May 11th, 2015

Accidents in self-driving cars, sometimes while a human driver is in control

Back in 2011, Jalopnik posted this:

http://jalopnik.com/5828101/this-is-googles-first-self-driving-car-crash

Google car rear ended another vehicle with enough oomph to cause a chain reaction.

More recently, BI had this, mentioning several accidents involving self-driving cars. There are some details on the Delphi car, but none on the rest:

http://www.businessinsider.com/googles-self-driving-cars-have-been-getting-in-accidents-in-california-2015-5

The Delphi one seems hard to blame on the car with or without the human driver. If you are waiting to make a left turn and someone drives into you, well.

May update later.

ETA: No accident here. Kinda wacky! Stunt people platoon some Hyundais to see if the accident avoidance system works as advertised.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2702869/Watch-convoy-self-driving-cars-narrowly-avoid-crash-blindfolded-driver-sits-casually-wheel.html

Formats: Vinyl and digital albums (and CD)

I'm wasting time reading Ars Technica when I see this:

http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/05/with-vinyl-sales-on-the-rise-this-startup-lets-anyone-press-their-own-lp/

Whenever someone tells me vinyl is doing Great, I go, really?

"According to Nielsen, vinyl album sales in the US have grown an impressive 260 percent since 2009, reaching 9.2 million units last year, while in the UK sales reached a 20-year high of 1.29 million in 2014."

Let's NOT mock the author, because the author acknowledges this is a tiny fraction of overall sales. But _HOW_ tiny?

I don't know if you've heard of her, but there's this great woman singer who dropped an album out of the fucking BLUE last year -- complete with videos -- and not a thing had leaked in advanced. And you couldn't buy the singles, either -- just buy the fricking album, already, and of course I did and it was AMAZING.

http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/30/8301845/digital-album-sales-music-industry-beyonce-itunes

"And yet Beyoncé still sold over 800,000 units in 72 hours on iTunes."

True, 800K IS indeed less than 9.2 million units. But that was _one_ album, in 3 days.

"That blueprint has been successfully repeated recently by Drake and Kendrick Lamar, with If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late selling 495,000 copies in three days, and To Pimp a Butterfly moving 325,000 units in its first week."

We're now up to 1.7 million. We still have a ways to go. But literally _3 albums_, during less than their first week each, totaled up to 20% (hey, 18.4%, for my more assholish readers) of total sales of vinyl albums. I may be pointing this out, the next time someone tells me how great vinyl is doing.

2014 was the year the digital album sales finally exceeded CD sales (still working on a whole year source for this assertion).

http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/6429355/nielsen-music-soundscan-year-end-streaming-taylor-swift-vinyl

"Vinyl is a small victory: sales were up 51.8 percent, but accounted for just 3.6 percent of album sales."

That is, indeed, a tiny fraction.

Oh, here:

http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/public%20factsheets/Soundscan/nielsen-2014-year-end-music-report-us.pdf

I wonder if we're going to hit a point where vinyl and CDs are roughly the same, because CDs have dropped so far.

LA Times 1989 coverage of when cassettes were 50% of sales, CDs were 40% of sales and vinyl was 10% of sales.

http://articles.latimes.com/1989-02-24/entertainment/ca-162_1_vinyl-lp

Apparently, Side Line Music Magazine, back in the fall of 2011, published something (can't find the original) claiming the major labels would be abandoning the CD format in 2012, with only limited edition and similar specialty stuff left. That obviously did not happen. I could easily believe that happening by 2022, however, I'd like someone with better data than me to project the trend out. We only just _this year_ hit turnover between digital and CD, so it doesn't make sense to abandon CDs until they drop a lot further.

According to this:

http://consequenceofsound.net/2015/03/streaming-music-services-made-more-money-than-cd-sales-for-the-first-time-ever/

Streaming services produced more money than CD sales in 2014.

Here's the underlying RIAA data (the report earlier was Nielsen).

http://riaa.com/media/D1F4E3E8-D3E0-FCEE-BB55-FD8B35BC8785.pdf

ETAYA:

Thinking about the CD end game, around 2005, the big music labels were selling off their manufacturing divisions to companies like this one:

http://www.edc-gmbh.com/en/

More recently, they have all signed up with CreateSpace's Disc On-Demand to get their back catalog into in-print status.

