5 Things Record Labels Don't Want You to Know They Do Believe it or not, the Hot 100 part of Billboard charts used to be compiled by calling up record stores and . Needless to say, fuckery abounded, and 1991 saw tracks in the Hot 100 (Paula Abdul's "The Promise of a New Day" and Roxette's "Fading Like a Flower") that held much higher places than their Nielsen monitored sales and airplay figures would justify. To try to clean up such blatant bullshit, a point of sale tracking system called SoundScan was implemented. But time and time again, even SoundScan has been thwarted using sometimes shockingly low tech techniques like having clerks scan sales more than once. "Can you please tell him to stop? I've been here for 35 minutes." See, there are actually sleazy consultants that work with labels to figure out ways to alter sales figures and get the free publicity that comes with placing high on the charts giving out free and discount copies, focusing on independent stores that weigh more heavily in the system, and even switching bar codes on products. It's been claimed that such techniques can nudge a single as many as 10 spots on the Billboard chart, which could be just the boost a track needs to hit the top 10. One classic technique that's used to make album sales seem more impressive than they are is to put out a double or sometimes even a triple album and price it like a single disc. Why? Well, for RIAA certification and record sales purposes, double albums count as two sales, no matter the price. This exact ploy was used on country sensation Shania Twain's fourth studio album, Up! It was released as a two CD set featuring the exact same album presented in a "pop" version and a "country" version and every time somebody buys it, it counts as two copies sold. Now it's twice as easy to get the free publicity and accolades that come with going "platinum." "And I'd also like to thank my criminally dirty record label. Without their moral corruption, none of this would be possible." No artist has mastered the art of inflating sales numbers quite like Prince, though. For his 2004 Musicology album, the diminutive singer announced that he was going on tour to "play the hits" one last time and then, brilliantly, included a copy of his new album with the ticket price. Fans came out in droves at the promise of hearing Prince play the songs he's famous for (something he's been reluctant to do on several occasions), and every one of them was handed a copy of his album when they arrived at the show. Every one of those albums counted toward his Billboard and SoundScan totals. Of course, new rules were immediately put in place to prevent other artists from exploiting this tactic in the future. Undeterred, Prince kept the experimental distribution tactics around for his next album, Planet Earth, which he gave away for free in a London newspaper. Shit, he's wearing his "go fuck yourself" outfit. Though maybe it's hard to blame the guy for trying, considering the labels' reputation for . 1. Inflating Prices, Then Screwing the Artists If you remember the ancient era when buying CDs was the only way to get your favorite songs, you remember how overpriced they were. This isn't just opinion there was a class action lawsuit that charged the music industry with illegal price fixing and ended with a payout to consumers to the tune of $67.4 million in cash and $75.7 million in free CDs, all of which probably sucked. This is why people started desperately downloading tracks that would take an hour over a 56K dial up connection. You would suspect that the situation would have just righted itself as downloadable files began to overtake physical discs as the medium of choice, but surprisingly, things only got worse once that change happened. This time, the various record labels conspired to set an artificial price floor for downloads. Fortunately, these were pre iTunes problems that only happened with dinosaur music services like Pressplay and MusicNet, which would have both been just as useful not existing at all. "Please note: Each song will be accompanied by a five minute commercial. Each play constitutes a new purchase." But that has forced labels to get creative. For instance, in the wake of the untimely death of pop legend Whitney Houston, fans noticed that less than 30 minutes after news of the singer's death broke, her album prices skyrocketed on iTunes and Amazon. The price for her 2007 album The Ultimate Collection, for example, jumped from $4.74 to $12.62 in mere hours. But isn't this sort of fuckery all so that greedy rock stars can live the rock star lifestyle? These are people who spend their downtime having snowball fights with bikini models, where the snowballs are made out of cocaine. Nope for the most part, the artist doesn't make shit from record sales. Not only can the label wind up keeping all of the profits on even an album that goes platinum, but the band can actually wind up deeply in debt to the label. For instance, after selling over 2 million records and receiving precisely dick, the band 30 Seconds to Mars still owed EMI over $1 million. And that was just their sunglasses budget. How is that even possible? Easy the label makes the musician cover the cost of everything from recording the album, to promotion, to shooting the videos. It all counts against their cut of the record sales. Courtney Love, of all people, walks us through how it works: Young artists find out they're getting a million dollar advance from the label and think they've won the lottery. Then they find out that recording the album, promoting it, shooting the video, and other costs wipe out the advance, and then some. And then they're contractually obligated to become a terrible heroin addicted leech on society. So, their debut album can go double platinum and they'll still be in the red, having to pay back the label with their cut of the record sales . which is almost impossible, because the artist's cut is tiny. Lyle Lovett, after selling over 4 million albums during the course of his career, says he has not seen one goddamn cent. So if you want to build a cocaine snowman, don't start a band go work for the label. There's probably not as many groupies, though. For more secrets industries want to keep you blind to, check out 5 Ways Hollywood Tricks You Into Seeing Bad Movies and 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying to Get You Addicted. If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 5 Grimms' Fairy Tales Way Too Dark to Read to Kids. And stop by LinkSTORM to learn the dark secret of Carly Rae Jepsen's body parts. (Hint: They aren't hers.)
