4 of Walking Dead a few times and we’re over it. As of now all those episodes just sit in our possession forever. Stored on Amazon’s servers and held in our name — what they call our “Video Library”. After a while we may want to sell all those episodes to someone else, say at half the price we paid, and buy season 1 of True Detective. Again we won’t buy True Detective new, nor will we even rent it via On Demand — we may no longer subscribe to cable. Instead we will have the opportunity to purchase or better put “repurchase” it from someone else who already bought it a year or two earlier.
The biggest challenge to this business — and it’s guaranteed that this WILL BE an exciting new business everyone will be raving about at some point in the next 6 to 12 months — is making the calls to set up all the partnerships that would be needed to make it work. For one thing deals will have to be made with all the distributors, the Amazons and HBOGOs and ShowTimes and the like. Best solution would be to offer them a simple transaction fee for every time they change the name of one of the titles they have in their library from say Mr. John Smith to Mrs. Annabella Washington. The digital media will never move. It will still stay in the same place on their servers. The only thing that will change will be the owners name. Think of it like a virtual eBay for virtual media (since the media is no longer in physical form). No shipping required.
Deals will also have to be struck with all the content providers and the licensing agencies, the people who originally created and licensed the product who usually receive a fee every time that particular title, whether it be an ebook or a movie or an or a TV episode, is purchased; whether it’s a television studio or a production company or a record company etc etc. Yes it will be a challenge. But it’s no more challenging than what YouTube or Sootify or Pandora have had to do. It’s just going to take time, a good law firm, a little effort, a smattering of charm and a gift for gab. In a few months time all of these deals can easily be put into place and the business can be up and running on a simple web and mobile platform for consumers to start using.
Will it happen? Yes, without a doubt. Within a year this is a no brainer for an acquisition or take over by one of the larger media companies. The question is WHO is going to do it? It could be you. Like I said, this is a freebie. Take it. I’ve already got too much in the pipeline. But regardless of who creates it, I personally cannot wait to use this service. I own way too many episodes of The Good Wife and would gladly trade them all in for half of what I paid for them.
The advent of a consumer market for used digital media is right around the corner. The demand is already there. We just need someone to build it.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 6
Tonight I was gently coerced by a younger friend into watching something called WHAT? by Bo Burnham, a young twenty-something Millennial doing his idea of a fresh take on a standup comedy routine.
At first I did my best to stay busy enough doing other things to pay only as much attention as was necessary to quickly get how immature the routines were and still manage to appear to not be totally ignoring the show, just so as not to be rude. It was exactly what you’d expect if you took yours or anyone else’s teenage son nephew or cousin and allowed them to jump up on a stage in front of a bunch of other twenty-somethings and told him to goof off for an hour. Stupid, inane, foolish, sophomoric, goofy, dorky, insulting, immature, extremely boring and chock filled with a heavy dose of childishly gratuitous dick jokes, sexual innuendo and locker room humor. In other words, it was unbearable for anyone with a brain older than 12 to 16 years of age unless said brain was perhaps extremely high or sadly disabled.
But then something strange happened. The show kept going and continued to slink sloppily downhill minute by grueling minute. The half hour of mostly gay bashing, sexist and misogynistic girl bashing and masturbation jokes continued — and in between he attempted to throw in the usual “I’m so smart I compare myself to God but not really” meets “God does not exist” meets “God doesn’t care about us” sophomoric philosophical banter typical of young Americans raised on too much money and material possessions and not enough of things meaningful or important. He then threw in plenty of college-age psycho-babble about that favorite subject of lack of self awareness and the obsessive need for self analysis exactly as one would expect from a 16 to 22 year old.
But despite his best attempts to create a jovial atmosphere and an ah fuck it entertaining comedic routine, the primary message being put forth over and over again, out into consciousness, minute after grueling minute, was just how shallow empty hollow and meaningless this strange generation processes and feels about life — as if the gift of life, given so casually and idly, easily and randomly — is not only taken for granted and not appreciated but completely overlooked, and perhaps even resented. Life isn’t something to appreciate or feel blessed by or even to philosophically or intellectually explore, but rather it’s more of a lame nuisance to be made fun of and denigrated, desecrated and profaned.
I am too tired to do the subject justice this evening as it is well past midnight. But as the show –that was no more than an hour long — dragged on, I as an audience member and as a viewer into this frightening sad and ugly world, became more and more disheartened and discouraged about this strange group we casually label “the Millennials”. What went so terribly wrong with them that was so different than the rest of us that created such a disconnected disheartened unconcerned shallow and heartless generation of human beings? So seemingly lost AND so blatantly and casually unaffected by filth violence and vulgarity that literally nothing seems to affect them? And not only are they entirely unaffected by these normally traditionally perceived atrocities, but they also now bare the unique badge of honor of being the main purveyors of these things in our shared culture, whether through their music, their inane tween fiction, their alleged viral videos, blogs and vines or in this case their strange brand of one man shows meet comedic standup routines.
Plenty of reasons come to mind as to what could have caused this….how a whole generation of young people could be so tossed aside by a society that no one bothered to notice that they have literally nothing to believe in, so in place of shouting their noblest ideals and dreams from the rooftops as their predecessors once did so valiantly yet just as naively, they are instead making a living, or choosing not to, from denigrating being alive in the first place.
Forget for a moment that they hold one of the rarest distinctions of any American generation in our history, that they are growing up in not only one of the most peaceful times in history, not only one of the most financially prosperous — where economic opportunity is afforded to anyone with a good idea and the fortitude to turn it into a business or commodity and can strike it rich faster than ever before in human history, but also one of the most free and liberal, open minded and tolerant societies in the history of the human race — where everything from equal rights for women and minorities are shared right along side the LGBT community — and let’s be honest: 20 years ago there was and could never even exist an open community with such a name; euthanasia is becoming a legal right just as abortion has been for nearly four decades, right along with the religious freedom to freely be an atheist or a Muslim or a Tibetan Buddhist or a Rastafarian and still work side by side each other and yes even the right to smoke pot for no other reason than recreational purposes is now becoming commonplace. This newest generation seems completely immune to what an incredibly free healthy and easy time it is to be alive. A time to celebrate and cherish and create, not destroy and devalue. How have these achievements been lost on this sad lot? (One clearly sees that we can no more over generalize about every single member of the Millennial Generation than we can any other; for there are certainly some heroes among them as there are in all. It’s more about the overall vibration of the group itself and their attitude and message, which at this point in their evolution seems to be “fuck it” more than anything else…)
Was it the seemingly countless endless and meaningless wars they’ve grown up with over the last 14 years? Is it the constant corruption they observe in all areas and at all levels and positions of service and leadership in government? Has the haunting horrendous and obvious fact that our King has no clothes finally become so immersed in our collective consciousness that nothing of our once noble ideals of self and enlightenment exists at all in this newest group of young Americans? Do they truly hold nothing sacred? Do they truly not care in the least?
