By Walt Hickey
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! We’ll be back on Monday, Numlock subscriptions are on sale 20% off all weekend, free subscribers can expect an email Friday with a few unlocked Sunday subscriber editions for this weekend only. Thanks so much for reading!
This year, 16 giant-sized character balloons (out of 30 total) are set to be dragged down Sixth Avenue in New York for the annual Thanksgiving Day Macy’s advertisement, but that may now be in jeopardy. In 1997, The Cat in the Hat injured four people — sorry, let me be more specific, its balloon injured four people, the actual Cat in the Hat prefers property damage rather than outright assault — when it was blown by strong winds. This led to new regulations where if winds exceed 23 miles per hour or gusts exceed 34 miles per hour, New York City will not let you waltz down the Avenue of the Americas with a helium-filled 50-foot Minion, it’s just the rules. This year, the National Weather Service is forecasting winds of 22 miles per hour (so still good) and gusts of 39 miles per hour (no!) during the parade, so it’ll be touch and go. The last time the balloons were grounded was in 1971. Listen, literally nothing would bring me more joy than watching a 64-foot-long Elf on the Shelf break free of its moorings and careen into the East River, but we must be sensible about the risks here.
Billboard is a company that used to tabulate album sales but has since had to resort to increasingly esoteric calculations to answer the question of “music, what of it is good and liked this week?” They’ve since incorporated things like streams and digital purchases, but have now announced a new rule that will go into effect in 2020 that’ll make it a little more difficult to make merch sales aid album sales. Right now, when an artist-branded piece of merch is sold as a bundle with a copy of the album, those sales count for charting purposes once the physical copy ships or the digital album gets fulfilled. This allows artists to get sneaky, and effectively book T-shirt sales as album sales if they get clever with the bundle or make the merch exclusive. The new rules try to tamp down on a surge in those techniques — almost every No. 1 album this year has used bundling — by requiring all merch in a bundle to also be available independently. Album sales through Nov. 21 are down 19 percent from the same point last year. 2018 was a down year itself, with the 141 million albums being the lowest number moved since electronic tracking started in 1991.
U.S. consumers in 2019 spend $19 billion on streaming services, a figure projected to increase to $41.2 billion by 2024. The money streaming companies spend to secure content — today $116 billion — will grow to a projected $144 billion by 2024, per the estimates from Cowen. Now if you’re doing the math, you may observe a minor issue related to what happens when you subtract costs from revenues, and then wonder what on earth is happening. The reason to get people signed up is obvious when you look at the cable and satellite part of the ledger, currently $91.9 billion and projected to slip to $78.5 billion by 2024.
For the first time since Gallup first asked the question, a considerable majority of Americans say life imprisonment is a better punishment for murder than the death penalty. When first asked in 1985, 34 percent of respondents favored life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility for parole to 56 percent for execution. That majority held until the late 1990s, when the issue began to tighten and just 49 supported the death penalty to 47 percent in favor of life, and as recent as 2014 just 45 percent backed life in prison versus 50 percent for the death penalty. A tectonic shift happened since, with 60 percent of respondents backing life imprisonment without parole for murder compared to just 36 percent for the death penalty.
States observed a 7 percent increase in sales tax revenue from June to September of this year compared to the same period of 2018, which is attributed in large part to the fact that states may collect online sales tax following a Supreme Court decision. However, localities hoping to benefit from the law appear high and dry. It’ll be quite some time before cities and towns see their sales tax rates implemented into online retail platforms, and even then it is believed to be greatly unlikely that they come out in the black after factoring in the local retail downsizing and job losses that accompany a bump in online sales.
Though Black Friday is late this year, social media influencers are already doing a ton of business when it comes to getting paid promotions out in the wild. With 20 percent of all retail sales occurring in November and December, and sales projected to hit as much as $730.7 billion, now is the busy time for influencers hawking holiday gifts. Marketers will drop anywhere from $4.1 billion to $8.2 billion on influencers to promote their product, and the holidays see a major bump in sponsored posts. According to data from an influencer marketing platform, last year from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21 influencers ran sponsored posts at a clip 30 percent higher than typical, and users of one such platform are already running 40 percent more campaigns this quarter than they did last year.
Approximately 50,000 art and antiquities thefts occur annually, a tiny fraction of which are actually recovered. The market for stolen art is estimated to be up to $6 billion annually. One reason is that the art market is already a bit dodgy when it comes to the origin, chain of ownership and rightful possession of works — making serious inquiries of the exact circumstances with which an artifact was absconded from its country of origin, or the precise nature of the transactions that occurred during this or that war are unlikely to turn us a wholesome and heartwarming origin story. That’s one reason hopes are low after an alarming burglary of Dresden’s Green Vault, where “impossible to sell” and uninsured crown jewels were robbed this past weekend.
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