Spotify’s “sponsored content”: payola by any other name…

by Amber Healy

SpotifyIt’s too soon to know whether the new “sponsored content” policy helps artists or harms them.

Payola is the practice—the illegal practice—of a record label paying a broadcaster to play a song or artist at a higher rate than other artists.

There was a massive scandal decades ago in which radio stations were found to accept bribes to favor this artist or that one. It brought down some of the biggest names in the then-fledgling industry, including Alan Freed, the man credited with coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” and Dick Clark.

But times have changed. Things are different. And there’s no law governing the use of cold hard cash to encourage streaming platforms to promote artists for the right price. It also indicates a change in practice for Spotify, which called for a halt to payola-type practices back in 2015. At that time, the Swedish company announced it would “explicitly prohibit” users from taking cash to include songs on its curated playlists, the Financial Times reported.

Tech Crunch first noted this week that there was a new opt-out feature on Spotify, titled “Sponsored Content.”

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Score one for the First Amendment: The Slants win

by Amber Healy

In writing for the entire eight-member US Supreme Court Monday morning, Justice Samuel Alito told Simon Tam and his band, The Slants, that they were correct in their fight and justified for refusing to accept that their name was disparaging to Asian Americans and therefore ineligible for trademark protection.

“The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech. Because the ‘Free Speech Clause… does not regulate government speech’…the government is not required to maintain viewpoint neutrality on its own speech. This court exercises great caution in extending its government-speech precedents, for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.”

This was a case eight years in the process. Continue reading

US Supreme Court rules in favor of The Slants

The Slants

The Slants

by Amber Healy

In a unanimous decision Monday morning, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in favor of The Slants, the Portland, Oregon-based band that’s been fighting for years for the right to trademark their name.

In a statement released by their publicist, bassist and band founder Simon Tam says that after the

“excruciating legal battle that has spanned nearly eight years, we’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court. Continue reading

Climate Science for Everyone: How do scientists measure the temperature of the Earth?

To read other articles in this series, click here.

Figure 1: Weather station (image credit: Blundells.org)

Before we answer the question in the title above, I’m first going to ask and answer a different question: how do you measure the temperature of a glass of water?

I’m guessing that most people will answer the question with some variation of “use a thermometer.” Stick a digital or glass thermometer into the cup, measure the digital reading or look at the colored bar inside the glass, and write down the number. Done, right?

Wrong.

We didn’t measure the temperature of the cup of water at all. We measured the temperature of the water that was next to the thermometer at a time just before we looked at the thermometer. But when we put the thermometer into the water, that act changed the temperature slightly as energy flowed between the thermometer and the water.

We can try again, of course. Let’s put the thermometer into the water again and let it sit for a little while, until we think that the probe and the temperature of the water have equalized, write down the number, and we’ve got it, right?

Nope, I’m afraid not. We’re still only measuring the temperature of the water that’s next to the thermometer. Continue reading

A bitter son’s reflections on Fathers Day

I envy those of you with great fathers more than you will ever know.

It’s Father’s Day. In the past I have reposted my story on the day my father died. It’s a funny story, a sad story, an OMG story, a no fucking way that couldn’t really have happened story. If you haven’t seen it and want to, click on over.

Today, though, I want to say how happy I am for those of you who had great dads, and also to say thanks, on behalf of kids everywhere, to those of you who are great dads. I don’t know if you fully understand how much of a difference you make.

My father was not a great dad. He wasn’t the worst guy in the world, but… Continue reading

The blood-red Shimbashi dress: a photopoem

In Tokyo, the mama-san is smarter than you…

Part of my S&R Tokyo Series

I am the gorgeous dress

of your beauty,

and I have loved you for a very long time.

You are nothing to me

if not

the reflection in which I see myself

and the glitter of my age

that has sparkled in

all the ice cubes

in all the drinks I ever poured in Tokyo’s slush-fund winters.

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I’ll go where Ted Nugent just led. Zero violence!

ted-nugent-80650_960_720I just heard the most amazing interview, the Curtis & Eboni show at 77WABC:  Ted Nugent Accepts Responsibility; Says Tone Down Rhetoric

It is exactly what it sounds like. There’s a couple of moments toward the end of the twelve-ish minutes where it almost sounds like he’s tempering his statement a little, but I think if you listen for yourself and not rely on anything taken out of context later, you’ll hear a clear admission of going too far in the past and a clarion call to take it down a notch, everybody. Continue reading

Where is my tribe?

drums-2026535_960_720In the last two days I’ve been tone policed for being unkind, uncool, and tribal. Mind you, the single person doing the tone policing had nothing to say about what I signified. Typical of tone policing, it’s all about style over substance, the signifier, not the signified.

