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High Lantern Group Notebook | November 2014

1. How to Respond to a Celebrity Attack

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek showed how a CEO should respond when one of the world’s most famous celebrities – in this case, Taylor Swift – goes on TV and criticizes your business for hurting the industry. In a blog, Ek offers a cogent analysis of the dynamics of the music industry, rebutting Swift and showing why Spotify’s interests align with those of musicians:

Most of our competition comes from the tons of free music available just about everywhere. Today, people listen to music in a wide variety of ways, but by far the three most popular ways are radio, YouTube, and piracy – all free. Here’s the overwhelming, undeniable, inescapable bottom line: the vast majority of music listening is unpaid. If we want to drive people to pay for music, we have to compete with free.

2. Storytelling Saturation


Sometimes it seems that “storytelling” is the PR firm’s answer to everything, including investor meetings and funeral orations. And storytelling has become a mandatory – and painfully predictable – part of every keynote at a marketing conference. In a moment of good sense, Salon has called for closing the book on it:

“Storytelling” has never felt emptier. Everyone from mealy-mouthed online marketers to self-help gurus have taken note of the sacrosanct place “storytelling” holds in our culture – and they’ve kidnapped it, roughed it up and deposited it on a one-way train to buzzwordsville…It has become a get-out-of-jail-free card to illustrate that whatever it is you’re peddling can’t be craven, or hacky, or even boring.

 3. Controversy Makes Life Worth Living

In the 100th anniversary issue of The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier muses about why society needs reason. One of a few choice paragraphs:

The refinement of opinion cannot be accomplished except in a spirit of criticism. Describing and explaining will not suffice (though they may account for whole genres of journalism); the moment must come for judging. It was a dark day in America when “judgmental” became a term of opprobrium. In a universe without judgment, what is admiration worth? Long live negativity!

4. Our Verbose Fed


Finally, an analysis of the most telling statistic emerging from the Federal Reserve: the long-windedness of its press releases. According to The Economist, there appears to be a correlation between the size of bond purchases and the length-needed to explain them:

A noticeable uptick in the complexity of the FOMC statements occurred shortly after the Fed announced the start of quantitative easing in late 2008. As its balance-sheet ballooned, so too did the length of its press statements. Twice during this period the Flesch-Kincaid reading level reached 20, suggesting that Fed-watchers would need four years of postgraduate education just to parse what was going on – an onerous hurdle for a press statement that is meant to inform the public.

5. Music by the Numbers


What happens when Big Data takes over the music industry? A few lessons: radio play is still critical for hits, Facebook “likes” contribute nothing, and the second-most important factor of success is the number of visits to a band’s Wikipedia page. Also, a new problem for new music: regression to the mean:

All of our searching, streaming, downloading, and sharing is being used to answer the question the music industry has been asking for a century: What do people want to hear next?…But as labels have gotten more adept at recognizing what’s selling, they’ve been quicker than ever to invest in copycats. People in the music industry are worried that the reliance on data was leading to a “clustering” of styles and genres, promoting a dispiriting sameness in pop music.

6. Martin Scorcese’s Puff Piece


What happened to Martin Scorcese? His new documentary covers 50 years of criticism published in theNew York Review of Books without a word of criticism. One reviewer decries the film’s “muffled and unrelenting piety”:

For a work titled The 50 Year Argument, the film is wrapped in a thick wadding of consensus about the brilliance of the NYRB…with no real arguments adduced about the political, literary or cultural positions it has taken over the past half-century. The lamentable result is reverent to a fault, The Last Waltz for eggheads, with the bite and spark of an hour-and-forty-five-minute infomercial.

The post appeared first on High Lantern Group.