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Visualizing 40 Years of Music Industry Sales

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Visualizing 40 Years of Music Industry Sales

40 Years of Music Industry Sales

The record industry has seen a lot of change over the years.

8-tracks took a short-lived run at the dominance of vinyl, cassettes faded away as compact discs took the world by storm, and through it all, the music industry saw its revenue continue to climb. That is, until it was digitally disrupted.

Looking back at four decades of U.S. music industry sales data is a fascinating exercise as it charts not only the rise and fall the record company profits, but seismic shifts in technology and consumer behavior as well.

The Long Fade Out

For people of a certain age group, early memories of acquiring new music are inexorably linked to piracy. Going to the store and purchasing a $20 disc wasn’t even a part of the thought process. Napster, the first widely used P2P service, figuratively skipped the needle off the record and ended years of impressive profitability in the recording industry.

Physical vs. Digital sales

Napster was shut down in 2002, but the genie was already out of the bottle. Piracy’s effect on the industry was immediate and stark. Music industry sales, which had been experiencing impressive year-over-year growth, began a decline that would continue for 15 years.

The Ringtone Era

While acquiring music was as easy opening Limewire on your desktop computer, transferring that new T-Pain track to a flip-phone wasn’t a seamless experience.

This brief gap in technology – before smartphones hit mass adoption – brought us the ringtone era. Distribution was controlled by mobile carriers, so ringtones were a comfortable gateway for the record industry to get a taste for digital-based revenue. In 2008 alone, they injected over a billion dollars of revenue into an industry that was getting used to gloomy forecasts.

Paddling Upstream

Though services like Spotify and Pandora haven’t replaced the money pipeline that CD sales provided, they have reversed the industry’s tailspin. For the first time this millennium, record industry posted an increase in revenue for two consecutive years (and likely a third in 2018).

It took a while for consumers to warm up to paying for a premium music subscription, but today, there’s a solid basis for optimism. Music streaming is now the most common format for music in the United States, and the RIAA reports that streaming now makes up nearly half of the market.

Music Streaming Subscriptions

The End of Physical Format?

Gone are the days when people would line up at the music shop for a hot new release. In fact, CD sales are down 80% in the past decade. Today, physical format sales only account for 17% of the industry’s revenue.

There is, however, one bright spot in physical format segment: vinyl. In 2017, vinyl sales hit 25-year high after making a slow and steady comeback.

Vinyl is written in stone. I think if it’s made it for 120 years now, it’s here forever.

– Jack White

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Bitcoin

How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible

Under the current global financial system, billions of people do not have access to quality assets. Here’s how decentralized finance is changing that.

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Infographic: How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible

Did you know that a majority of the global population doesn’t have access to quality financial assets?

In advanced economies, we are lucky to have simple options to grow and protect our wealth. Banks are all over the place, markets are robust, and we can invest our money into assets like stocks or bonds at the drop of a hat.

In the United States, roughly 52% of people are invested in the stock market – but in a place like India, for example, this portion drops to a paltry 2%. How can we make it possible for people on the “outside” of the financial system to gain access?

Breaking Down Barriers

Today’s infographic comes to us from Abra, and it shows how decentralized finance could make investing a more universal phenomenon, especially for those that don’t have access to the modern financial system.

It lays out four key obstacles that prevent people in developing markets from investing in quality financial assets in the first place:

  1. The Geographic Lottery
    Where you live plays a massive role in determining your ability to build wealth. In advanced Western economies, the average person is much more likely to be invested in financial markets that can help compound wealth.
  2. Financial Literacy and Complexity
    Roughly 3.5 billion adults globally lack an understanding of basic financial concepts, which creates an impenetrable barrier to investing.
  3. Local Market Turmoil
    Even if a person is mentally prepared to invest, local market turmoil (hyperinflation, political crises, closed borders, etc.) can make it difficult to get access to stable assets.
  4. The Cost of Investing in Foreign Markets
    Foreign assets can be pricey. One share of Amazon is $1,800, which is realistically more money than many people around the world can afford.

In other words, there are billions of people globally that can’t take advantage of some of the most effective wealth-building tactics.

This is just one flaw in the current financial system, a paradigm that has created massive amounts of wealth but only for a specific and well-connected group of people.

