Saturday, March 25, 2017

Understanding Google’s Advertising Problem | MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

“Why does Rice play Texas?”

President John F. Kennedy, the “Moon Speech” Sept. 12, 1962

If you’ve been aghast at the reporting on Google’s advertising problem, it’s important to distinguish which is more shocking–that they did it, that they got caught, or that anyone thought it serious enough to report on.  Because it is an entirely predictable problem.

I wrote about the problem starting around 2012 or so with our coverage of the beginning of “programmatic trading” (“A New Meaning for Real Time Bidding: An artist’s guide to how the brands and ad agencies profit from advertising supported piracy“) with a link to this graphic from Advertising Perspectives post titled “Are Ad Exchanges and Real Time Bidding the Next Big Thing” (  The 2017 answer to that rhetorical question asked five years ago is obviously “yes”:


The issue for Google is that ads are served to users and not to the websites that share the revenue.  As the Wall Street Journal reported today:

When marketers or advertising agencies buy ads from Google and other online ad providers, those ads are typically targeted to people with certain interests or demographic profiles. In other words, they are buying a target audience, not space on particular websites. It is up to Google to target ads at the desired people. Even when ads appear on sites and videos marketers don’t want to be associated with, there’s every chance they’ve been delivered to people matching the desired profile.

The problem for ad networks utilizing this method is that when it comes to advertising, the context is everything.  Just because you can target the audience doesn’t give much value if the context is wrong.  Even though the brand may not technically be buying space on particular websites, Google is serving the ad to an ad publisher which is why ads for certain goods seem to follow you around from site to site in Google’s vast network.  (Which is also how Google knows who to share the revenue with.)

In the case of YouTube, Google is serving the ad to itself through its own network–so Google has about as much control over the context as it seems likely anyone could have.

Yet Google is telling brands (and everyone else who will listen) that it’s just too hard to deliver both targeted users and acceptable context.  So is everyone just supposed to give up and let Google make the money because winning is hard and Google has a monopoly on digital advertising?

Why does Rice play Texas?


The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore | Lefsetz Letter

I can’t get this song out of my head.

I needed to hear something familiar, so I dialed up Classic Vinyl on Sirius XM. But when I hit a clunker I switched to 60’s on 6 and heard this, which I didn’t want to listen to, because the Walker Brothers never really made it over here, but I kept listening because something deep in my memory bank told me there was an entrancing change a’ comin’, and it did!

The sun ain’t gonna shine anymore
The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky
The tears are always clouding your eyes
When you’re without love, baby

And it’s not about the words, I don’t think I ever understood their meaning until I just wrote them down, but the sound. The way the verse segues into this release, wherein the vocalist is suddenly set free, able to reveal his innermost feelings. Then again, there’s a scrim between you and him, it’s a Wall of Sound production even though it wasn’t produced by Phil Spector, but Bob Crewe, who got some ink upon his death back in 2014, having mostly to do with his sexual preference, which was unknown by the general public back in his heyday, but those of us who purchased 45’s knew his name, for it was all over the Four Seasons records, and as a matter of fact, Crewe cowrote this song with Bob Gaudio, and the original version was recorded by Frankie Valli the year before, ’65, after the Four Seasons had started to fade, but it didn’t quite break into the Hot 100, but when rerecorded by the Walker Brothers it went all the way to number one in the U.K., but it did not dominate in the U.S., it went to number 13, which meant it was not ubiquitous and in many markets was barely played at all, because really only a few records get spun religiously and in the days before MTV, before the codification of FM by Lee Abrams, radio was oftentimes regional, kind of like the food, I went to Park City and saw the same damn chains I see in L.A., from Subway to Burger King, and I revel in the fact that I no longer have to go blindly into some faceless emporium to eat the equivalent of shoe leather, which I remember quite vividly outside of Yellowstone Park back in ’74, they called it roast beef but it might as well have been billed Florsheim, but the point is you used to leave home and it was different, and now, statistically, no one leaves at all, they just stay where they are, not being able to afford to go where the jobs are, but the point is it used to be exciting to take a drive and listen to what was being played elsewhere before radio became homogenized and the satellite came along to save us.

And the weird thing is the Walker Brothers are American. But they had to go overseas to make it. Huge stars in the U.K. they became, and we heard their name now and again but we rarely heard their music, but tonight…

The Frankie Valli take is so out of time as to be almost laughable. You’ll hear the intro and know why this didn’t hit in the era of the British Invasion and then Frankie sings the verses like it could be the phone book, back when we had those, and then he belts the chorus in his classic way, albeit a bit reservedly, and it’s the same song but it’s completely different. You’re listening to the Valli version, but you want to know the singer of the Walker Brothers iteration, it’s all dark and mysterious.

