The Future of Music

When we were talking in class last week about music, I began to consider what the music industry might look like in the next five or ten years. One of the arguments made in class was that there will be a streaming service (Spotify, SoundCloud or some other alternative) that figures out some type of model that will effectively be able to charge users an amount that they’re willing to pay and still makes the record labels and artists happy.

I’m not sure this is going to be the case.

The music industry is slowly dying, a fact that’s made evident not only in the record stores – iTunes sales have fallen at least 13 percent in the last year. According to that article, digital track sales are falling at nearly the same rate as as CD sales, as music fans are turning to streaming services like iTunes, SoundCloud, Spotify, Pandora and many more.

In addition to all these websites that allow you to listen to pretty much whatever you want for free, there are also plenty of ways for internet users to download whatever they want for free.

For example, I my friend knows plenty of different ways to download just about any song or album without paying for it. From YouTube-to-MP3 converters to SoundCloud downloaders to torrents, my friend can have any song or album he wants in his iTunes library in a matter of minutes.

Illegal downloads and streaming services are causing the music industry to suffer, and artists from all genres are realizing it. One of my favorite artists at the moment, Chance the Rapper, said last year in an interview with Rolling Stone that he doesn’t believe there’s any reason to sign with a record label because the industry is already dead.

“The whole point of Acid Rap (Chance’s first project, a free mixtape) was just to ask people a question: does the music business side of this dictate what type of project this is?” he said. “If it’s all original music and it’s got this much emotion around it and it connects this way with this many people, is it a mixtape? What’s an album these days, anyways? ‘Cause I didn’t sell it, does that mean it’s not an official release? So I might not ever drop a for-sale project. Maybe I’ll just make my money touring.”

Chance is taking a pretty interesting stance here – one that the majority of artists in music would likely be vehemently opposed to (looking at you, T. Swift). It’ll be interesting to see if any other artists adopt this mindset, or if they continue to fight for every cent they feel like they’re being cheated out of by Spotify streams and illegal downloads. Don’t you just feel terrible for them?

Unless someone somewhere finds a way to efficiently police illegal downloading and prevent millions of people all over the world from getting their music for free over the internet, they’re not going to stop doing it. It’s just so simple to do, and the odds of being caught and/or punished for doing it are almost nonexistent. If anything, more and more people are going to start adopting the same method my friend uses, and the music industry is only going to continue to decline as a result.


Live is Gold

Ah, March.

The best time of the year for sports and college basketball fans everywhere. For a period of about three to four weeks, March Madness consumes us all as we watch 64 teams compete to become that year’s national champion, cut the nets, get their one shining moment – you know the drill.

But with the Kentucky Monstars manhandling everyone they match up against current state of traditional cable television rapidly declining, fewer people are watching the tournament now, too, right?

Err, no.

The most-viewed college basketball game in cable TV history? In 2015? Why are sporting events seemingly immune to the lack of viewership that continues to plague traditional cable television? The answer is actually pretty simple: live is gold. Sports possess the appeal of live, and people all over the world are going to continue to watch them as long as they’re played.

While cable TV ratings plummet, ratings for sporting events continue to trend upwards. This year’s Super Bowl garnered the largest audience in TV history – breaking the record set by the previous year’s big game.

Think about it: it’s only getting easier for people to watch their favorite TV shows at their own convenience. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, DVR – all tools available for people to stream or record whatever they want and enjoy it when they please.

A much smaller number of people record sports, of course. People want to be in the loop and included in the conversation, so there’s much more appeal to watching the games live as they’re being played. Plus, you’d essentially have to shut yourself out from any and every form of social media if you don’t want to have the game spoiled for you.

In the future, TV is only going to continue to get easier for people to record, and TV ratings are only going to continue to fall. Sports, however, are on the opposite end of the spectrum. As long as sports are played and broadcasted, people are going to continue to watch, and they’re going to continue to watch live. Advertisers realize this, too, which is why ad space for big games like the Super Bowl cost brands multiple arms and legs. John Oliver chimed in on the advertising money pumped into the NCAA Tournament:

Don’t be surprised if we see another record-breaking game in this year’s Final Four or National Championship, or if we see that record broken again next year, and again the year after that. This is only going to continue to happen, too, and you remember the reason why: live is gold.

Watch What You Tweet

If you’re unfamiliar with Mo’ne Davis, you’re probably in the country’s minority.

She rose to fame in the 2014 Little League World Series, where she was the first African American girl to ever play in the games. Davis also managed to pitch a shutout during the series, and her athletic prowess propelled her to fame. One of her team’s games drew in more than 5 million viewers and earned ESPN a 3.1 Nielsen rating, the highest ever in the history of the event.