My heart sank as each minute wore on. I was more grieving than annoyed. And believe me, annoyed was the main feeling I was left with. And yet….there is clearly a problem here that is bigger than just some annoying brat playing the fool. I walked away deeply saddened. More needs to be said. More needs to be explored. In time.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress
HBO’s original series NEWSROOM is far and away the most intelligent program on television. Anywhere. Perhaps of all time. Several thoughts come to mind.
Number one: Granted, this used to be a rather easy thing to say of course — if one ever had the opportunity (rare) to encounter an intelligent program on TV in days past, because TV used to be infamous for its sole role as the premier purveyor of the worst the world had to dump on itself. But all that changed over the last ten years exactly as I predicted when explaining one of the primary Signatures of the Age of Personal Expression (which we are at least waist deep in by now, at least), i.e. “We are about to enter a new golden age of American television, a renaissance of great television the likes of which we have never experienced before, where it may as a medium even surpass film, most likely never literature or journalism one would assume, in it’s brilliance to captivate engage move inspire educate and entertain.” “The Great American Television Renaissance” is what the Signature is still referred to as when we work on the project. And we, like anyone else paying attention as of late, are in awe of it.
Not only have B and occasional A list Hollywood celebs hopped on the TV train, but more importantly (much more importantly) so have big name Hollywood film writers and directors. Though we haven’t peaked quite yet in the Personal Expression Age itself, in terms of what it has the potential to do — what it has the directive and mandate and obligation to do — this particular Signature, of TV, is flying high; it’s hit it’s zenith. Television today is as good as any other form of entertainment in the world today. If you know where to look that is.
A second thought: think about what you just said old boy…. NEWSROOM IS good…but the MOST intelligent program on television?!? The Transcendence Diaries by their very nature are prone to hyperbolic claims and exclamations. No one would read them if they weren’t. So is this nothing but a quick fix, a one off jolt of hyperbolic frenzy instigated by the emotions this particular show so elegantly elicits in all of its viewers, one that you may regret come morning once you come down off this high and have the opportunity to think more clearly about the substance of such a statement?
Surely there are other shows on American television that are good. Great even. But we aren’t talking about good or great TV. We are talking about intelligent. In the not too distant past one could point to Sunday Morning News shows as being intelligent television; but besides the aging yet ever youthful McLaughlin Group and GPS with Fareed Zakaria, our beloved once reliable traditional staples known as Sunday morning news shows as a whole have gone the way of all TV news (and the general direction of the American political system, just as an aside, albeit a heartbreaking one) — hype pomp shock schlock rumors gossip gotchas and gimmes, with very little in the way of trustworthy news reporting, let alone anything remotely resembling intelligence.
One could of course fall back on any number of the programming still being aired by the PBS network regularly, and to be fair as a whole PBS still stands tallest when it comes to “most intelligent television programming” overall. They hit it out of the park with their rabbit out of the hat resuscitation of Masterpiece Theatre by way of Downton Abbey — not only reviving a long thought barely breathing franchise, but were so successful in it that they’ve now managed to spin it off into three separate programs: the classic Masterpiece, then Masterpiece Mystery and now their latest Masterpiece Contemporary — all pretty decent programming IF that’s your thing. Not bad for a long running show that no one even knew still existed ten years ago.
And PBS still delivers the most reliable respectful trustworthy intelligent and hype-free nightly news show on TV. They don’t pander nor patronize their projected audience. They aren’t too busy trying to “make news” to report on actual real news events transpiring in today’s world. Something the other four networks seem to have completely forgotten how to do. In fact let’s face it: the other four networks, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, have been so busy chasing the slutty foul smelling tail of cable news — quite possibly the most wretched invention of the latter half of the 20th century, right up there with the atomic bomb, Al Qaeda and The Kardashians — that it fully appears that network news divisions have even forgotten that THAT’S precisely what they were supposed to be doing, reporting the news, not trying to make it on their own, nor make it up as they go along.
Honorable Mention goes to The Charlie Rose Show — for if it weren’t for NEWSROOM, then surely Most Intelligent Show on Television would still be all his, as it has been for a decade at least. The Charlie Rose Show is still the one safe harbor any educated person of intellect can pull into for an hour and not only not be insulted but be seriously and sincerely intrigued and stimulated intellectually. Charlie Rose too is a PBS property.
So yes PBS certainly deserves First Place for Most Intelligent Television Network. But this isn’t about networks. It’s about single programs. And as anyone alive or awake in the last three years has noticed, nothing comes even close to the jaw dropping death defying dialog audiences are afforded each week when NEWSROOM airs on HBO. The scripts, or as he likes to call them the Teleplays, are penned by the inimitable Aaron Sorkin, (A Few Good Men, The Social Network). For many many years Sorkin has been infamous for many things: a hard leaning liberal who throws too much of his own personal politics into his art, a maddening person to work with, a drug fiend, an obsessive compulsive who admittedly showers five to six times a day, but more than anything else, a brilliant writer.
And indeed IF his style is something you enjoy or can bare then there isn’t much in this world that feels better than bathing in a sea of his words and sentences. Rapid fire dialogues between intensely interesting characters about actual matters of substance. Rare stuff indeed for television. And yet he pulls it off. One might tag that last line with “only on HBO…” And that may have been true at one point. Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, True Detective… All HBO commodities. (Lest we forget they’re also responsible for bringing us the truly wretched GIRLS, nuff said…) But plenty of other brilliant shows now float about on other equally noteworthy and deserving networks such as AMC. So that mantle holds more than just one trophy with more than just one network name on it. And I predict that it is only going to continue to get more and more crowded up there as more creatives and audiences alike begin to discover the merits and potential of television as the new and exciting medium it has become.
In the meantime we still have — unfortunately — at least four more mind tingling, heart stopping episodes of NEWSROOM to view this season. Come Emmy time — if one subscribes to the idea of picking “favorites” or “number ones” (which I personally don’t, as everyone knows — (I believe there is and can be no such thing) then no one in that room will deserve that statue more than Aaron Sorkin for what he manages to do with NEWSROOM. That mind of his is a rare breed and a national treasure. For all the attention our society focuses on soulless technology and empty celebrity, it is people like Aaron Sorkin who illuminate just how powerful the simple written word can be still. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching NEWSROOM, I envy you. Do so as soon as possible.