Enter Decentralized Finance

Could decentralized finance be the alternative to open up access to financial markets?

By combining apps with blockchain technology – specifically through public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum – decentralized finance makes it possible to get around some of the barriers that are created by more traditional systems.

Here are some of the innovations that are making this possible:

Smart contracts could automate transactions and remove intermediaries, making investing cheaper, faster, and more accessible.

Fractional investing could allow partial or shared ownership of financial assets by using tokenization. This would make expensive stocks like Amazon ($1,800 per share) available to a much wider segment of the population.

Location independent investing is possible through smartphones. This would make it possible for people in remote parts of the developing world to invest, even without access to nearby financial institutions or local markets.

Like the internet with knowledge, decentralized finance could reshape the world by making financial access universal. Who’s ready?

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Economy

How Macro Trends Shape the Market’s Future

From climate change to aging populations, macro trends are changing the future. Here’s how to use them to your advantage.

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It’s hard to say for certain what the future holds.

Without the luxury of a crystal ball, investors must find opportunities by analyzing the market. There’s just one problem: the 24/7 news cycle is enough to make anyone’s head spin.

Where should an investor focus their attention, when almost every new venture is forecast to be the next big thing?

The Powerful Influence of Macro Trends

Today’s infographic comes to us from U.S. Global Investors, and it highlights how analyzing macro trends can serve as a key investment tool.

U.S. Global Macro Trends

Two Main Investment Approaches

When selecting stocks, many investors fall into one of two camps:

1. Top-down Investing

  1. Analyze macroeconomic trends.
  2. Identify specific sectors and regions.
  3. Choose individual stocks based on company fundamentals.

Considering the aging Chinese population, a top-down investor may choose to invest in Chinese healthcare stocks.

2. Bottom-up Investing

  1. Complete in-depth company analyses.
  2. Select a stock that is outperforming others in its sector.

A bottom-up investor could analyze Home Depot and choose to invest if it had strong performance relative to Lowe’s.

These approaches can be used separately, or even combined together. Zooming out allows investors to identify the big picture opportunities. Then, a bottom-up approach can find the companies that best capitalize on each trend.

What is a Macro Trend?

A macro trend is a long-term directional shift that affects a large population, often on a global scale. For example, climate change is affecting industries in both positive and negative ways. While “green” industries have seen increased support, ski resorts are projected to have 50% shorter winter seasons by 2050.

There are a couple of main ways to identify macro trends:

  1. Government policy
    Government policies are a precursor to change, shaping macro trends and creating opportunities. For instance, Obama’s Recovery Act fueled growth in renewable energy with a $90 billion investment.
  2. Economic cycles
    The cyclical nature of the economy means that investors can also use history to identify macro trends. Consider fiscal and monetary policy, which is implemented in response to economic data:

    • Expanding economy
      The central bank raises rates and the government reduces fiscal stimulus. As a result, inflation is moderated.
      • Contracting economy
        The central bank lowers rates and the government increases fiscal stimulus. As a result, growth is stimulated.

Discovering Long-Term Value

Macro trends are a key tool for discovering long-term market opportunities. They are beneficial because they are:

  • Unbiased and data-driven
  • Not swayed by daily headlines
  • Tend to avoid riskier, niche industries
  • Can be diversified by sectors and regions

There are currently many macro trends at play. For example, Trump’s sweeping tax reform and deregulation boosted the U.S. economy, lifting GDP growth to a 13-year high of over 3% in 2018 Q3.

However, not everyone’s a winner. America’s reduced taxes have made Canada less competitive. It’s estimated that 4.9% of Canada’s GDP is at risk due to ripple effects from U.S. tax reform. What’s more, regulators worry that the bank deregulations might put the financial system at risk.

The proposals under consideration… weaken the buffers that are core to the resilience of our system.

— Lael Brainard, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve

So, how do investors distill this wealth of information into a future of wealth?

Spotting the Next Wave

In today’s hyper-connected world, it’s easy to get lost in data overload. Thinking big picture allows investors to focus on trends that:

  • Have a long-term outlook
  • Affect a large population
  • Create a clearer vision of the future

Then, an investor can target the most promising regions and sectors. When used effectively, this approach enables investors to ride the next big wave that will shape markets.

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