After the LLWS, Davis began receiving praise from notable celebrities across the country, including professional athletes like Mike Trout and Kevin Durant, as well as Ellen DeGeneres, Billie Jean King and Michelle Obama.

She appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, she got the opportunity to play in the 2015 Celebrity NBA All-Star Game, Spike Lee directed a documentary about her, and she threw out the ceremonial first pitch during Game 4 of the 2014 World Series.

She has her own book coming out, a shoe line to benefit girls in need, and there’s even a biopic being made about her life. Mo’ne is getting all kinds of recognition, and she deserves it. She managed to break new ground and is helping set an example for people of all ages, everywhere.

Last week, it was announced that a made-for-TV movie about Davis, called “Throw Like Mo” is in the works over at Disney channel. Good for her, right? She deserves it. Who could possibly disagree with that?

Joey Casselberry could, apparently.

It was dumb enough for Casselberry to tweet those insensitive remarks, but in case you needed any further evidence of how unintelligent he is, check out his bio: he included the school he represents as a student-athlete, and his profile picture is a photo of him in his baseball jersey. The tweet went viral, and plenty of Twitter users were calling for Bloomsburg to take action against Casselberry.

The university wasted no time responding to the situation, issuing the following statement via Twitter less than 24 hours later:

Bloomsburg reacted swiftly and effectively to Casselberry’s comments, and though some may believe they were harsh on the player, they did what they felt was necessary to enforce a no-tolerance policy for harassment and negative speech. I’ll be interested to see if the school makes any additional statements addressing the situation and further explaining why they chose to dismiss Casselberry.

This incident is yet another example of – as Dylan has previously written about  and we have discussed in class – the way that one wrong move on social media can severely tarnish the careers and even lives of those unfortunate enough to say the wrong thing.

People argue in support of free speech and this and that, but at the end of the day, free speech is meant to protect you from being legally penalized for the moronic things you say. It doesn’t prevent employers and private institutions from responding in whatever manner they please in order to prevent their reputation from being ruined as a result of you being a moron. This is especially true when you are in a position that is representative of your company, team, university or what have you.

Bloomsburg has said they’re standing firm on their decision to dismiss Casselberry from the team, so it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing anytime soon. Davis, on the other hand, continues to be the most mature 13-year-old on earth.

The Effects of The Dress

The Internet was captivated last night.

Not by a world-moving event, or a new invention, or a speech, or any sort of breaking news.

In fact, all it took to get millions of ‘net users talking was a dress. One that you’ve surely seen by now (the thing is gold and white, damn it).

The original photo was posted on Tumblr with a caption that read, “Guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we are freaking the f**k out.”

The rest of the Internet collectively did the same. People all over the world were arguing about whether the dress was blue and black or white and gold, and some people even reported seeing colors like brown, turquoise and red.

For a while, it seemed like every other tweet on my timeline was about this dress (or those crazy llamas). Before long, outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post began posting stories about the dichotomous dress. Even KimYe weighed in (gotta admit, I’m a little disappointed Kim saw gold and white…but alas)!

The dress was everywhere, and everyone and their mother was talking about it. BuzzFeed posted an article about it on Friday night, and in just over 24 hours, the post has garnered more than 31 million views.

On Friday, BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen wrote on the website’s tech blog about the hours after the article about the dress was published.  In the hours following the publishing of the article, BuzzFeed was forced to add 40 percent server capacity to handle the massive influx of traffic it generated. In less than three hours, the post had already set a BuzzFeed record with 431,000 active users on the site. That number continued to climb until it reached 673,000.

BuzzFeed had also prepared for the spike in traffic by investing in infrastructure and running “drills.” All of BuzzFeed’s posts about the dress were viewed a combined 41 million times from every country and in five different languages.

The insanity caused by the dress shows how easily and quickly something can become viral these days. The image of the dress was divisive, silly, visual and shareable – all qualities that can make anything on the Internet spread like wildfire.

Today, in the world of 140-character tweets and texting via emojis, bite-sized content is what people love to consume. The fact that “the dress” was an image that was highly divisive and very easy to share is what made it one of the most sensational phenomena in viral internet history.

While viral content is all well and good, that still doesn’t explain the bigger issue at hand here. How/why on earth are people seeing it in different colors?? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is one we may not be getting anytime soon.

“Why is this happening? I don’t know,” said Dr. Jay Neitz, PhD, a color vision researcher at the University of Washington in an interview with Vice. “This is one of the most fascinating color vision things I’ve seen in a long time.

I’m going to spend the rest of my life working on this,” he told me. “I thought I was going to cure blindness, but now I guess I’ll do this.”