Honorable Mentions need to be handed out to Real Time with Bill Maher, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and occasionally The Good Wife. (Though their story is another one entirely — one we simply don’t have the time nor desire to get into at this moment, though not one not worth telling, for it is consistently a better than most television show with occasionally brilliant writing and a stellar often times all-star cast. But it far too often succumbs to the limitations of network TV. Again, another post we’ll address that subject).
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom
“The music industry is dwindling, but only for the artists. Something’s not right here. Artists can’t make a living anymore. They’re having to go get second jobs to pay the bills. But look at the profits of music companies like YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and the evil publicly-traded Pandora (who recently sued artists and record labels to be allowed to pay even less per stream — they won btw and are now only obligated to pay a royalty rate of .0007 per stream. Yes, as incomprehensible as that is to fathom, that’s 7/1000th of one penny –that’s all we as artists get paid every time someone listens to a song of ours on Pandora. They’re revenue is in the billions. It’s hard to believe, I get it. It is just as hard for us, the content creators/product suppliers, to believe as well. The problem is the labels. I know and like these guys. And I’ve told them this to their face. They’ll sell their own mother for $25. They’ve got to change and start helping the artists more.” — Garth Brooks to CNN November 17, 2014
Hearing Garth say the words above in an interview today sparked me. It’s easy to feel like you’re being an ungrateful whiner when you’ve lived a life like mine — one that many could easily claim has been privileged, and yet you’re going around complaining about “artist royalty compensation” and other such seemingly elitist issues when regular folks are having a tough time making ends meet or even finding a job in the first place. It’s a subject Princess Little Tree and I discuss often: do I stir the flames of protest publicly about what’s happening in the music business to us the artists and tell people how bad it is? Or do I just play it cool? Is it bad for business? Or is it the right thing to do? Will people think I’m being ungrateful? Or greedy? Will I lose my street cred by bringing up the subject of money — which to certain circles of people shouldn’t even hold a place in the same conversation as music or art…?
Earlier this year I started the Fair Pay for Fair Play campaign to address just these issues. Accessing the Facebook page is the easiest way to get informed and involved in this cause and if you care about music and the artists who create it I encourage you to do just that. Visit the page. Like it. Share it with your friends. Because the truth is we are struggling in a way that we have never seen before in modern times. Artists are quite literally starving. Because we are being squeezed out of the very industry that we create the product for.
There are many many reasons for this sad state of affairs and over the last few months I have used these usually more literary Transcendence Diaries to discuss some of the root causes of this issue. No one diary entry is going to address the entire issue in its entirety. That would be impossible. It would take a volume of books to do the cause any real justice. But at the very least we are getting ball rolling in terms of alerting the public not just to the problem itself but to just how serious it is becoming. The easiest way to sum it up is to remind people that over the last ten years we have moved away from consuming music via purchasing it, through CDs or vinyl or through digital downloads ala iTunes, and shifted instead towards consuming music via “streaming it” online using services like Pandora or Spotify or YouTube.
For you and me as music lovers this has been an exciting trend, a revolutionary transition to a world where any and every thing that has ever been recorded by anyone we’ve ever heard of (or not) can be accessed immediately from anywhere in the world. Even on the go right from our phones. In fact most of us now listen to music via our phones more often than home stereos (remember those?) Besides the most obvious abhorrent problem with this shift — the fact that we use extremely expensive state of the art equipment worth millions of dollars to create the most pristine sounding music we possibly can for the audience and it is now being degraded to sound like shit through phone speakers, there’s another problem: as technology companies quickly take control of the distribution of the music — through the aforementioned streaming services, deals have been and are being struck that leave less than pennies for the artist, or worse yet leave them out of the equation entirely. And the sad part is that is most people have no idea that this is what’s going down. They just assume that because it’s all being done above board and publicly that “surely the artists are being paid as they always have.” But the answer is “No. They are not.”
It’s only been a few weeks since U2 shocked (and to some annoyed) the world by giving away their new album for free via Apple due to the realization that it probably wouldn’t sell many copies and thus like Jay Z, Kanye, Coldplay and Thom Yorke before, they’d be better off just giving it away rather than risking low sales figures.
Even more recently Taylor Swift rocked the music world by pulling her albums, including her very successful new one, off of Spotify completely — due to the fact that Spotify only pays us approximately 7/1000th of a penny per play. Consider that for a moment: Spotify doesn’t even pay us one cent per spin. That’s the cold hard truth. No matter how they try to spin it. And trust me, as a music lover I personally LOVE Spotify and it’s potential as a listening device. But as an artist there isn’t anything I can think of off the top of my head that I loath more than Spotify. Piracy, e.g. people who don’t pay for music at all and just go online to download it for free via bit torrent type piracy sites ranks just a bit higher on my hate list. But Spotify Pandora and YouTube come in a close second. Why? Because at least piracy sites are upfront and honest about what they are doing. They’re criminals and often times proud of it. They see “free music” as some sort of cause of rebellion, as if by stealing music they’re somehow sticking it to The Man. But companies like YouTube and Spotify pretend to be “working with the record labels and artists to create a fair playing field for everyone”. But that claim is total bollocks. It’s just completely untrue.
Today it was announced that platinum country rocker Garth Brooks decided to sell his new album via his own website, something called Ghost Tunes, instead of via iTunes. Why? For pretty much the same reasons. He’ll make a much larger profit that way without having to sell even a fifth of the copies he would have to via iTunes.
Caveat: I and my boys in Transcendence are on an independent label, Dying Van Gogh Records, one which we have a large stake of ownership in. And so we make a larger percentage of sales than artists like Brooks and Swift. We make at least 50% of sales. Whereas artists on larger labels like Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift only make 10% of total sales if they’re lucky.
So do the math. If Spotify is only paying out 7/1000th of one penny per spin of any one song and 90% of THAT goes to the label, leaving only 10% to the artist…well how is that artist supposed to make a living? Sales and downloads?
Well therein lies the problem: because streaming has become so popular, people are buying and downloading less and less music. In a nutshell sales and downloads of music — personal ownership of music has nearly come crashing to a halt. It’s a failed business model. (Unfortunately that also means that album artwork and photography is a dying art form as well. A sad often overlooked side effect of this trend.)
