Numlock News: July 16, 2018

By Walt Hickey


A music investment fund paid $23 million for a 75 percent stake in the song catalog of musician The-Dream. The musician will hold on to that last 25 percent. Song catalogs as investment vehicles are compelling, as a repertoire with enough longevity can keep earning for years down the line. If you think you’ve never heard of The-Dream, allow me to assure you that you have definitely heard The-Dream, as he’s got co-writing credits on Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It")” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby.”

Nick Mojica, XXL Mag

Built Bears

The CEO of Build-A-Bear is apologizing for the fluffy kerfuffle that resulted from the chaotic and overwhelmingly attended “pay your own age day” last Thursday. There were reports of people waiting in line for nine hours and the company had to shut down the promotion due to safety concerns. On average, bears sell for $28, and start at around $12. During the promotion, the minimum price for a custom-built bear was $1 with a maximum of $29 for those late twenty-somethings who were willing to take a day off from work for an outstanding fluffy bargain.

Scott Stump, TODAY

Comic Books

The annual look at the full state of the comic book market — comic shop, digital and bookstore — is finally in for 2017 and it appears that the North American market slipped around $70 million year-over-year in 2017 to $1.015 billion. This isn’t an awful sign, exactly: digital sales were flat overall, book stores saw a mild 1 percent decline in sales, and the minuscule newsstand business got even moreso. The real trouble is in the comic book stores, which saw a 10 percent drop in sales. The sales of graphic novels and trade paperbacks ($570 million) still wildly outpace that of individual comic books ($355 million).

John Jackson Miller, Comichron, Milton Griepp, ICv2

Thanks so much to the paid subscribers to Numlock News who make this possible. Subscribers guarantee this stays ad-free, and get a special Sunday edition. Consider becoming a full subscriber today.

Air in Bags of Chips

A new estimate that analyzed 14 different brands of chips found, on average, 43 percent of the volume of a bag of chips is air. The experiment measured the difference between the water displacement of the unopened bag and the vacuum-sealed contents of the snacks. On the high end, Cheetos bags are 59 percent air, while on the low end 19 percent of a bag of Fritos is air.

Kitchen Cabinet Kings

U.S. Youth Soccer Players

In the United States the top tier of youth soccer is centered around expensive and exclusive club teams. This emphasis on playing one sport and no others has had what appears to be a substantial effect on the injury rate. Looking at soccer-related E.R. visits, the annual rate of injuries per 10,000 players rose an estimated 111.4 percent from 1990 to 2014. Sure, U.S. youth soccer may be “hyper-exclusive” and “too expensive” and “causing injuries to children at an unprecedented rate” and “forcing specialization too soon at the athletes’ expense,” but the results speak for themselves. Why, just look at the U.S. Men’s National Team that disastrously failed to even qualify for the World Cup and tell me the sacrifice isn’t worth it.

Linda Flanagan, The Atlantic

Debt Titans

Over the past decade or so, there has been about $11 trillion in corporate borrowing thanks to low rates from central banks. Easy money is coming to an end, which could spell difficulties for overwhelmingly debt financed companies. Bloomberg found a whopping 69 companies that have both more than $5 billion in debt and have cranked up their debt levels by 50 percent or more in the past five years. The companies have, in aggregate, $1.2 trillion in bonds and loans, most of which is due in the next 7 years. It’s gonna get weird.

Shannon D. Harrington, Sally Bakewell, Christopher Cannon and Mathieu Benhamou, Bloomberg


California was in the grip of a punishing drought in 2015 and to deal with that, farmers in Fresno and Tulare county drilled a ton of wells to keep their crops alive. The 763 new wells in Fresno and 1,069 new wells in Tulare — which removed an estimated 40 cubic kilometers of groundwater — have a measurable geophysical effect. The Friant-Kern Canal is sinking into the ground as the Central Valley floor beneath it caves in. That means at certain choke points the canal has lost more than half its carrying capacity. If California voters approve Proposition 3 in November, the state will borrow $8.9 billion for water projects.

Dale Kasler and Phillip Reese, The Sacramento Bee

In yesterday’s paid subscriber-only Sunday edition, I spoke to Amanda Shendruk, a visual journalist at Quartz, wrote about the weird way that American jeans retailers size their product and the lack of sizing standards that mean that the difference between a size 16 in one store and a size 16 in another can vary by as much as eight inches. Don’t miss out, become a paid subscriber to Numlock for $5 per month.

Thank you so much for subscribing! If you're enjoying the newsletter, forward it to someone you think may enjoy it too! 

Send links to me on Twitter at @WaltHickey or email me with numbers, tips, or feedback at