5 Things TV Writers Apparently Believe About Smart People And yet, in the world of TV it appears that all of the world's one in a million supergeniuses have landed in this field. FBI profiling agent Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds has three PhDs, an IQ of 187, and a reading speed of 20,000 words per minute, which must come in useful whenever he wants to read Atlas Shrugged four times in his lunch break. In the space of a single episode, Reid casually rattles off facts about veterinary science, human psychology, obscure Chinese board games, biblical Hebrew, and modern Irish literature. But even he pales in comparison to forensic artist Angela Montenegro of Bones, who developed and built a 3D volumetric display which assembles images of victims from bone fragments, apparently in her spare time. Detective Robert Goren of Law and Order: Criminal Intent speaks five languages and shows off encyclopedic knowledge at every opportunity. In the world of TV, these geniuses aren't freakish outliers who get called in when all the normal cops are baffled shows like the CSIs, Criminal Minds, Bones, and Numb3rs all contain entire teams of these supergeniuses. In every case, rather than using their skills to invent fusion power or take over small countries, these human libraries of congress have relatively low level government jobs in police departments and forensics labs. None of them even take off to make a fortune for themselves in Vegas not even the guys in CSI, who are already in Vegas. They all just keep toiling away as cops or salaried lab workers. "Wait, you mean I can make a living without spending hours locked in a room with rotting corpses?" One, it implies that in even mid level jobs you'll find yourself competing with someone who literally knows everything. Two, if you do find yourself around somebody with seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of your field, there is no reason to respect or admire them at all their magic brain makes it very easy for them. And three, our children are going to have wildly optimistic expectations of public servants. How can there ever be another terrorist attack? TSA agents can spot bad guys on sight by identifying a rare type of pollen found only in bomb making facilities. Hell, at this very moment, somewhere, a furious person is telling a cop, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T KNOW WHO STOLE MY TELEVISON? CAN'T YOU JUST RUN A GREEN LASER OVER THE FLOOR AND TRACK HIS DNA??!?" "TRACK HIS SEMEN, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES!" It's good to keep your expectations realistic. Not since Dr McCoy hooked up with Rigelian cabernet girls on Star Trek have television characters found themselves involved in field activities so far outside of their job descriptions. "Dammit Jim! I'm a doctor, not a dildo." The agents on NCIS deal with assassinations, inter departmental hacking, and Mossad agents, rather than ever investigating payroll fraud or theft of office supplies. The hospitals in Grey's Anatomy and House are strangely devoid of nurses, lab technicians and radiologists who actually do anything, allowing the doctors to perform extensive patient tests themselves and randomly take over the CAT scan whenever they feel like it. In Criminal Minds, the FBI routinely sends out its highly valuable elite profiling team to go and arrest dangerous suspects, which is a bit like using the President of the United States as a test pilot for your experimental wingless aircraft. In other words, these professionals have unusually exhilarating, non monotonous jobs that give them many chances to apply their nigh infinite knowledge base. Television CSI agents have it best of all: due to what we suppose are crippling Miami budget cuts, David Caruso accompanies SWAT teams as they arrest suspects, supervises the transportation of confiscated drugs, and investigates arson crime scenes while they're still on fire. Also, real cops can barely afford fresh crabs and crippling alcoholism. Let alone nice sunglasses. Other CSI agents interview suspects, comfort witnesses, chase down bad guys, and talk down criminals in hostage situations. In other words, the guys performing the supposedly impartial scientific tests are the same ones who are identifying and interviewing suspects, which makes the subsequent forensic evidence about as reliably objective as a driving test administered by a neighbor whose son you ran over last week. Again, we realize this is what Hollywood does. No, Baywatch was not a gritty documentary on the lifeguard industry, Top Gun doesn't do much to prepare you for a career in the Navy. But we feel like there is a difference here. After all, there such a thing as becoming a fighter pilot, and even seeing combat the movie just exaggerates the frequency of the excitement. A lifeguard may very well have to run sexily toward a drowning woman, and his or her coworkers may in fact have huge boobs. It's just that the real job has a lot of tedium in between the boobs and emergencies. But the whole point of pursuing a career in a profession made up of the smartest of the smart people is that you find the boring stuff exciting. That is, you enjoy the things things that are boring to other people the silent, steady crawl toward discovery, the long, painful untangling of a mystery, one thread at a time, over half of your life. You know, the parts that Hollywood sweeps under the rug for fear that you'd be bored out of your skull watching it. There's nothing wrong with making genius sexy the scientists and teachers and analysts should be pop culture heroes. But Hollywood has done the opposite instead of giving us characters who are super smart yet likeable and heroic, they've given us the same old sexy rogue action heroes we've been watching since the old West days, then threw in the, "Oh, also he's a supergenius" thing as an aside, as if it's as minor as pointing out the guy can play the guitar. We have a feeling that ten years from now a lot of kids are going to find their degree led to a lot fewer car chases than Hollywood led them to believe.