But okay let’s look at downloads still because there are some artists who can still sell some serious numbers. Taylor Swift being one of them. iTunes only takes about 28%, leaving the label and artist a full 72% of gross sales. Not bad right? But again if the label is taking 90% of THAT, leaving the artist only 10% of it…there we are again, asking how can the artist make any real money?
It’s no wonder that both Swift and Brooks have tried to create work-arounds to try to make more money from their new music. It’s only natural.
Speaking about this situation personally, this past weekend it was brought to my attention that the lead singles from my last solo album had huge spikes in their views on YouTube. Granted, they’re nothing close to big platinum selling artists like U2, Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks. But they’re significant. “Scene in San Francisco” somehow managed to hit 225,000 views; “New Orleans Dreams” close to that and “Hello My Dove” still hovers around 20,000. And yes I’m sure if we sat down and did more research we would find that plenty of the other songs we have on YouTube have even higher view counts than these three, because they are older classics and have the advantage of having been around longer, but I am referring to these songs specifically because they are the NEWEST songs from our catalogue. Just those three songs alone have pulled in a healthy half a million views on YouTube since their release. Not bad.
Any normal rational thinking music lover is going to assume that we the artist MUST BE earning something from all this action. After all we are forced to sit through a ten to thirty second commercial before every single song we listen to on YouTube. It only makes sense that if YouTube is profiting from all these commercial spins that at least some of that has to get passed on to the artist and their record label.
Now here’s the deal: we do NOT get paid directly from YouTube. That would be too easy. Too fair. The music business has never been fair or easy. Nope. We the artists get paid by YouTube paying out “public performance royalties” to the PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) like ASCAP, SESAC and BMI on a quarterly basis who are supposed to turn around and pass on ALL that money to us, the artists. Remember, these PROs portend that they are NON-PROFIT, that they are ONLY in business to “serve the needs of the artists”. And yet when we have called our PRO, ASCAP, they have repeatedly told us “hey wow Ed Hale that’s great man. Congratulations! You’re really making good traction with the new songs! But see, with our proprietary system we really don’t even pay out on YouTube views until a song gets at least half a million to a million views. And even then you would have to accumulate those views at a rate of half a million views per month in order for us to calculate them and pay you any for them. So as unfair as it seems we can’t really pay you for any of those views for your new songs sorry to say.”
Needless to say every time I have this conversation with them I hang up that phone angry and discouraged. See, there’s no shortage of new fans for the music what with all these new ways to experience our music… But we the artists are just getting screwed out of the process. And yet it is WE WHO ARE CREATING THE PRODUCT!!! Without us there would be NO product for YouTube to play. Nor Spotify or Pandora or iTunes.
I ran the numbers in my head this morning as I was watching Garth complain about the same thing… Even if YouTube only paid us ONE CENT per spin I would make at least $5,000 just for those three songs alone this year. If they paid us just TWO CENTS per spin or view those songs would generate $10,000. No that’s not enough to support a family. But it’s certainly better than ZERO! And zero is what we are currently being paid from YouTube views.
See, the problem is that just a few short years ago we would make that kind of money in just a few weeks from putting out a new album and selling it. Either via a CD or via iTunes downloads. But with every song we release becoming instantly available online there is really no incentive for a fan to make that purchase. They can just go to YouTube or Spotify. And as a music lover myself I totally get how awesome that is. I do it myself. At least I used to. But if these streaming services are not going to compensate the artists for the streaming because of some “proprietary system” ala YouTube or only pay the artist 7/1000th of a penny per spin…the fans and music lovers are getting just as duped as we the artists are — believing their favorite artists are being compensated for the listening pleasure that their music is providing when in reality no such thing is happening.
If you’ve been wondering lately where your favorite artist is or where they have been and why you haven’t heard from them in a while, and who hasn’t… This is the reason why. They’re still alive. They just cannot afford to make music any longer. And this is by no means an exaggeration. As an artist myself I promise you that it is much worse than I have made it out to be simply because it is just too embarrassing to fully admit publicly — especially regarding other people who may or may not want the world to know how tough things are for them. That decision has to be up to each artist and their respective family. But suffice it to say I personally know many who are big names and plenty of smaller names who simply cannot afford to make music at the present time. And that is a very sad thing for all of us.
Of course there is much more to all of this. But this is a start. We will continue to explore this in future updates. In the meantime YOU can do something by simply publicly letting the above mentioned companies know that you believe they need to start compensating artists fairly. Something needs to change. And as always that change begins and ends with us — we the people can turn this tragic episode around and create for ourselves the miraculous happy ending that we all hope and wish for just as we always do in all world affairs.
– Posted by The Ambassador aka Ed Hale using BlogPress on an iPhone
A film producer was waxing nostalgic earlier today about how good the music of the 70s was and wondering why the music of today is so horrendous. I have already shared here in past posts that while I wholeheartedly agree with this notion I also recognize that there is some incredible music and musical innovation happening at the moment. It’s an exciting time creatively for music. But with a few caveats:
— It’s just not mainstream.
— It’s no longer about music in the traditional sense as in playing an instrument; the computer has turned into a musical instrument.
— It’s no longer about songs and songwriting as much as about SOUND i.e. What does it “sound like” forget the song or lack thereof underneath.
— It’s no longer limited to a field of a few savants but rather it’s become a very wide open playing field where every and anyone can throw in with their momentary contribution.
— Having “talent”, i.e. being able to sing or play an instrument or perform live is no longer a necessary requirement.
I was ruminating about the same exact thing yesterday. Here’s the thing: the 90s was so filled with kack (garbage) that it DID jade us to what followed, even though some of it was still very good.
Bare in mind the PEAK of the $$$ revenue generation in the history of the music biz was ’98, when the formula was “release ten diff copies/replicas of whatever happens to be hot at the moment” and avoid originality because it’s “dangerous” (may lose money) — (this started in the 80s w the “first wave of consolidation” (of the labels); the revenue has fallen precipitously since, to where we now have an industry that can no longer sustain itself due to no customer demand for the product (more than just one factor, for sure, but yes one can easily blame part of it on the industry’s “churn and burn” practice of releasing crap over artistry jading and turning off the consumer).
Certainly the trend to entice the audience with manufactured pseudo-music ala “DJs” churning out generic computer generated tones over hypnotic dance beats in lieu of real musicians because it was much more profitable also contributed to the wretched state we are in as well. We addressed this menacing trend in Ed Hale and the Transcendence on our NOTHING IS COHESIVE album with the song “Somebody kill the DJ” — whose lyrics if one listens carefully are literally both a lamenting of the loss of traditional music making AND a rallying cry to kill DJs if one has the chance just to save music. Perhaps it was tongue in cheek hyperbole to a certain degree. Perhaps it wasn’t. But regardless it’s way past that now.