The intro is hokey, but then it locks into a Gene Pitney feel and a deep vocal takes over akin to a Righteous Brother….

Loneliness is the cloak you wear

The scourge of life that’s somehow absent from modern art. Remember when songs were about the human condition, when you listened not to be a member of a group, but to bond with the singer in a twosome, a marriage where you felt safe and understood?

Emptiness is the place you’re in
Nothin’ to lose but no more to win

It’s when you’re stuck in neutral that life is worst. When you’re out of the game, when victory or defeat are not in the equation, only stasis.

You listen to the Walker Brothers’ recording and you visualize a whole movie. He’s lost without her, on the edge of despair, he’s got to testify, tell you, but it’s more than that, you can see through the record into the studio, a big room with everybody there at the same time, the rockers and the classicists, the electric instruments and the acoustic, the backup vocalists, the producer in a sweater.

It’s almost like a western. Something one step removed. What used to be. You’re intrigued. Deep inside there’s not only a story, but humanity.

Lonely, without you, baby
Girl, I need you
I can’t go on

The chorus is the hook, but it’s this interlude that makes the track a classic, it slows down and the truth is revealed.

And now you know what music was like fifty years ago. You couldn’t make it at home, you needed professionals in a studio, and they were shooting for the stars, doing their best to create something from heaven, that lasted forever, that would imprint itself upon listeners’ brains and make them buy it so they could hear it again and again, to get that same reflective feeling, from an era when music was totally personal, when melody was more important than the beat, when you sang along to bond yourself to the magic, when radio was a living, breathing thing and you never knew what you’d tune in and hear, when all the hits weren’t made by the same people, when every track was just a bit different, when music’s goal was to impart wisdom while at the same time taking you away, soothing you, helping guide you through life.

And the funny thing is the more they sing about the sun not shining anymore the more your own brain clears, the more optimistic you become.

That’s the power of a hit record.

That’s the power of music.

The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore – Spotify


Trumpcare Fails | Lefsetz Letter

This is what happens when entertainment abdicates its responsibility.

Reality triumphs.

The movie business is in decline, the China it depended upon has sputtered, if it weren’t for increased prices grosses would have tanked. And this is a result of the studios giving the public what it thinks it wants.

Nobody knows what the public wants. William Goldman was correct. Nobody knows anything in Hollywood. And now all the focus is on D.C.

This calcification, this predictability, this rule-abiding has infected music too. Credit Beyonce and Eric Church and most recently Drake for messing with the distribution paradigm, but they’re still selling albums even if they call them playlists and what they contain is moribund, we need more experimentation, speaking to the disenfranchised.

We’ve got a business selling hip-hop in a world where forty percent will never listen to the sound.

We’ve got a preponderance of beats and an absence of melody.

We’ve got songs written by committee because we’re afraid of individuality.

What we’re looking for is tracks that speak to those without a voice, those who are not rich or elected or in control of the press.

Instead, we’ve got an insularity that turns off fans and an overwhelming amount of fake music.

There are so many records by so many people demanding our attention that we can’t even find the good stuff. On a regular basis people e-mail me songs that have hundreds of millions of streams which I’ve never heard of. Try Duke Dumont’s “Ocean Drive,” links below, which made it to number one on the dance chart but only number forty on the Top Forty so most people have never heard of it, despite having 245,513,819 views on YouTube and 105,336,472 streams on Spotify. Who is gonna cut out the detritus and focus us on that which we need to hear? I mean I knew Dumont’s name, but with so much crap pushed down my throat I can’t see the forest for the trees, like an average American.

Or if Duke’s one listen smash is not your cup of tea, how about Mudcrutch’s “Hungry No More,” from their second album, “2.” If you lived through the seventies and eighties, when rock was king and you sat in front of the stereo stoned nodding your head, this’ll reach you, sit through the whole thing, as the aural adventure unfolds.

So, there is good new stuff out there, but it’s not getting to the public. The same way people don’t know the truth about the Affordable Care Act or globalization or so many of the issues dominating the economic landscape.

Then again, money is the root denominator, the only thing we think about more is love, although if you’ve got no mazuma good luck getting laid.

So, we’ve got a cornucopia of information and little coherence in music. No wonder it’s static, we need to entrance the public. But people are being force fed retreads and are saying no mas. When the truth is they want something brand new that’s different, they want someone to lead them to greatness the same way Elizabeth Warren cuts through the fog by speaking truth.