5 Topics Guaranteed to Elicit Condescending Advice You know what the worst thing about having terminal illness is? Oh sure, dying is terrible and all, but even worse is people offering unwanted and often stupid medical advice. This is actually how many people with terminal illness come to terms with the end, because they realize they will at least have rest from all the people offering advice. It's a very effective way of having the last word. The loopier ones suggested he try granulated essence of peach pit, testosterone supplements, opening chakras by meditation, eating macrobiotic or vegan diets, and even freezing himself cryogenically. Others suggested specific doctors or clinics all over the world that were the only ones that could save him. Hitchens didn't mention how many people tried to recommend Dr. House, but probably a depressing amount. Even people with chronic, non terminal illnesses get this. One lady earned herself a "what the hell is wrong with you?" from a nationally syndicated advice columnist. It seems like it should be really obvious that pestering someone with plugs for alternative medicine or telling a story about how someone you knew died horribly of what they have is not something most sick people would welcome. "Oh, my mom had that. It turned out to be a parasite and exploded out of her chest cavity." But still, people keep going up to strangers and offering cures from herbs to ox blood to New Age chants, because they see a person with a cane and think they know the exact cure for. having a cane. They want to believe that life makes sense and you can live to a ripe old age as long as you use the right cheat code. "Squats twice a day, everyone, and soon you'll be right as rain." Other people just have trouble figuring out how to talk to someone with cancer or a chronic illness, especially since everyone's different, but it's really not that complicated, you ask them. They're human beings and can tell you. Maybe they've got a macabre personality and actually enjoy hearing stories about people dying horribly, who knows. a) Tell them they're just stressed out and they're making a big deal over nothing. b) Pull out your DSM IV and diagnose them with Borderline Personality Disorder or another disease. c) Diagnose them, then prescribe medication. If you picked any of those choices and didn't consider telling them to see a professional, you have Clinical Armchair Psychologist Syndrome (DSM IV TR, 2000) and recent studies recommend 2 5 self administered slaps to the face until the symptoms wear off. Slaps should be delivered just hard enough to knock off your sunglasses. Don't feel too bad, it's a pretty common disorder, especially on the internet, which is really weird considering that's the place where you would have the least information on the people you're diagnosing. One possibility is that on the internet, people's description of their problems is in text form, which makes it easier for us to make a pattern recognition link with that psychology article or textbook chapter we just read. Also, people cloaked in internet anonymity usually feel freer to go into more detail about mental symptoms they'd normally be ashamed to talk about in person, giving the armchair psychologists more ammo to work with. "This is the only way I can get off now." The opposite side of the coin from people who want to slap an official DSM label on every unusual behavior are people who belittle serious symptoms. You see this most often with depression, which way too many people seem to think means "feeling sad." They hear someone talk about how they've been diagnosed with clinical depression and come in with, "Yeah, I know what you mean, I've been depressed before, when my turtle died." They'll belittle any suggestion of you going to a therapist or taking medication, because they didn't need any of that to get over their turtle. You just need to start thinking about all the people in Africa that are worse off than you (they don't even have turtles to be sad about), and then you'll be grateful for what you have and ditch your pity party. Never mind that actual depression is a diagnosable condition that can be caused by physical chemical imbalances and deep seated mental issues. No, you just need to man up and shake it off. Anyway, there is one piece of unsolicited advice that I will give to you: next time you want to give someone some advice about something, maybe think twice about whether you're being a dick about it. Check out past articles from Christina, in which she ran down The 6 (Wrong) Questions Men Love to Ask About Women and revealed 6 Secret Monopolies You Didn't Know Run the World.