BUT, though it was easy to miss, the 2000s DID actually produce some of the best artists albums and songs of all time still (think Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Phoenix, Strokes, Coldplay, Muse, Jet, Travis, Aqualung, Radiohead, Sigur Ross, etc etc there are hundreds more…). Problem is: “career artistry” is no longer a practice we can afford, i.e. paying for an artist to have a career both with hits and/or no hits. Combine that — the inability to afford career artists financially — w the “anyone can claim to be an artist due to technological advances” trend and we land right where we are today.
Now we are in unchartered waters… all of us, fans and artists alike, adrift in a wicked system where there are no gatekeepers, tastemakers, mentors or arbiters; the trend is “anyone and everyone gets a shot, about 10% of all who try will get 1 hit, 1% may get 2, and 1/10th of 1% may be able to eek a living from it”. But just how one does that is completely different than in times past because all of the traditional revenue streams have dried up. The business still chugs along but broken bankrupt and rudderless because the old rules no longer apply and new rules are constantly forming and re-morphing as Silicon Valley and Wall Street continue to take more and more control over the business side of things. Geniuses they may be — but with no heart and having been bred on coding hacking and the quick creation and abandonment of disposal commodities for profit and fame (websites, apps, software, devices, hardware, etc.) they have reduced music to a perceptually valueless commodity. Now an entire generation — several in fact — have been indoctrinated to fall for that preposterous notion, e.g. music has no value, just like last week’s “app of the week”.
What used to be intangible and transcendent, art heart passion balls love the mind God survival AND entertainment–with $$$ as a side benefit– is now a barely breathing industry that breeds one hit wonders galore through this “replicate what is happening NOW and for Gods sake do NOT innovate for fear of striking out on your ONE chance at bat”, but no “career artists”. Career artists is a term coined in the early 70s that referred to “artists who might not make us very much money NOW but are still very important artistically and therefore might make us money LATER, once the people catch up with them”. We used the money generated from one hit wonders to pay for the careers of career artists. Hence we’d allow Dylan to do a country album or Hendrix to do a 20 minute instrumental jam song or Pink Floyd to record a whole album as one 60 minute song about pigs and dogs or Lennon to release an album of him screaming at the top of his lungs for an hour or Joni to explore jazz fusion etc etc etc. We allowed it because we could afford it AND because it “might” hold artistic merit. Neil Young Lou Reed David Byrne Warren Zevon Led Zeppelin even Van Halen and a million others were born from this ideal…let’s support them a while and see if the public eventually catches up.
The industry can no longer afford this in today’s age because there is no money to be had. And there are a million reasons for this — not just one or two. But making music still costs money as it always has. So WHO is making music now? In this environment? The best and brightest? The really talented? Or “anyone who can afford to”? Sadly the latter. The hardest aspect of the new music business to fathom is that the best and brightest may BE making music somewhere, MAYBE, IF they can even afford to…(big if), but we may never hear it or even hear about it because there’s no money being generated from it, not even enough to launch it out of the artists small local zone.
Very suckass, both for us as artists and for us as music lovers.
Will this change? Can it? Yes. The companies behind the artists simply need to 1, look for the cream NOT the hits, and 2, support those artists through their career in every manner, financially emotionally physically, with mental support and mentoring and lessons etc just as they used to. At least for a few years to see if anything will come out of it. The 70s was the PEAK of that methodology in our industry. Many people consider the 70s to be the BEST decade for music of all time. For a brief period, artists were allowed to record an album that yielded NO hit IF it had artistic merit or the potential to — JUST because it was “art” and that’s what art does. If it yielded a “hit” and made money, even better.
At some point in our future we the people, all of us, will become tired of the current trend of music as a commodity and nothing more and speak up demanding art from our music once again. And through that desire we will create a way to pay for it so that the best and brightest are able to be heard AND make a decent living. It’s only a matter of time.
We are already observing artists and their respective labels devise ingenious ways to generate money through music outside of the traditional means (consumers buying it or paying for it) whether it be U2 giving their album away for free via Apple (Apple paid for it) or Jay Z selling advertising and product placement embedded in his lyrics AND giving it away for free via AT&T or Coldplay having Target pay them or Taylor Swift having Diet Coke pay her etc etc. Of course we can’t all afford giant corporate sponsors and wouldn’t want to if we could. (Personally I could never get away with endorsing something as overtly poisonous as a diet soda — my fans wouldn’t permit me to). But the trend is definitely shifting towards “getting large companies to pay for our music making so the fans don’t have to, or better put don’t want to.” The future possibilities are seemingly endless.
In the meantime we all must realize that even today there really is some incredible music being made out there right this very minute by artists who are busy living and Dying Van Gogh. We just need to look harder for it. And more importantly PAY for it when we do on occasion find it. C
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom
It is illegal for TV networks to raise the volume of commercials higher than the shows they air. For obvious reasons. (It wouldn’t be fair to the TV shows, giving the commercials a higher priority would lift the disguise that television networks exist to entertain rather than generate profits for shareholders.) So what they do instead is flip on a compressor during commercials, for an extra fee to the sponsor — guaranteeing a louder commercial. Theoretically the network is not “turning up the volume”, but the effect is a much louder fuller more annoying volume for said commercial. Which anyone who watches television even infrequently has surely noticed. It’s a technicality. It bypasses the law while pretending to still be abiding by the law. This is a common practice at every network and is common knowledge in the industry. But no one gets in any trouble for it.
This should come as no surprise. Americans are used to these kinds of practices by the powers that be. There is a boldly glaring double standard and hypocrisy that Americans live with everyday and accept as “just the way it is”. Anyone and everyone with wealth or in power breaks the rules or breaks the law however and whenever they can and somehow always manage to get away with it. Rather than jail time or a reminder of the rules laws or regulations they’ve broken, and certainly rather than any kind of substantive punishment, they find a technicality or at worst a small fine at the end of their rainbow of a trial, IF they even get that far. Usually these rules and laws that the common people are forced to be bound by are easily able to be skipped entirely by the elite; corporations and government officials included.
