Sunday, November 06, 2011

Media Week (Vol 4, No 45): The New A&R, Problem Biographies, Scan your Books, Education, Libraroes + More

Changing the way music stars are made (Economist):
David Joseph, who runs the British arm of Universal Music, says A&R men used to be alchemists, discovering base talent and turning it into gold. “They made dreams come true,” he says.
These days they are venture capitalists. Particularly at big labels such as Universal, A&R executives increasingly expect acts to have built a self-sustaining, if modest, business before they offer them a recording contract. 
Large numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers help show that a band has traction. But record labels have become wary of social-media indicators. They know that desperate bands may chatter about themselves or hire marketing firms to inflate their online metrics. The labels also want to know whether a band is drawing a steadily growing number of people to its gigs. The bar rises constantly. Mumford & Sons (pictured), a successful folk-rock outfit from bucolic west London, had amassed a large live following and had released several EPs before signing with Island Records in 2009.
Louis Adler, CEO of Melbourne University Press reflects on the Julian Assange biography imbroglio (TheAge):
When publishers and authors resort to lawyers, injunctions, and secret book drops to bookshops, things have gone haywire. Demanding an advance is returned is rare, retrieving the cold, hard cash even less likely. Contracts, deadlines and copyrights may have legal force but the relationship always depends on good faith. One cannot bully a writer into delivering a manuscript good enough to publish or on time. That is why it is in the interests of both publisher and author to keep it ''nice'' and renegotiate when deadlines loom or the editorial direction differs from the original brief, or when the author wants to put ''your'' book on hold while they write another book for another publisher.
Scan all your books - yes, there's a service for that (Economist):
1DollarScan is the American outpost of the Japanese firm Bookscan, founded to solve the problem of scant space in Japan's poky urban dwellings and to prevent damage caused by bookshelf-toppling earthquakes. (Bookscan has no relation to Nielsen BookScan, an American retail-sales-tracking service). Ship your volumes to 1DollarScan, and the company will slice off the spine, and charge $1 for every 100 pages scanned. (The firm also scans routine documents and photos.) It uses high-speed Canon scanners, with optical-character recognition (OCR) software developed jointly by Bookscan and Canon. The process does not yet produce text in standard e-book formats; instead, customers receive PDF files that show the scanned image, but also have whatever text was successfully extracted in a separate, searchable layer. The resulting files are chunky: tens of megabytes per book, or 100 times bigger than Amazon's Kindle titles. But it is a start. 
Hiroshi Nakano, the boss of 1DollarScan, says a few thousand books have been received in the first month or so of operation. And that is before the firm has begun its marketing drive, or adapted its Japanese-language smartphone software (for reading and managing user accounts) for English speakers. One early surprise has been the linguistic diversity of books sent over: besides English, there have been Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic titles, among others. Boxes of books are being shipped in from Europe, too, in English and other languages. (The firm uses slightly different OCR software depending on the language in question.) Another difference is the volume of individual orders. Where Japanese customers send batches of 150 books, the California-based service is seeing an average closer to 30.
Commentary on the Dot Earth blog at the NYTimes about developing a different approach to education:
As I’ve written here before, finding and disseminating education methods that foster creative, collaborative and resilient learning and problem solving is a prime path toward fitting human aspirations on a finite planet. Nicholas Kristof’s recent column, “Occupy the Classroom,” explores relevant terrain. This approach is also particularly useful in the face of prolonged economic uncertainty. 
Notably, the potential learning-by-doing role of American students and scholars in advancing human prospects in struggling regions came up today at a meeting organized by the United States Agency for International Development (which just celebrated its 50th anniversary) and hosted by theWoodrow Wilson Center. Alex Dehgan, the science and technology adviser to the agency’s administrator, said you’ll know we’re there “when we have students not asking what is your major, but what is your problem.” 
Current classroom norms, which Goyal described as the “culture of fill in the bubble tests and drill-and-kill teaching methods,” aren’t a good fit in a complicated, connected, competitive world.
Nic Kristof in the NY Times takes a look at Room to Read which is one man's approach to solving illiteracy around the world (NYTimes):
I came here to Vietnam to see John Wood hand out his 10 millionth book at a library that his team founded in this village in the Mekong Delta — as hundreds of local children cheered and embraced the books he brought as if they were the rarest of treasures. Wood’s charity, Room to Read, has opened 12,000 of these libraries around the world, along with 1,500 schools. 
Yes, you read that right. He has opened nearly five times as many libraries as Carnegie, even if his are mostly single-room affairs that look nothing like the grand Carnegie libraries. Room to Read is one of America’s fastest-growing charities and is now opening new libraries at an astonishing clip of six a day. In contrast, McDonald’s opens one new outlet every 1.08 days.

Talks under way to save UK's biggest music and drama lending library

A jewel of an of obit, by Margalit Fox: Jimmy Savile, TV Personality, Dies at 84:

In sports: Sir Alex Ferguson describes his 25yrs as a fairy tale.

No comments: