Categories
society

Conflict and the Demands of Protests

With the Occupation of Wall Street by the dissatisfied masses, the media poses: what do they want?

But examining the impetus for the protest requires a larger context, of conflict in general.

Conflict represents an imbalance in resources, always.  Whether it’s a dominance fight in the wild, where the resource of control needs allotting, or in warfare where the resources vital to the function of society need equilibration, conflict means forcing a decision.

When protesters take to the street, they seek redress.  They do so in a fundamentally civil fashion, though, which separates protest from riot.  Where protest erupts into riot, the cause may be found in the fact that yelling and amassing of people also occurs during violent outbursts, and police conditioning makes them wary, while protester conditioning shows authority to have reactionary tendencies to lash out.

But, again, the question of what the protest wants.  What do they demand?

Excepting the most radical views, conflict wants only a fair shake.  They may believe in one set of outcomes, but they will accept less.  That less is simply a compromise.

Some of the protesters want environmental concerns to be addressed.  They may truly want the end of fossil fuels, for example.  But they will accept a more modest move to minimize the fuel use.

The unemployed want full employment, but they will accept more minor concessions and a general shift in the ambiance of the job market.  For example, they would be glad to see employers begin to give them more feedback regardless of the hiring decision.  They want work, but even a simple response that they are on the right track would be immensely helpful.  Instead, they typically hear nothing, and the lack of reinforcing their behavior is discouraging.

The people with bad mortgage debt would like nothing more than to be free of their bindings, but would feel much better if the banks would simply agree to a refinancing and would set them up with a single point of contact that would provide them with a sense of certainty that their concerns could be voiced in a reasonable manner.

When you go in for surgery, the surgeon is responsible for not only the actual procedure, but for explaining it to the patient.  There’s an accountable party.  But the fact is it doesn’t have to be the surgeon, as long as it’s one particular person that you reliably deal with.

As it stands, the business culture has become disconnected. And that’s no magic.  That’s just bad, collusive dealings.  Dealings that shouldn’t have happened but for irregular leverage.

When you buy a product and have feedback, if you contact the manufacturers, the vast majority of the time they are very helpful, going so far as to give you highly technical details and explanations. They know their products, they work hard on them, and they like to hear unsolicited feedback.

The exceptions are restricted to a few high profile organizations that are more trouble to deal with, typically banks and wireless carriers top that list.  They are service companies, which rely on lock-ins and the like, for continued payment.  Often their service does not require their ongoing diligence to guarantee your satisfaction as a means to ensure payment.

That creates a malformed relationship, much like that between prisoners and guards.  The bank’s loan to you represents a dominance over you, so they feel entitled to bother you and push you around.  See also the Stanford Prison Experiment.

What the protest represents there, is a call against that sort of dominance.  Wall Street represents a continuous tweaking of our entire economy.  When they say jump, we all brace for impact.  But we know that’s an imbalanced relationship.  We know that the government gives them preferential treatment to our detriment.

The same thing with the oil companies, where accidents in natural environments mean they try to escape with as little pain as possible.  We recognize that as a domination of our system, which calls for a change.

So what’s the outcome?  What’s the demand?

A fair shake.  Period.  That the people in charge of writing the laws and understanding/improving the system as a whole (both inside and outside of government) actually pay attention, like the manufacturer when you give feedback.  That Wall Street recognize the vitality of Main Street to their existence.  That the oil companies recognize that Main Street is why they exist, and not the other way around.

It’s really that simple.  They just want a level playing field.  They don’t want profitable companies to be subsidized.  They don’t want socialism, which a major imbalance of wealth represents.  That’s right, having a minority hold a majority of the wealth is just as destructive to capitalism as central-planning by government.  Proper capitalism requires and thrives on distribution of wealth.

I apologize if these ideas are not clear enough.  They are still developing/forming.  I will try to refine them in future posts.

Categories
data

Music: How we listen

I don’t have the statistics, but many different players and websites including iTunes and Last.fm include the ability to track what music you listen to. In theory this data from many users can be aggregated. If that happened the picture would look something like a bell curve.

The top dominates

Most of the music is from artists the listener likes a lot.  This is right tail on a bell curve.  For example 50% of songs might come from ten artists, 80% from 20 artists, and 90% from 50 artists.  The other 10% might come from hundreds.

The same is true for albums: the favorite album by the favorite artist will be even more dominant than the artist was.

Selling as generic

The problem is that the industry treats songs as equal units.  You pay roughly the same price for a song you’ve listened to 1000 times as one you listened to once, or a song bought as a gag.  But when you actually look at the cost per listen it becomes apparent this is simply silly.

The songs you love cost you tiny amounts: after the hundredth listen to a $0.99 song it’s less than one cent!  The songs you don’t love cost you more per listen: up to that same $0.99 for listening to it once.

Shouldn’t the opposite be true?  Wouldn’t you pay more money for the song you love?  Wouldn’t you rather pay less for the song you would delete from your collection except that you never look in that folder anyway?

Progressive pricing

My belief is that music should look like the following pricing model.  Note that the numbers are fabricated and that actuaries and statisticians could provide much better figures.  This is only a rough model.

For the first ten listens it costs a cent.  Period.  If you like the song and run through ten listens you pay a cent.  If you decide you don’t like it and give up after the first time, it costs a cent.  For the next ten listens it costs a dime.  Listen 20 times and you’ve paid $0.11.  For the next 50 times you listen to it, that’s $0.20.  After 70 total listens you would have paid $0.31.  And for the 100 listens after that, it’s $0.68 which brings you to the $0.99 original price.

The money distribution is staggered as well.  The artist makes less money off of the first tier and more of the successive tiers, while the labels and distributors make more on earlier and less on later tiers.

Choices

There would be some other choices with this model.  If you knew you’d want the song for 170 listens at least, you could pay an initial fee of $0.89 or such, giving you a discount for buying the song outright.  You could also pay the difference on $0.89 up to 70 listens.

Even after paying $0.99 (or $0.89 if you bought it early) you could choose to pay more.  That money would go almost entirely to the artist.

The model’s logic

The consumer value behind this model is two fold.  One is to save you money on songs you rarely listen to.  The other is to give you the freedom to explore music.  The current flat price model is prohibitive: how many times would you roll the dice at $0.99 per roll?

The model also has powerful incentives for the label, distributor, and artist.  People would explore more music and pay a cent each time, but that would add up quickly.  The current prohibitive model generates less revenue than the new model would for all parties involved.

Other media

This model can easily be extended to be used with movies, television, and text.  The tiering would be different, obviously.  It would not be as effective for news as fiction.  But that’s a detail that can be overcome by changing the target of the model.

Instead of expecting you to pay $0.01 for each episode of the Daily Show each time you watch it, you would pay $0.01 for the first three episodes you watched.  Due to that sort of content being unlimited in time (they continue to make new episodes indefinitely) you wouldn’t cut off at $0.99.  The probable solution would be to tier over an entire season and fix the top-price on a per-season basis.

Advertising

The option to have advertising fits nicely into this general model.  The advertisers can choose to pay for a tier for some number of viewers: when you go to view, listen, or read the choice is yours to accept the advertiser’s offer and instead of paying you would watch, read, or listen to a short advertisement for the duration of that tier.

Conclusion

I believe this sort of model, again with the statistics to back up a more refined pricing and tiering system than I’ve presented, will be a boon to listeners, viewers, and readers.  It will also benefit the content creators and distributors.  I hope to see this model become a standard operating model for content.

Let me know what you think of this model.  What’s wrong with it?  What would make it better?