It is THIS kind of blatant disregard for the law, much less the desires of The People, that has now become the norm in all arenas of American life. Banks hospitals insurance companies drug makers stores police departments cable and internet providers giant tech companies like Apple and especially government. It is capitalism run amok rampant and extreme, arrogant and crass –creating the highest profits for those who can pay and causing the most harm and suffering for those who cannot.
In the United States we have reached the peak phase of the capitalist cycle, just before The People revolt and demand fairness justice and balance. This is usually a sloppy messy bloody affair, a no mercy and no quarter for those in power scenario gets created. Many perish. In a very short period of time regular everyday working people will be shooting at and arresting not only the hundreds of thousands of crooked police officers of the country, but any and all who work in government or in large greedy corporations who’ve raped one too many trusting unsuspecting consumers. In these revolutions the people rise up against the powers that be not just because they are angry — for it is safe to say that Americans are far beyond anger at this point, but because they feel it is their duty to take back a country that all of us once dearly loved respected and cherished. But only the most simple and foolish among us now feel any sense of love or respect for what America has turned into over the last fifty plus years. Not through any fault of our own and not without desperately trying to turn things around. No one can say that the people didn’t try. But clearly our hands have been tied, in red tape, bureaucracy and bullshit for decades.
The government of the U.S., already seeing where we are historically in the capitalist cycle, has prepared for this inevitable cultural shift. Hence the gradual but rapid change into the police state we now live in. It is all of our wishes that the state local and federal governments of our beloved country realize and accept that although we will rise up en masse to bring this system down in order to create a more just fair enlightened and equitable society REGARDLESS of their opinion or any actions they may decide to take, we do NOT wish to hurt or kill anyone, nor do we desire to do away with our free enterprise system. No one is crying out for communism or any other extreme social reforms. Only truth. We only wish to stop the blatant lies, deceptions and manipulations of the law that we have all come to begrudgingly accept and take for granted as being an inherent aspect of the world we live in.
We understand full well, just as the government does, that it does NOT have to be this way. After all, our government officials and the mainstream media who do their bidding act and speak as if they live in a completely different world than the rest of us; they speak of “American Exceptionalism”, a land of the free and home of the brave; they never out the president of the United States for his incessant lying and bending of the truth; they never mention the heartbreaking irony that the U.S. is by far the most powerful terrorist force and the most feared and notorious killing machine on planet earth when they report on “terrorism” on the nightly news; they don’t speak of the fact that the alleged elected government spends billions of dollars a year giving it away in bribes or blackmail schemes to hundreds of other countries around the globe but turn around and claim that they can’t afford to feed the hungry or starving right here at home, nor afford to educate them; they don’t mention that the United States Congress exists now almost solely to provide cushy jobs for power hungry, egomaniacal greed-hounds whose job it is to provide favors, loopholes and profit opportunities for the large multi-national corporations who now completely run and control the country. If one listened to the media they might believe for a minute at least that the members of congress were being elected by the people to work for the will of the people — until reality snuck back into the conversation and everyone landed back on earth acknowledging the ridiculousness of that erroneous idea. It’s been a long time since any congress has been able to list serving the people as a line item on their resume.
So there is no excuse for how unbearably inexcusably bad things have gotten in America. The dichotomy between how the government and media speak about the United States and how it actually is in reality is as wide as the Grand Canyon. So it’s no wonder that people are beyond mad. Everyday the harsh reality of the wickedness that surrounds us, all the while with the arrogance and audacity to dare call itself good, is thrown in our face. At the same time not a man woman or child in America is unaware of how dangerous or life threatening it would be to dare break a law themselves. The peoples’ job is to obey the laws, pay the taxes and say nothing while watching those in control break the laws, profligately spend the peoples’ taxes and say and do whatever the hell they want to regardless of how illegal criminal or immoral it may be.
This is no secret. Unlike in times long past this is the topic du jour in almost every home, office, school and community from coast to coast. The disapproval, the disgust and the outrage spans all age groups, all income brackets except the very rich perhaps, all races, all genders and everyone else in between. The powers that be are just as aware of this reality as the people are. Both sides pretending not to notice the other’s disdain for the system that both have created. One through sheer force of will selfishness and greed, the other, the people, through fear and resistance to accepting the cold hard truth that the kingdom is not royal nor noble, but rotten and wicked. Even the worst offenders are now having a tough time keeping a straight face. Somewhere along the line America lost itself. Forgot it’s mission. And it’s been spinning blindly madly out of control ever since.
Which is why in the long run it is inevitable not only that we the people WILL rise up soon but that WE will win. It would be in every one’s best interest if this idea were accepted sooner rather than later by the various branches of government throughout the nation. If they act in time, with sincerity and effectiveness, a full scale revolution of the magnitude described above might be able to be avoided. But it needs to happen fast. The confusion and frustration of even the common working person has now turned into cynical bitterness, anger and rage. In a country of 350 million people all fueled by these shared emotions, no sitting government, no matter how powerful they think they are, stands a chance of survival. Our revolution will make the Civil War seem like child’s play.
It is important that every man woman and child who lives in and loves the United States of America shares this message with their elected leaders. We may not owe it to them. Lord knows they’ve done nothing to deserve our humanity, having done nothing for us in decades and would certainly not extend to us the same courtesy. But it is more in line with the kinder, more just, fair-minded and enlightened society that WE wish to create.
The deadline for serious change is fast approaching. Consider yourselves warned. The people are beyond angry. They are incensed and inflamed. And the myriad distractions once so effective no longer distract. Instead they only add more fuel to the fire. The people, feeling helpless to effect change through democratic means and thus backed into a corner with nothing left to lose are not only ready for war. They are preparing for it. You have been warned.
– Posted by The Ambassador
The always entertaining Bob Lefsetz sent out an otherwise illuminating blog post today entitled “NAPSTER WOULD KILL CREATION AND NO ONE WOULD MAKE MUSIC”. “Otherwise” illuminating because in the first sentence he made a glaring error that is going to just further perpetuate the already pervasive and excruciatingly painful myth with the masses that “it’s okay if we only stream music through all those high tech new services like Beats Music because they’re paying the artists now, right?”. WRONG. They’re not. At least not in a manner that anyone with half a brain would consider anything close to a livable wage. I already knew I would come here to The Diaries and post a rebuttal to straighten out the facts of Bob’s post. But I also decided to write Bob a quick note to ask him to also correct the facts himself. Below is both the first few sentences of his post (PS — subscribe to his blog. It’s almost always worth the read) and my correction of the actual facts.