I’m chalking it up to witchcraft.

“The Journalism Has to Matter”

Last week, Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism hosted a a panel titled, “The Female Voice of Sports Media.” The panel featured Pam Oliver, Rachel Nichols, USA Today columnist Christine Brennan, and ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth.

One of the things that Oliver impressed upon the audience was that true journalism has to be the impetus behind a career in the field – not the attractiveness of becoming a celebrity.

“It’s a small club of women (in sports media) who put journalism first,” Oliver said. “They’re not in it to be celebrities or big on Twitter. You can tell when someone is serious with what they are doing. You can tell when someone is putting in the hours to get to know the players and coaches beyond just using your looks, or you know, your assets.

“I wish some of the hiring practices would improve. There’s a definite pattern with a certain look and certain quality that the outlets are going after.”

Oliver raised a very interesting and important point in her address to the audience. People who study journalism and pursue a career in the field should be doing it for the right reasons, which are to hone their craft and inform the public about various issues. Oliver criticized the journalism industry’s apparent desire to employ sideline reporters based on looks rather than talent and knowledge.

Brennan added that many of the aspiring female journalists she encounters want to be the next Erin Andrews on TV, not the next accomplished columnist.

It’s not a bad thing for women to want to be sideline reporters, as most of the ones we see on TV are indeed women. However, as time progresses and more women become prominent for their work as columnists or other positions within journalism, I hope to see more young journalists aspire to be like them too. I think it will encourage these women to work as hard as they can to become the best journalist they can be, which will in turn strengthen the industry as a whole.

It’s Time to Ban Yik Yak

Earlier this week, my classmate Clayton commented on “the value of negative Yik Yak.” I’m going to take the opposite stand and say that the app should be banned – or at least changed dramatically – at UNC and potentially other college campuses.

I used to use Yik Yak. Some of the posts I saw on the app were funny and lighthearted, but I also saw posts that spewed vitriol and racist remarks. Clayton argued that there is value in seeing some of the hate speech on social media because it lets us know that problems still exist within society.

That may be true, but why do we need an app to tell us that racism still exists in America? If we want to know whether that’s true, all we have to do is turn on the news or surf the web to find out about another minority being shot and killed by police. We don’t need to perpetuate a platform for our peers to contribute to this racism by allowing Yik Yak to stick around.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to combat racism and other societal issues is by discussing it in a productive manner. Allowing users to anonymously post whatever they want with nothing in place that forces them to take accountability for their comments only perpetuates the hateful dialogues that do nothing but harm the community and the society as a whole.

There would be a lot of responses that cite First Amendment protection and claim that the banning of the app would be considered unlawful censorship, which is fair. However, to the people who argue that, I would suggest altering the app to include users’ names along with the messages they post.  Introducing some accountability would make people less likely to make these types of damaging comments and could even encourage some useful conversation.

The O'”Lie”lly Factor

Ah, here we are again.

For the second time in less than a month, a journalist is under fire for fabricating personal accounts of experiences in war.

Bill O’Reilly, the polarizing host of Fox News’ ‘The O’Reilly Factor,” is being challenged by seven fellow journalists on his account of a 1982 riot in Argentina. The contradictions have come after Mother Jones, a liberal-leaning magazine, first reported on O’Reilly’s claims about his coverage of the Falklands War. O’Reilly was a young reporter for CBS News at the time, and he was assigned to cover the war from Buenos Aires – more than 1,000 miles from the offshore conflict zone.

O’Reilly described the area as a “war zone” and a “combat situation” and also stated that his cameraman was injured in the fray.

One CBS cameraman who was working in Buenos Aires at the same time as O’Reilly claimed that “Nobody remembers this happening.” A sound engineer for worked for CBS in Argentina also said he was on the crew and does not recall O’Reilly’s version of events.

O’Reilly has also continuously referred to his experiences in “the war zone” and has also repeatedly defended his claims, even going so far as to calling out one of his detractors and questioning whether he was even in Argentina at the time of the war.

This incident is no different than the one Brian Williams is currently involved in. Fox News should do their part and investigate these claims to see if O’Reilly’s accounts are true, and if they are found to have been fabricated, O’Reilly should be punished, just as Williams was.

Lying – and continuing to lie – over the course of more than thirty years is a violation of journalistic integrity. It’s not as though O’Reilly hasn’t been violating journalistic integrity for years now, but this time it’s something he can and should receive real punishment for.

O’Reilly should be suspended immediately while Fox investigates the validity of his claims about his time in Argentina. It will be very interesting to see whether the organization chooses to do the right thing and discipline one of its most notable and successful personalities.