But maybe you don’t agree with that.

But your party just lost. Because when given the power you couldn’t get it done.

The artists have been given the power for fifteen years. They can record for nearly free, distribute for nearly free, publicize for nearly free, but all they can do is bitch that the game is rigged or put out derivative drivel.

It’s time to rise above. It’s time to lead.

Music has power. It can influence not only hearts, but minds. The Food Network turned the average American into a gourmand. Great new music can change people’s beliefs and make them take action.

Watching what was happening in D.C. was more riveting than anything coming out of the entertainment industrial complex, and we still have no idea where it’s going to end up, kinda like trying to predict “Sgt. Pepper” from “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” There’s gerrymandering, there are more Democratic Senate seats up for grabs the next election than Republican and…

Who’s gonna lead us out of the wilderness?

Artists. If they just grab the wheel and start to drive.

“Ocean Drive”



“Hungry No More”



P.S. “Hungry No More” has only 46,123 views on YouTube and 90,848 streams on Spotify. In other words, greatness is not enough. The cream can no longer rise to the top, like truth in our country at large. You need to push it, make people aware of it.

P.P.S. I like to get excited about things, I like to be passionate about things, I like to feel alive and following the shenanigans in D.C. I feel this way, but too often I feel dull when hyped and exposed to music, but there’s nothing as enticing as a track that titillates and stimulates, it’s just that we’re venerating wankers playing by the rules instead of celebrating those who think outside of the box and test limits.


The Bob Dylan Interview | Lefsetz Letter

The Bob Dylan Interview

Q&A with Bill Flanagan
Mar 22, 2017
Exclusive to

Won’t get anybody to listen to the music. Actually, all you need to know is revealed in the answer wherein he says he listens to music on CDs. The plastic discs were supposed to be an improvement on vinyl, permanent and clear, but now the world has bifurcated, into vinyl purists and on demand streamers and if you’re listening to digital discs it just proves that you’re out of the loop. When did Bob Dylan become such an old fart? Then again, he’s 75.

Don’t get your knickers in a twist. If we can’t criticize the giants we cannot push them to test the limits and exceed their previous work. We’ve been giving Dylan a pass for far too long. I’ll piss him off, and his Grammy speech taught us he’s listening, intently, and say the last great thing he did was “Things Have Changed” from the “Wonder Boys” soundtrack. It was a one-off. Which percolated in the marketplace long after the movie stiffed, even though it was quite good, better than the book, then again, Michael Chabon’s one who’s gotten an unjust pass himself, too much focus on the writing and too little on the plot and I’ll posit his best work was his very first, “The Mysteries Of Pittsburgh,” but now I’m getting so obscure and referential you might be lost. I’m doing what Dylan is doing in this interview, and it’s utterly fascinating.

Getting back to the marketing element, in today’s world it’s so hard to gain attention that your product must be available simultaneous with the hype. Just ask Drake, who just proved it, or Beyonce. It’s only old farts inured to the movie business who believe in the buildup. To tell you the truth if “Triplicate” had been on Spotify today I would have checked out some of the cuts Dylan talks about, but I won’t when it’s released, whenever that might be, because I will have already moved on to new stuff and Bob’s disappointed me with his frog-throat voice and rearranged songs for far too long unless I hear from a trustworthy source I’m missing out. Then again, Dylan’s from a previous generation, he’s like God coming down from the mountaintop with the tablets, we pay attention to him, we don’t need no stinking penumbra. But I’ll bet your life and mine that this interview is better than the three disc set. Because that’s what Bob does best, opine, give us insight into the culture. He’s now lived long and is still obfuscating whilst revealing truth and instead of covering old chestnuts he should be blogging, now’s when we need him most, when our country is in turmoil, we’re looking for insight, we’re looking for art, we’re ready for his tricks. Instead he’s bunting, using up his capital hyping a project that no one cares about that will be instantly forgotten, like his previous cover LPs, and if you think he doesn’t care then why did he do this interview in the first place? A fake one to boot. Bill Flanagan is interviewing him but it debuts on Bob’s own site? Did Flanagan even get paid? Hell, Flanagan’s questions are the worst part, it’s Dylan’s cryptic answers that intrigue. Riddled with truth and falsehood. Bob’s the original Keyser Soze. We don’t know what to believe, but we can’t stop paying attention.