Below that I have also pasted another blog post of his from a few days ago that deals with the same issue and Thom Yorke’s decision to release his new album on bit torrent. It makes some great points. Again, Lefsetz is completely mistaken in his assertion that “YouTube and Spotify are compensating artists 70% just like iTunes does”. That’s not even close to being true, and it makes one wonder from where he is getting his information. Perhaps he just makes it up to prove his enlightening points? Or perhaps he knows of certain artists at certain large companies who have managed to negotiate completely different terms than almost every other artist in the world today. Not sure. But don’t let the erroneous facts of his post minimize the importance of some of his finer points. They’re cutting edge insightful and almost always entertaining if nothing else. He just happens to be very wrong about the current state of artist compensation in the music business.
“On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM, Bob Lefsetz <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
NAPSTER WOULD KILL CREATION AND NO ONE WOULD MAKE MUSIC
Just the opposite has happened. With new tools for production and distribution that bring the cost of creating and getting your work out at close to zero it seems like everybody’s got a song in them. More people are making more music than ever before, leaving the audience overwhelmed with productions.
MUSIC IS FREE
It just feels that way.
America’s #1 music service, YouTube, pays rights holders, as does Spotify. Can we stop the mantra that music is free? Sure, piracy exists, but it always did. If you think kids are busy stealing instead of streaming you probably went to the Apple Store to stock up on the discontinued iPod.”
As you know I’m a fan; often even sharing your posts through my own social media profiles occasionally when I find them extraordinarily prescient or insightful. But you can’t be sending out posts that say things like “YouTube and Spotify are now compensating rights holders” — especially not to what I would guess is largely a musician/music biz exec audience — when these statements are almost entirely untrue. Sure guys like me and others who are buried neck deep in the business and understand how it works understand the finer points of what you are saying, but most people take you at your word and then go to hunt down this $$$ that YouTube and Sp and the like are supposed to be paying them because Bob Lefsetz said so and they come up with nothing. Why? Because as those of us in the biz recognize, YT, SP, Beats and P are “trying” to compensate rights holders to a certain degree, but they have systems set up that are so heinous and prohibitive that it basically means that 99% of artists are NOT being compensated in any way from YouTube, Spotify, Beats or Pandora. Take a little thing they like to call “threshholds”; i.e. YouTube doesn’t pay out unless a song reaches over 500,000 to one million views AND that has to be within the quarter. So even if you get to 499,999 views that quarter you get paid ZERO $$$ from YouTube. ZERO. Now THAT is NOT compensating the artist nor the rights holder. Period. Just pick up the phone and call ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to confirm this fact for God’s sake. It’s common knowledge.
Spotify and Pandora pay us approx .005 to .0007 per stream. As in 500 streams to earn ONE CENT or in the other case 7000 streams to earn one cent. (!!!) So saying “Now that YouTube and Spotify are compensating rights holders…” is completely erroneous and misleading. Not only that, but it then renders the rest of your post less credible. Of course this is just IMHO and I will certainly share my thoughts in the Transcendence Diaries. But rather than have me as “the bearer of truth and light corrections in response to Bob Lefsetz’s erroneous claims”, wouldn’t it be easier (certainly on me) if you just fact-checked before posting? All said with the utmost respect of course as always.
The Transcendence Embassy
c/o Dying Van Gogh Records
304 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10010
In the above letter I only point to a very small number of roadblocks that have been built into the new system of the music business that prevent artists and labels from being able to make a living from music creation. There are a TON of them presently. YES the music being created today is as creative and exciting as it’s ever been. But the artists are not just being paid “less than they ever have”, they ARE NOT BEING PAID almost exclusively. This is WHY Radiohead’s Thom Yorke DID decide to release his latest album for free on a flagrant music piracy site — as a statement, as in “fuck all of you if you’re going to stream our music for free allowing these giant new tech companies like Spotify and Beats to profit in the millions while I don’t make shit, I’ll just give my music directly to the FANS!”
U2 decided to do the same thing, choosing instead to sell their new album to Apple so as not to risk putting it out on the market and not achieving any sales. Coldplay used Target. Jay Z used ATT. Artists are nothing if not creative and in this new age of no money for music we are having to be just as creative outside of the studio as we are inside — in an attempt to try to figure out how to squeeze a few nickels out of the fans who very clearly still love our music. That’s right, we totally get that YOU the music lover still love our music and that you’re not directly involved in what’s happening in our industry. I hear it from fans all the time. “I had no idea you weren’t getting paid!” they exclaim. And some even pay that $10 to Spotify or Beats every month. But when these companies are reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in profits per quarter, that should be a tip off to all of us, artist and consumer alike, that there might be a good chance that the artists aren’t getting paid.
So what CAN we do about it? Well, number one, we can always go back to downloading albums from iTunes. Or songs if you like. Yep, iTunes PAYS US. And they pay us well. No complaints from Apple. And they’re still the largest most profitable company on planet earth. Go figure. So next time you hear anyone try to defend Beats, or Spotify or Pandora, in ANY way, regarding their claim that they would be “unable to fairly compensate the artists in the same manner that iTunes does or we’d go bankrupt” just remind them of how many hundreds of millions of dollars they reported earning last quarter. It’s all s smokescreen. They figure that if the consumer doesn’t mind ripping off the artist then they don’t mind profiting from it. And that’s where WE come in.
If you like music, if you love it, if you enjoy it, then shoot off an email to Spotify and Pandora. Let them know that although you’ve been thinking about starting up an account with them, or currently have a paid account with them, you just cannot justify it any longer as long as they are not compensating the artists whose music they are selling. It’s pretty simple. These companies are in the business of SELLING MUSIC. But the problem is that they aren’t BUYING THE MUSIC. In any other world that would be considered criminal. Stealing. And at its eessence that’s exactly what is happening. Legal stealing. Music piracy is already bad enough, but these new streaming services are killing today’s working artists. Ever wonder why they’re starting to appear on singing competition shows as judges? Or cheesy TV commercials? Yep. There’s a reason. Basically because of music streaming services NOT compensating us for our music that they are selling to you the consumer they are forcing musical artists to do anything and everything to try to bring home the bacon. And we’re no longer talking about striking it rich here. We’re talking about just trying to make enough to make a decent living, to pay the bills. That’s what it’s come down to now. I personally make MORE money from buying and selling Pandora stock in a week than I will make from Pandora paying me for streams in an entire quarter. Why? Because no one can make a living from being paid .007 cents per stream.