So you can see that they've gotten _out_ of the secularly shrinking/high cost business of making the Stuff.

According to this,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment_Distribution_Company

EDC sold its American disc plant to these people:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Digital_Audio_Disc_Corporation

For all of $26 million with an m dollars, in November 2008. That seems a little weird, but okay.

From that wikipedia article:

"Sony DADC now manufactures the majority of compact discs sold in the United States.[citation needed] In November 2008, the company bought the American disc-manufacturing capabilities of Glenayre Technologies, which manufactured the discs of Universal Music Group.[7] In the summer of 2009, the company assumed the physical distribution of EMI's North American operations.[8] This left WEA as the only major label whose discs are not manufactured by the company,[citation needed] as its discs are manufactured by the operations of the former WEA Manufacturing that were sold to Cinram."

The wikipedia Cinram article includes this:

"in 2003, the company completed a US$1.1 billion purchase of the music- and movie-manufacturing assets (WEA Manufacturing) of New York media giant Time Warner. Also that year, it bought the United States manufacturing operations of EMI and, later, Universal Media & Logistics France from Universal Music Group."

Later developments in the Cinram saga. In 2010, Warner termed the DVD contract, and Cinram fell upon hard times.

http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/cinram-buys-olyphant-plant-for-7-million-1.1675659

Which is, of course, _the whole point_ of spinning out an aging and obsolete manufacturing unit and then contracting with the "separate" "business".

Najafi -- which bought Cinram -- also bought SkyMall. Which is, obvs, now gone as well.

Closing a facility that went from making JVC videotapes (ah, I remember those!) to CDs for Cinram, and is now gone.

http://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/morning_call/2015/01/cinram-operations-inc-to-close-tuscaloosa-facility.html

I think those are two different Cinrams. The one that bought the Olyphant planet was Cinram Properties, owned by a private equity group. The Tuscaloosa plant was owned by Cinram Operations. I have no idea what the relationship is/was.

Here's a weird one.

http://www.discmakers.com/community/about/press/disc-makers-reintroduces-vinyl-record-pressing-061214.asp

DiscMakers plant is near Philadelphia. They got _out_ of vinyl 20 years ago and have recently gotten back in.

This Is Not Investment Advice

I read Bill McBride's Calculated Risk blog. I don't view that as wasting time on the internetz. That's useful. You should read it too. But you don't, probably. But read this, anyway, from back in December.

http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2014/12/the-futures-so-bright.html

Then read this:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-11/a-former-pessimist-on-why-the-bull-market-isn-t-dead-yet

Richard Bernstein, back in 2012, pointed out that inflation concerns were overblown, and the market was "climbing the wall of worry". This update doesn't change much.

Fundamental to a lot of this analysis is underlying demographics. The mid 1970s had smaller birth cohorts than earlier and later years, and the Millenials were bigger birth cohorts at least in some years than their boomer parents. The oldest millenials are reaching their mid-30s, about the latest you can push reproduction and have high confidence that it will be Just Fine without assistance. Assuming you don't believe that Millenials will fail to reproduce themselves (hey, it could happen), at some point, as we move through the decade and a half plus of that "generation", more and more people will be looking around to buy a house in the burbs (close in burbs, but still, not right in the expensive city core, because 2 bedrooms is just too tiny for a family of 4 to be happy in). That will drive residential investment, creating jobs, and creating an economic tide of diapers and plastic crap for the kiddies to play with. Or maybe 3 D printed toys, but whatevs.

The middle birth year of the Millenials, by my calculations is 1989, give or take. And a person born in 1989 will reach 35 in 2024, give or take. If we aren't at an economic peak in or around that year, I will be a Very Surprised Person, or possibly dead from the comet strike that happened a couple years earlier.

This is not investment advice.

ETA: I feel compelled to add. There could be one or more "corrections" between now and then (declines in equity and other markets of 5-10% or more). Also, there are still a lot of nuclear weapons on this planet. Bad, bad shit could happen. I'm just sayin'.