So I confess. Surprising nobody, I’m both unkind and uncool. Looked at across the great spectrum of human behavior where, oh, let’s say Hitler occupies one extreme, lacking in both kindness and coolness (well, there’s that whole fashion sense/propaganda style thing, but I digress), and on the other end there’s some saint or other noted for both kindness and coolness. Bono, maybe? I’m sure the tone police will pardon me for falling somewhere closer to the middle than not.

But am I tribal? Damned skippy. Let me tell you a little about my tribe.

We abhor political violence. Continue reading

Bay of Whigs – time’s up

us-flag-distressOn Tuesday, June 13, 2017, the United States Senate voted 97 – 2 in favor of sanctions against Russia, with one abstention, a majority so overwhelming that it invokes comparison to the congressional response to the Terror attacks of September 11, 2001. To say that the majority is veto-proof would be the very model of comedic understatement.

Early on the morning of Wednesday, June 14, 2017, the Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, was shot while playing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia. Continue reading

Horror on Capitol Hill starts at home

Scalise ShootingAs a blogger, I’m generally accustomed to crickets. The last round of chirping silence? Entirely predictable. After all, I merely wished people to stop wishing other people dead on political grounds. Silly me. I thought, given how very topical it was, maybe some folks would actually try spreading the message. Don’t worry. If you reserve the right to turn a blind eye, you’re not alone. Not even remotely.

After this morning’s news of the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia? Ghouls on the left. Ghouls on the right. Continue reading

Chelsea’s new Nike kits: five things to look for

New Chelsea/Nike is deal is good the wallet, bad for those who appreciate actual style.

Baseball sleeves, an off-brand color, a boring stripe - this US kit has it all.

Baseball sleeves, an off-brand color, a boring stripe – this US kit has it all. What can we expect from the forthcoming Chelsea designs?

I absolutely, utterly and comprehensively loathe Nike’s soccer design group. So last year, when a new 15 year, £60 million/year kit deal was signed between Nike and my beloved Chelsea FC … well, damn. Continue reading

When a company cuts jobs, it shouldn’t spin that reality with corporate bullshit

time_magazine_-_first_cover

Time magazine’s first cover

The owner of the grandparent of weekly news magazines, Time, has decided to shed 300 jobs through layoffs and buyouts to reduce its costs.

A media corporation whacking jobs to save money? That’s not surprising news in the digital era. But what continues to aggravate and irritate is the lame corporate-speak executives use to explain the “downsizing” and to insist better, more profitable days lie in the future.

Consider remarks in a memo to staff from Time Inc.’s chief executive officer, Rich Battista:

[O]ne of the key components of our go-forward strategy is reengineering our cost structure to become more efficient and to reinvest resources in our growth areas as we position the company for long-term success. Today we took a difficult but necessary step in that plan as approximately 300 of our colleagues throughout Time Inc.’s global operation will be leaving the company. …

Time Inc. is a company in rapid transformation in an industry undergoing dynamic change. Transformations do take time and patience, but I am encouraged by the demonstrable progress we are making as we implement our strategy in key growth areas, such as video, native advertising and brand extensions, and as we see positive signs of stabilizing our print business, which remains an important part of our company. [emphasis added]

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Democrats need a lesson in humility. Consider what Mike Dukakis learned.

Donald won. Hillary lost. Now the Democrats face what The New York Times called “a widening breach in their party.”

Fashion Consistent CandidatesPerched ever farther on the left is Bernie Sanders, perhaps still smarting from being stiffed by the Democratic National Committee while leading revival-style rallies of millennials and urging stiff resistance to the Donald agenda — and to the DNC’s approach to political reclamation. Then there’s the DNC and the party’s elected leaders demanding a more conservative, data-driven approach to finding votes where Hillary didn’t get them.

Oh, well. Good luck with that, Dems. Neither approach is destined for electoral redemption. Professional Democrats have tended toward elitism when selecting and supporting candidates. The national party assumed (as did virtually all media and pollsters) Hillary had an easy road covered with rose petals to the White House. The 2016 version of the Democratic Party continued its longstanding march away from those who had always supported it. The party’s elites oozed a “father knows best” attitude. Cockiness ruled after Donald became the GOP standard bearer.

Perhaps the Democratic Party, and especially the DNC, ought to consider … humility. Consider the example of Michael Dukakis as a Democratic candidate. No, not presidential candidate Dukakis of tank-driving infamy. Look at gubernatorial candidate Dukakis.

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