People complaining about the need to raise the minimum wage have NO idea how much worse it is for musical artists. I would LOVE to be guaranteed a steady stream of income every week from my hard work. But in this ever changing industry, where any moment some new young upstart can grab your entire recorded catalog and throw it up on the internet and call it a new business — completely forgetting to address how the artist will actually be paid, we artists do not have the luxury of anything close to a guaranteed stream of income. It’s potluck now. But again, there IS something that can be done about it. All we have to do is get YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and the rest of them to start paying the artists a decent living wage. It really is that simple. You the consumer will do the rest, as you always have, by consuming the music we make. And as always we are forever grateful to you for that. This isn’t your fault. You just caught in the middle.
As always, more later…
To read the rest of Bob’s (like i said) otherwise brilliant post, go here: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/
Someone posted a TIME magazine article this weekend that claimed that scientists have been running computer models that showed that social media is similar to diseases and that Facebook will soon lose up to 80% of it’s users. I clicked. The article was from January. As in ten months ago.
Facebook of course has only continued to grow and immerse itself deeper into global society since January. These scientists were clearly wrong. As I wrote here in 2007, Facebook will eventually become so ubiquitous in our lives that it will come loaded on every phone and be the seamlessly integrated desktop on every new computer sold in the world. Every action we take on or off line will be recorded by it, many of them shared. Like it or not, Facebook is here to stay.
Twitter on the other hand MAY still potentially go the way of Yahoo or AOL. Most people still don’t use it regularly and very few find it indispensable. Twitter’s decision to enforce the 140 character limit greatly diminishes it’s ability to be an effective tool for much of anything except satire, a greatly appreciated and hot trend at the moment in western civilization but certainly not a necessary one.
Facebook on the other hand is more akin to Windows or Apple. Not only does it have more money and resources at its disposal, thus it can easily afford to reinvent itself as often as needed to supply the people with whatever changing needs they demand at the drop of a hat, it also has a complete monopoly on mainstream society — it possesses that very rare blessing of any product or service of being used by almost all demographic groups on planet earth; all races nationalities age groups income brackets social backgrounds and classes. Some may try to go without their Facebook account for a spell, only to realize, like TV 30 years ago, that to do so means they find themselves unable to keep up with their peers come Monday morning at the office. Facebook is not just the social barometer of society — it is also fast becoming the primary communication tool.
We may watch the latest hot viral video on YouTube, but we find out about through Facebook. We may tune in to the latest binge watching sensation on Netflix or Amazon or HBO, but we find out about them through Facebook. On and on this line goes. So deeply immersed is Facebook in human society at this point that it is more appropriate to compare it to the medium of television or the telephone than to other tech companies like Twitter or Yahoo.
In the end Apple, Google and Facebook stand tallest and win the dominance game.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom
I saw Bernie Sanders on Meet The Press yesterday and as always agreed w what he had to say. But I am still very sure that he has not what it takes to make a good foreign policy president. Especially not NOW. But I bet he could be coached along just as the others were just fine. I would LOVE to live in a country where someone as truthful and honorable as Bernie Sanders could be president. But the truth is that I just do not believe that the majority of the American people are smart enough to make that happen. Not yet anyway. Because of this fact — the powers that be in the United States, those who select both parties’ candidates AND the president can clearly see this and therefore will not select Sanders. Remember, though the president is not elected by the people as is assumed, they DO have a say in who is selected; the big money interests who are actually in control of the process are constantly feeling into and feeding off of the over all sentiment of the people in order to make the system appear to be as democratic as possible, precisely so that this myth stays perpetuated for as long as possible.
For better or worse, in their attempt to achieve their desired “New World Order”, the elected leaders of the United States of America gave up the traditional democratic election process. For control, access, dollars and everything else that together creates the illusion that the United States is the “leader of the free world”. The only problem? The rest of the world isn’t becoming as ordered as quickly as they were promised.
So who WILL run in 2016? Ultimately they will undoubtedly select either Hilary Clinton or Jeb Bush for president in 2016. This is a fact I was told almost a year ago by the way; I just haven’t had a chance to write about it yet. The election of a “third Bush” will seem nearly as ground breaking and monumental in the eyes of most Americans as the election of the first female president and hence will help even out the playing field in regards to the trend setting and excitement factor of the race. Admittedly there is some irony there.
But the real irony is in the fact that Bush and Clinton will seem almost interchangeable in their ideological stances, campaign promises and in how they govern as US presidents, both will swing to the center of their respective stated parties in order to appeal to as wide a segment of the American populace as possible to get elected — as opposed to just becoming beloved or respected. There is a difference. Ron Paul for instance remains respected and beloved, but is unelectable –precisely for the reasons he is so beloved. Hilary on the other hand already carries herself in a fashion that illustrates how well she knows this; her role is not to stand for any ideologies or issues personally, but rather only to mirror those that appear to poll the best with the majority of the people in the country. This is what makes her such a masterful politician. She is able to stand for everything and nothing simultaneously — from day to day anything that she is told to do or say IS her current platform. Being an expert societal manipulator she will appear to play both the immigration and social welfare programs supporter AND the foreign policy hawk simultaneously.
Bush will step into the race late in the game, once it becomes apparent that a returned Romney, a watered down Rand Paul and a spruced up and quieted Chris Christy will not be able to win the general election. Once he reluctantly enters the race Bush will at first seem The Lord and savior of the American democratic system to many on the right; after that fanfare dies down he will then attempt to carry with him both the moderate old school republicans of yore, along with the new more radical tea party libertarians AND at the same time try to capture the hearts and minds of the centrist majority of the country — making most of his main stances almost indistinguishable from those of Clinton’s. He will lean more towards the middle regarding social issues than many in his party expect — immigration, women’s issues, same sex marriage — again just like Clinton, just to get the votes, having learned a profitable lesson from the failed Romney campaign of 2012.
In this respect Jeb Bush would not make a “horrible” president. Memories of his younger brother’s presidency will play a major role and loom large in his mind and in the decisions made by his team. But this doesn’t mean that it’s a shoe in for Bush the elder. I have NOT been told that a winner has been chosen yet. Only who the candidates will be. (Remember, it wasn’t until September 2012 that we found out who the president would be. I announced it the same day. One assumes that 2016 will be no different.)
But in regards to this post, I wholeheartedly agree that Bernie Sanders and/or Ron Paul are the two best candidates we have in America for president. But unfortunately for us neither will allow themselves to become as indebted and beholden to the big money interests that control the democratic system of the United States at this time. Because of that noble and yet unfortunate fact neither man will receive the nomination from any party and therefore has no chance of becoming president in the near future.