business news in context, analysis with attitude

To people who believe that fundamental changes are not taking place in how people view the act of acquisition, I would submit the following statistics from Nielsen SoundScan:

• Overall consumer music purchase decisions for the past 12 months are up 19 percent over the previous 12 months.

• There have been 288 million ‘individual digital tracks” sold in the last 12 months, compared to 242 million in the previous 12 months; however, there were 99 million albums sold in the last year, as opposed to 119 million in the previous year.

• However, sales of physical CDs have decreased 20 percent from the previous year.

What does this mean?

Simply that when it comes to music – as well as movies and television programs, by the way – people are buying only what they want when they want it how they want it…and have taken virtually all the power out of the hands of marketers.

Now, clearly it is harder to order food the same way one does a song on iTunes. At least, it will be until the “Star Trek” food synthesizers become reality.

But that just means technology has to catch up with consumer attitudes.

Retailers have to do everything and anything they can to cater to the shift in the rules of acquisition (to use a Ferengi term from “Star Trek”). To ignore these fundamental shifts taking place in other industries is to risk irrelevance in other retailing segments.

And, however fast you may think this irrelevance could happen, we’d be willing to bet that it actually happen faster.

No time to waste.

Readers of MNB know that our favorite genre is the mystery novel, and we’ve discovered a writer with whom we previously were unacquainted. Bob Morris, a Florida-based journalist, has written a series of novels based in Florida and the Bahamas that are utterly charming – a bit of Elmore Leonard, a taste of Carl Hiaasen, and completely entertaining, sort of year-round beach reading.

We’ve finished the first, “Bahamarama,” and are midway through his second, “Jamaica Me Dead.” (Both are available in paperback.) His third is called “Bermuda Schwartz,” and we can’t wait to get to it.

I’ve got a pretty good movie to recommend, and an awful movie to steer you away from.

The awful movie is “Music & Lyrics,” the Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore romantic comedy, which isn’t very romantic nor particularly funny.

The only reason I went was that Mrs. Content Guy liked the idea that it was only 90 minutes long, which she preferred to the 150 run time of “Zodiac,” which I wanted to see.

Of course, it ended up that “Music & Lyrics” felt like it four hours long, we suspect only half as funny as “Zodiac.” Skip it.

The good movie was one I rented from Netflix – “The US vs. John Lennon,” a documentary about the Beatle and his battle with the Nixon administration during that time during the late sixties and early seventies when Lennon was heavily involved in the peace movement. It was particularly fascinating because of the portrayal of the counterculture at that time, though I think the movie was a little too adoring of Lennon and a little too uncritical of certain elements of the antiwar movement. But seen through the prism of the current political environment, I found it interesting.

There’s nothing like spending time with an adult child to make one feel good about the world, I think.

I’m in Chicago at the moment, because my son goes to Columbia College here, studying to be an actor and writer. (Which I keep thinking means he’s headed for a long career in foodservice, but you gotta believe.) He’s on a one-week break, but in the middle of looking for summer internships and employment, so I figured I’d come out and spend a couple of days with him. (Thank goodness for Priceline!)

We hung out yesterday, walking around the city and just chatting about movies and politics and family and generally having a great time. Went to the theater and saw a terrific production at Steppenwolf by The House theater company of a new play called “The Sparrow.”

There’s nothing like it.

One of my favorite people in the retailing business, Ric Jurgens of Hy-Vee, told me this years ago – that you have to not just treasure these moments, but you have to work to make them happen, no matter how old and independent your kids get.

He’s not a kid anymore, but my son is still a great kid. And it was great hanging with him.

If you get the chance to do the same with one of yours, don’t miss the moment.

Trust me.

Of course, because I’m in Chicago, that means I went to dinner at Bin 36, where I tasted a couple of wonderful red wines from California that I can recommend heartily – a 2005 Michael Suhlberg Merlot, which is accurately described as “pie in a glass,” and a 2005 Earth, Zin & Fire “Front Row” Zinfandel, which was absolutely great with a thick and hearty sirloin burger smothered in sautéed onions, tomatoes and cheddar cheese. Yumm….

It’s a good life.

Have a great weekend.

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