The reality of the charts

You can’t make a living selling classical recordings in America (which presumably means anywhere):

A leaked copy of the SoundScan figures for a single week from the fall tells an equally sad tale. In early October, pianist Murray Perahia’s much-praised album of Bach partitas was in its sixth week on the list, holding strong at No. 10. It sold 189 copies. No. 25, the debut of the young violinist Caroline Goulding, in its third week, sold 75 copies.

via Classical artists such as Hilary Hahn chart big on Billboard with little sales –

Which begs the question: how many records are being sold in the mainstream charts? Classical music represents 3% of recorded music sales. So if you can get to No.10 with 189 sales in America in classical, can you get to No. 10 with (189/3)*100, or 6,300 sales?

Running numbers on Amazon v. Macmillan

Some consumers have objected that e-books must be cheaper to make than ink-on-paper books. A simple cost breakdown by Money magazine last year, however, suggested that only about 10 percent of a book's list price goes to printing. But ink-on-paper books have to be shipped, stored, and (when they go unsold) returned, and e-books would be spared these costs, too, as this analysis suggests. Also, according to TBI Research, because e-books are likely to end up with a lower list price after the dust clears, author royalties, calculated as a percentage of the list price, are likely to be lower, too—additional savings! Yay! When all these savings are added up, do you succeed in dropping a list price of $28 to one of $9.95? That’s a big drop. Profit margins at book publishers now are rumored to be no more than 10 percent, where they exist at all. It may not be possible for a single company to publish e-books at that price and also retain the infrastructure necessary to publish ink-on-paper books.

via Clash of the titans – Steamboats Are Ruining Everything.

Art for Haiti

(Here’s a message from Merlin, the charity for which I am a Trustee, and which is doing sterling, amazing, brilliant work on the ground in Haiti).

The Haiti earthquake has, as you will be aware,  generated a ground swell of support from every corner of society.   Six British artists and Giles Baker-Smith of GBS Fine Art have come together to donate six fantastic pieces to raise funds for Merlin’s work in Haiti. With five pieces available for individuals, this unique online fundraising appeal and prize draw, limited to 100 tickets, provides you with a 1 in 20 chance of winning a piece of art.  And for corporations we have one larger installation, which would sit well in a corporate setting.  Tickets for this piece are £500, with only 20 tickets available.  All the pieces, valued between £1,500 and £6,500, are on offer today, so please read on for details of how to enter the prize draw and make your donation to Merlin’s emergency response in Haiti.  Both draws are a great opportunity to support the Haiti Appeal and have the chance of winning some great art! Do pass this on to anyone who may be interested.

For Individuals: To enter the prize draw click this dedicated link and make a minimum recommended donation of £100*

For Corporates: To purchase one of only 20 tickets click here and enter today.

The artists in question are: Sean Fairman, who has provided the corporate piece; Emily Allchurch; Veronica Bailey (and in relation to her piece, by kind donation of Coutts & Co); Susannah Baker-Smith; and Robert Davies.  Merlin extends a huge thank you to these artists and to Giles Baker-Smith who initiated this appeal.

More information on the Art for Haiti Appeal can be found here and further details on the artists and the specifications of the pieces can be found here at

For more information on Merlin’s work in Haiti please visit:

An amazing statistic to ponder

Recent research from ResearchICTAfrica reveals that Kenyans are spending incredible amounts on mobile communication as a proportion of income. Here’s how it breaks down. The average Kenyan spends over 50% of their disposable income on mobile communication. For the bottom 75% of the population, that figure goes up to 63.6%. In terms of total individual income, the average Kenyan spends 16.7% of their income on mobile communication. That figure rises to 26.6% when looking at the bottom 75% of the population. These figures are astounding. It highlights the fact that Africans are paying for mobile communication in spite of how expensive it is, not because of how affordable it is.

via Mobile Operators, Price Gouging, Innovation, and Txteagle — A Critique by Steve Song |

Robin Sloan on stock and flow

# Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind peo­ple that you exist.

# Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the con­tent you pro­duce that’s as inter­est­ing in two months (or two years?) as it is today. It’s what peo­ple dis­cover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, build­ing fans over time.

via Stock and flow « Snarkmarket.

Some wise words on free speech

Sarah Ditum, writing about Catherine Bennett’s piece on Rod Liddle:

So, there’s no organised effort to get Rod Liddle imprisoned, tortured, fined or even made to sit on the naughty step for what he’s published. Just a strong and widespread feeling that he’d be a disaster in the job. And despite what Bennett suggests, freedom of speech means, exactly, freedom of speech. Not “freedom to edit national newspapers”. And definitely not “freedom from being criticised by anyone who doesn’t have a newspaper column”. Because when Bennett worries that “Public figures will become ever blander in their views” if they continue to be exposed to opposition, what she’s arguing is that public figures should be protected from opposition.

via The Paperhouse guide to free speech « Paperhouse.

One wonders what on earth has happened to Catherine Bennett, who used to be trenchant and clever and now comes across like some watered-down urban Melanie Phillips. this recent column begins “perhaps it’s just age” which seems to me the intellectual equivalent of throwing in the towel and declining any curiosity in anything new.

The thin end of the wedge Part XXV

SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, an 18th-century jurist who wrote a famous four-volume history of English law, described a man’s right to trial by his peers as “the principal bulwark of our liberties”. Almost 250 years later, this way of dispensing justice has greatly diminished; magistrates routinely hear criminal cases without jurors. However, for the past four centuries serious crimes in England and Wales have always been tried before a jury. On January 12th the trial of four men accused of armed robbery began at the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard by a judge alone, the first such case in modern times

via A trial without a jury: Peerless | The Economist.

Value what’s important

Charles Leadbeater writes a rallying call for all of us to reconsider money and its place in society. It’s wonderful. It’s quixotic. It’s inspiring. It’s insane.

When money serves a “something more”, then consumption has a point. When the link is broken, modern, money-driven society loses its anchor. The challenge for politics ought to be to turn that insight into policy and politics by putting money in a more subordinate position in society.

A cornerstone of this would be to recognise the already vast non-monetary economy on which most of life depends. Most of the work of caring for children and elderly parents is done for free, mainly by women. A society that wants to age well should promote the non-monetary values of volunteering and relationships. Consumerism is not a good training for later life. Helping people to participate and contribute, to remain active and independent for as long as possible, is.

The young are also fostering non-monetary economies through the web’s growing culture of mass barter and sharing. The CouchSurfing community, in which browsers, most of them young, arrange to sleep for free on one another’s sofas when visiting a city, has more than a million members. Car pools and lift-sharing schemes organised on the web, such as Zipcar and GoLoco, are thriving across the world. Freecycling, in which people give away things they don't want to others who need them, has hundreds of thousands of participants globally.

via New Statesman – The best things in life are free.

Everything you wanted to know about castrati but were afraid to ask

Excellent piece from the excellent Lucy Inglis. I haven’t lifted the para about how they castrated young boys. Read it at your peril. But this is what it did to them:

Growing up as a castrato couldn’t have been much fun. They grew tall, with long ribs, arms and legs, making them an unusual, gangly barrel-shape. Even if their voice didn’t break, there was no guarantee that it could be trained into a world-class opera ‘voice’ and most ended up singing in cathedral choirs. They were prone to weight gain, and had chubby, androgynous faces. Their hair was thick and fine, as early castration prevents male-pattern baldness (the thing that works, but no one wants the cure) and they rarely wore wigs. No facial hair, and little body hair spoiled the picture of smooth childhood grown to adult size. Much is made of the ladies of the 18thC going wild for castrati, but whilst they may have been charming and talented company, their penis remained child-sized and their sex drive was low.

via ‘A tear in each note and a sigh in each breath’: The Castrati | The Lay Scientist.