Numlock News: November 11, 2022 • Luck, Thundercat, Greenwash
By Walt Hickey
Have a great weekend!
Record labels are constantly trying to keep pace with TikTok and cash in on the explosive popularity it can bring to music, even releasing new iterations of music in order to try to get into the sweet spot. Case in point is when songs get sped up by TikTok users and then go massively viral, as seen for instance with the Thundercat song “Them Changes.” That song originally came out at 82 beats per minute, but in September an account posted a remix that cranked up the BPM to 114 beats per minute, which led to streams doubling. Fearing that the new fans would be put off by the speed of the original, the independent label released an official sped-up version to streaming services, which got the song charting for the first time ever.
Syngenta and Corteva are two colossal farm technology companies, each of which became the subject of separate class-action lawsuits this week alleging that they pay off distributors to block less-expensive generic pesticides from getting on shelves with “loyalty programs” that reward them only if they limit business with competing manufacturers. The class-actions follow a suit filed at the end of September by the Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of 10 states alleging the same. The farmers want a jury trial on anti-trust violations that include conspiracy to restrain trade, monopolization, unjust enrichment and state laws reflecting the same.
A new study analyzed 1,168,194 sentences within 1,706 academic reports from 26 university energy research centers, three of which got their funding primarily from the natural gas industry. The study found that the three university energy research centers that were funded primarily by fossil fuel interests were more favorable to natural gas in their work than they were to renewable energy, while the effect was reversed at the centers that were less reliant on funding from fossil fuel interests.
Men of Good Fortune
Football, to some acclaim, is renowned as a game of inches. It’s also absolutely a game of luck. All sorts of lucky or unlucky things can happen to a team that is completely out of their control, like a dropped interception by an opponent, a dropped pass by an opponent, a field goal or extra point by the opponent missing or going in, or a fumble recovery either way. In the aggregate, those add up, and it’s actually possible to determine the lucky and unlucky teams in a given season by how those contribute to wins and losses. In weeks 1 through 9, the luckiest teams are Pittsburgh (which added 2.00 wins through lucky events), the New York Giants (1.97 wins added) and Washington (1.67 wins added), and the unluckiest teams are Cincinnati (0.79 wins lost by luck) and Carolina (1.20 wins subtracted by luck). It’s hardly the first time that applied stats differ with the wisdom on the ground: Obviously so far this season Washington is the luckiest team, because Dan Snyder indicated he’s going to finally sell that godforsaken team.
The number of chain pharmacies in the United States declined by 6 percent from 2017 to 2021, and this year is far from better as giants like CVS announce large store closures. The stores cite shoplifting as a major factor, and while that’s up for a bit of debate — the industry’s own National Retail Security Survey measured the average shrink rate in 2021 at 1.44 percent, down from the previous two years and overall on par with the past five — that hasn’t stopped the chain pharmacy business from putting up walls of locked plexiglass into their stores to cut down on thefts of razor blades, deodorant and more. They wouldn’t be doing that unless they saw a reason for it: Sales drop 5 to 25 percent when one of those locked plastic cases go up in front of a product.
FTX (Memorial?) Arena
The implosion of crypto exchange FTX, which has rocked markets both decentralized and centralized, is having reverberations in the sports world as well because of the rush among crypto companies to buy up the naming rights to arenas and fields. It’s a common strategy for volatile industries to buy up the rights to brick and mortar arenas to get a bit of permanence in the minds of viewers, as seen in the dot-com era and the time before the financial crisis. Anyway, FTX paid $135 million to buy the naming rights to the Miami Heat arena for the next 19 years, about $10 million to sponsor the Golden State Warriors, and $210 million to name an esports team.
As part of plans for a merger of Albertsons and Kroger grocery stores, the Albertsons’ management was planning to pay out $4 billion in a special dividend to its private equity owners. Many cried foul at this, as this was most of the actual cash the company had, and if it was completely illiquid it could hypothetically argue to regulators that they were broke and just had to merge with Kroger or otherwise they would face immediate bankruptcy. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union argued it would also give them leverage in a union negotiation next spring, where the grocer could plead poverty. It was scheduled to have been disbursed on Monday, but it’s on hold after a King County Superior Court commissioner last Thursday slammed the brakes. Kroger is the second-largest grocer in the U.S. after Walmart, and Albertsons is the fourth-largest, with 2,200 stores in 34 states operating under names like Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Acme and Tom Thumb.
This week in the Numlock Sunday, I spoke to Sarah Frier about what’s become a somewhat disastrous quarter for social networking companies. Facebook has seen its company’s value crash this year amid serious investment in unproven metaverse businesses, and last week marked Elon Musk’s first as the top dog at Twitter. Sarah is the author of No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, and she’s also the big tech editor at Bloomberg.
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