Numlock News: May 2, 2019 • Billy Joel, Slackers, Good Morning America
By Walt Hickey
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ASCAP announced that music revenues for 2018 amounted to $1.227 billion, which is up 7 percent over 2017, and totaling to $1.109 billion distributed to songwriters, composers and publishers. That's a new record, and one signal that the once doomed music industry is now thriving in the age of streaming. Domestic music licensing grew by 7 percent, streaming revenue was up 25 percent, and the money derived from "general and background revenue" — which encompasses 800,000 businesses forking over money so that their bars, gyms, hotels and stores don't sound eerily quiet — was up 9 percent.
I’d Rather Whine With The NIMBYs Than Fly With The Greats
Billy Joel lives in Centre Island, an island off the coast of Long Island that is home to about 185 households and — to the consternation of 181 of those households — four private helipads, one of which is used by Billy Joel to fly to Madison Square Garden for his residency. The issue roiling this community is whether or not to ban personal helipads, with opponents saying that they're tired of their island sounding like the outro to "Goodbye Saigon" while defenders point out how sweet a helicopter is when it cuts their two hour commute to 15 minutes. Since 2017, police fielded 15 formal noise complaints following choppy takeoffs and landings. Longtime residents — who my sources say argue these waters aren't what they used to be, and may believe there ain't no island left for islanders like me — struck one blow two years ago when the town's board imposed a moratorium on new helipads. In other municipal news, police say they have charged a boy from a town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island caught riding with a six pack in his hand with public intoxication.
In 2012, QSR clocked the average McDonald's drive-thru at 189 seconds, and it's gotten worse every year since: slipping slightly in 2013, but by 2018 QSR clocked the McDonald's drive-thru at a tedious 273 seconds. The company is not alone, as fast food's pursuit of more expansive menus, more variety and higher customization has led to across-the-board hikes in service times in the drive-thru. In 2003, the national average was 190 seconds, but this year QSR found the average was 234 seconds. One hope for the golden arches is in the recent acquisition of the startup Dynamic Yield — McDonald’s basically never acquires companies — which creates the kinds of personalized dynamic displays that could accelerate those lines.
Despite the promise that messaging services like Slack would make people more efficient and would help crank up productivity, the numbers aren't exactly encouraging. In 2013, employees spent just over 18 percent of their screen time in communication services like email, video or messaging apps. Thanks to the advent of messaging services like Slack, by 2019 that number was... just over 18 percent. The difference isn't that people are spending less time on those apps, just that they're spending less time in email and more in Slack. In 2013, people spent 1 percent of their time in chat or messaging apps and 13.6 percent of their time in email, and in 2019 they spend 5.2 percent of their time in chat or messaging apps and 10.4 percent in email. I don't have to be Henry Ford to tell you that's actually more time spent talking and less working.
A new survey has quantified what we all know, that Michael Strahan is the most beloved person on morning television, with 39 percent of respondents having a favorable opinion of Strahan, 19 percent having no opinion, 31 percent unaware of and 10 percent unfavorable. Other hosts scoring high marks include George Stephanopoulos (33 percent favorable), Robin Roberts (31 percent), Hoda Kotb (29 percent) and Gayle King (28 percent). I have to say, given Strahan's unfavorability numbers it's pretty wild that presumably 10 percent of respondents to this survey played quarterback in the NFL at some point between 1993 and 2007.
Men are more reluctant to go to the doctor than women: while 89 percent of women said they had at least one health-care visit in the past 12 months, only 79.5 percent of men did. Some men provided excuses: 31 percent said they only go to the doctor if they're extremely sick, 21 percent said they are healthy and thus do not need to go, 10 percent were afraid of learning something was actually wrong with them and 9 percent preferred to treat themselves. So if you ever wondered, "hey why is male life expectancy less than women's," well it's not exactly rocket science. If you'll excuse me, I have a pain in my lower back to ignore for the next ten years and speak about to absolutely no one.
This is one of those situations where someone pulled off a feat of financial engineering so clever that it's kind of hard to explain, but the gist is that not only did Vanguard figure out a way to make the proceeds to its mutual funds essentially nontaxable, they also went so far as to get a patent on the design, which is valid until 2023. The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund stopped showing capital gains in 2001 despite generating billions of dollars for investors, and by 2011 Vanguard had rolled out the design to 14 other funds, all of which have made $191 billion in gains while paying zero dollars in capital gains tax. They depend on a process termed "heartbeat trades," which is when mangers shuffle assets into and out of exchange-traded funds, so they're basically washed clean of the capital gains taxes they'd otherwise incur in another fund. Overall, $98 billion of those heartbeat trades took place last year alone. Those trades have already helped the $3 trillion equity ETF industry cut their owed tax, but the mutual fund business is three times the size, and when that patent expires it's open season.
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