So just when we need him most, when he could put out one cut that could change the world, Dylan overloads us with irrelevant product in a world where we’ve got no time. How come all the old acts can’t come up to speed. Not only should the release be day and date with the hype, but one track is enough, we’ve got time to listen to one track. And then follow it up with another not that far down the line. We’re interested in what Dylan has to say, but the fawning press has been kissing his ass for so damn long that we’ve gone on react and are tuning his work out. Because how many times can you go to the well and find out it’s dry?

Dylan makes Minnesota come alive. Cites Twin Cities bands from far after he left. Creates myths about his family and friends not knowing or caring about his appearance on “Ed Sullivan” when he was always close to his mother and even brought her to a Yetnikoff event. Bob’s creating a character, who knows who he really is, and when he says he’s got nothing to say and is not worthy of the hang time you either protest too much or roll your eyes and say “there he goes again,” evading the punch, dancing like a butterfly while he stings us like a bee.

Yes, Dylan’s still here, unlike Muhammad Ali. And his insight and chops are as sharp as ever. But he’s squandering them. He refuses to reach for the stars. Refuses to write a song that will change the world. Refuses to come down off the mountaintop and interact with us in the new world. Sure, he did that XM series, but imagine Dylan on Twitter or YouTube. Imagine him writing with Drake. Imagine him risking.

Because he still cares. And he’s still stuck in the old ethos, where music is everything and you’re a student of the game. Bob Dylan still gives a damn, in a world where most aged acts are only about the bread, collecting cash from Live Nation when they pass Go!, and plying the boards endlessly giving people what they want. Dylan never played that game, he gave us what we needed. And what we need now more than ever is leaders who make us think for ourselves, who sharpen our vision, who get us to investigate and come up with our own conclusions, to question authority and brave the road untaken. This interview is a marvelous start, but the “Triplicate” project is a nonstarter, dead on arrival in a world where what happens in the morning is already forgotten in the afternoon and if you take chances and create greatness you can impact society, but there’s no greatness in covering aged tunes, however much insight they might contain, not when your voice is ragged and nearly unlistenable. For that, you’ve got to write a song that’s solely your own. We’re waiting Bob…


Certain Songs #829: Kanye West – “School Spirit” | Medialoper

Album: The College Dropout
Year: 2004

One of the most polarizing figures in the current musical landscape, it’s almost guaranteed that Kanye West will be remembered by future generations — long after whatever stupid-ass shit he said and did outside of the music that he produced (or, I guess, in his lyrics) — as one of the absolute indisputable musical geniuses of the early 21st century.

To me — and this will probably piss off a lot of the folks who “just don’t like” Kanye — the musical figure he most reminds me of is Jimmy Page.

Heh. But Jimmy Page is one of the greatest guitar players ever, you say. Yeah, but it will be my argument when I get to Zeppelin in a couple of months that for all of Page’s awesomeness as a guitarist, his true genius resided in how he layered those guitars.

What Jimmy Page was to the production of guitars — both in terms of stealing from the past and in terms of how precise his sonic sculptures — Kanye West is to the production of the human voices.

On a song like “School Spirit,” from his 2004 debut The College Dropout, back when his insane ambition seemed more charming than scary, listen to how the voices act like guitars right from the opening chant/riff.

Alpha, step, Omega, step
Kappa, step, Sigma, step
Gangstas walk, pimps gon’ talk
Oh hecky naw that boy is raw
AKA, step. Delta, step
S G Rho, step, Zeta, step
Gangstas walk, pimps gon’ talk
Oh hecky naw that boy is raw

And with a speeded-up Aretha Franklin sample providing commentary and licks throughout, “School Spirit” is free to have Kanye and Tony Williams rap, sing and “whoo” whenever they want until they wordlessly hum together at the end.

I’ll fully admit that I didn’t get all of this until just a couple of years ago. I checked out The College Dropout when it came out — it was pretty inescapable — but it wasn’t until I went back to revisit his records in the wake of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy that I think I fully appreciated what he was doing.

“School Spirit”

Every Certain Song Ever
A filterable, searchable & sortable database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.

Check it out!

Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)

Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page


@thetrichordist: Timely Reprint: Do You Want Your Music Alongside Hate Rock Songs? Artist Face YouTube Music Dilemma | MUSIC • TECHNOLOGY • POLICY

In light of the Google/YouTube boycott by brands whose ads have appeared next to hate speech. We thought we’d reprint this piece from November 2014!! Forget exploitative pay from Spotify! Do you want your music on YouTube Music? Will you be alongside Hate rock songs? Jihadi Recruitment Music Videos? Probably. YouTube is full of this.

via @thetrichordist: Timely Reprint: Do You Want Your Music Alongside Hate Rock Songs? Artist Face YouTube Music Dilemma — Artist Rights Watch


Rightscorp Boss Signs Deal That Could Be Bad News For Pirates | TorrentFreak

Anti-piracy outfit Rightscorp is famous for tracking pirates on BitTorrent networks and sending them bills attached to ISP DMCA notices. They ask for a relatively small amount, around $20 to $30, in the hope that people settle quickly.

Unfortunately for them, the company is a miserable performer and has lost millions over the past few years. On a good day its stock is worth around $0.04. On a bad one, barely half of that.

Last June, Rightscorp announced that it had hired a new chief financial officer. Cecil Bond Kyte, a former CEO and Chairman of Save the World Air, Inc. (STWA), was said by the company to possess unique and valuable skills, particularly in the fields of company management experience and capital raising.

“Under his stewardship, STWA grew from roughly $10 million in market capitalization in 2007 to an in excess of $350 million by 2013,” Rightscorp said.

At the time, the CEO of Rightscorp was Christopher Sabec. However, on February 14, 2017, Sabec resigned to take up the position of company president. Immediately, Cecil Kyte took over as CEO.

One month later and Rightscorp’s new CEO has signed a rather interesting deal with the company. In a March 18 filing, Rightscorp reveals it has entered into a three-year deal with Kyte, which on completion will renew every year. However, it’s the financial aspects that are perhaps most interesting.

Kyte will initially receive an annual base salary of $150,000. However, that will increase to $250,000 if the company can generate $100,000 in gross monthly revenue for three consecutive months.

Rightscorp is due to publish its latest set of financial results, which may reveal some improvement. However, during the three months ended September 30, Rightscorp struggled to generate just $139,834 in total, around $46K per month. On that basis, Kyte needs to double turnover to get his $250,000 salary.

The incentives do not stop there, though. If the company’s new CEO can guide Rightscorp beyond $2,500,000 in gross revenue in any one year period, he can take home a salary of $350,000. That will increase to $500,000 “upon the Company’s receipt of an aggregate of $10,000,000 in cumulative gross revenue.”

Although his $50k signing bonus will have been welcomed by Kyte (not to mention the five million shares of common stock he’ll receive “upon execution of the employment agreement”), achieving these kinds of figures seems like a big ask.

In the year ended 2014, Rightscorp had revenues of $930,729 but made a loss of $2,852,705. In the year ended 2015, Rightscorp generated lower revenues of $832,215 but somehow managed to lose even more – $3,434,567. Interestingly, however, Kyte’s deal doesn’t appear to be linked to Rightscorp turning a profit in any way, since it’s a turnover-focused arrangement.

That being said, with so many shares involved it’s clearly in Kyte’s interest to see Rightscorp develop into a successful company, but can that be achieved? A few clues exist.

Last March, when the anti-piracy outfit was explaining away another set of terrible results, it made several observations.

First, that there had been “changes in the filesharing software intended to defeat detection of copyrights being illegally distributed.” That was interpreted as a reference to increased uptake of anonymity services, such as VPNs. If Rightscorp is looking for an improvement in this area, it probably needs to reassess.

Second, the company said that the “shutting down of some filesharing network infrastructure” had made it more difficult to track pirates. Rightscorp didn’t elaborate, but it’s possible that the demise of several large torrent trackers during the previous year made Rightscorp’s job of harvesting IP addresses a lot more difficult.

Third, the company said that fewer ISPs were passing on its notices, but this is an area that might potentially offer Rightscorp a ray of hope. Although the battle is still ongoing, Rightscorp customer BMG has booked some significant legal wins against Cox Communications in the United States, something which might persuade other ISPs to play ball with Rightscorp in the future.

The other big unknown is whether Rightscorp will change its business model or, more specifically, the pricing structure for its fines.

As the company notes, the pool of torrent users it can track for payment is currently diminishing. While there are still plenty to go at, trying to extract $40, $50 or $60 from each pirate (instead of $20 or $30) would do wonders for turnover with little to no extra costs involved.

And, with other companies getting involved in the space demanding around $300 per shot, an inflated Rightscorp ‘fine’ might start being perceived as a bit of a bargain, if pirates begin to take them seriously.

Only time will tell how Kyte’s influence will play out in public, but with Rightscorp’s annual results due very soon, it’s expected that the company could be very close to reaching its do-or-die moment. In avoiding the latter, it could be pirates that suffer.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.