Results for “satellite radio”
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The Beatles satellite radio Sirius XM station

Is this a good idea?  A whole station devoted to Beatles music and Beatles music-derived products, plus a few early musical inspirations?  I ask as a fan, not a critic.  Based on about a week of listening, here are my impressions:

1. No Beatles songs were better live.  Paul McCartney had a few gems in concert, most notably the 1976 Wings over AmericaMaybe I’m Amazed.”  Oddly, “Magneto and Titanium Man” is also better live, perhaps because it was silly to begin with.

2. There are too many extant versions of “Here Comes the Sun,” though Nina Simone had a good one.

3. Ringo songs from the early 1970s, while you would never listen to them voluntarily, hold up OK in this context.

4. The worst feature of the channel is how they use short bursts of Beatle songs to advertise the channel itself.  To play only the first few chords of “Getting Better” is an abuse of the ear and maltreatment of the art, like seeing Mondrian designs on shopping bags.  Why can’t the station just advertise itself by…playing Beatle and Beatle-derived songs?  In their entirety.

5. The last sequence of “Rain” still seem to me their finest moment.  “Let it Be” remains the most overrated major Beatles song.

6. The early solo songs are what are most welcome to hear, at the margin.

7. The way this station operates doesn’t mesh well with the rest of satellite radio.  No single station on satellite radio is that good, except for the classical music station.  Yet the medium as a whole works because you can always switch to another station, especially with voice activation.  Yet one is reluctant to switch away from the Beatles station.  Even if the current song is bad, you feel something wonderful always might be coming up, and besides most of the songs are pretty short and so they will be over soon.  But if it’s just the Beatles you want to hear, you don’t need satellite radio to achieve that end.  So a funny kind of intransitivity kicks in, and maybe the Beatles satellite radio channel can nudge you away from satellite radio altogether, precisely because it is better than all the other channels, and it thus pushes you away from an approach based on a diverse menu of DJ-driven choice.

8. Would it hurt to play more Dylan, a major influence on the Beatles?

Payola and satellite radio

In the last two weeks I’ve heard the new George Harrison box set mentioned so often on channel 26 Sirius satellite radio — accompanied by the playing of Harrison songs — that I’ve concluded some form of payola is going on.  In its early days, satellite radio was critical of the mainstream radio stations for this practice, but now it’s jumped on board.  And you know what — no one cares!  Even on the internet, there is hardly anyone complaining.  Hard to believe, I know, but that is maybe one indirect advantage of the current political polarization.

And why should you complain about satellite radio payola?  Without payola, the stations choose songs (directly or indirectly, through dj instructions) to pull in the marginal subscriber.  With payola, payments from IP holders become a separate influence on program content.  Those payments are most likely to come from IP holders whose products show a high elasticity of demand with respect to advertising.  In other words, the influence of producer surplus rises, relative to consumer surplus.

Intuitively, that seems to me “music that a lot of listeners already are familiar with, even if they don’t know that a new boxed set just has been released” is how that category translates into satellite radio circa 2017.  Or, in other words, George Harrison.

Perhaps the most underrated George Harrison song is “You.

Addendum: Interestingly, payola in earlier parts of the 20th century seemed to favor music for the young, black music, and new, previously undiscovered artists.  It’s worth thinking through why this has changed.  For 1950-2000, there is no “marginal subscriber to radio” the way there is for satellite radio, rather most listeners are in the relevant network.  Furthermore, today’s satellite radio listeners are I believe considerably older and somewhat wealthier than the typical radio listener, either now or earlier.  When more or less everyone was on the “free radio network,” the high elasticity of profits with respect to advertising was for the artists who otherwise wouldn’t get much exposure.  In contrast, today it is for “golden oldies,” where the taste for the product already is there but information about availability may be lacking.

Here are previous MR posts on the economics of payola.

XM Satellite Radio and cultural diversity

Some of the stations have changed:

Out: African music, World music

In: French songs (Sur La Route), and also French rap and other French innovations (La Musique)

This was done to obtain entry into the Canadian market, which among other things required appeasement of the French-language minority.  It is funny what is sometimes done in the name of cultural diversity, eh?  Let’s hope that world music makes a comeback once those horrible Christmas music channels are gone.

Why satellite radio doesn’t make me happier

I love satellite radio.  I listen every day and did not flinch when they raised the price.  Still I cannot help but feel (boo-hoo) it was not designed with me in mind.  I am not completely happy with 70 commercial-free, DJ-driven music stations with no playlists. 

The culprit lies in how the channels are defined.  They have a station for "50s music," or "bluegrass," or "reggae."  They need clear and compelling channel titles to attract subscribers.  And with so many channels at hand, many listeners wish to know what is where when. 

But I don’t care so much about genre or time period per se.  Let’s face it, most music from the 1960s is unlistenable.  I love the best of Jamaican music, but most reggae stinks.  A station that has to cover a genre or time period gives you, in lieu of a least common denominator problem, too many denominators at once.

I would rather have 70 channels with the liberty of experimenting across all possible dimensions.  Even better, how about defining channels by IQ scores?  Number of CDs in your collection?  Personal mood that day?  Best yet, a station: "For people who are convinced that James Brown, Sun Ra, Fela Kuti, Lee Perry, and Pierre Boulez are seminal musical figures of our time."

That is why I am not happier with satellite radio.  I hope soon to relate my experiences with Internet radio and podcasting.

Is satellite radio only for old fogies like me?

What is it now, seventy music channels, mostly commercial-free?  Yes they have reggae but when will they get an all-dancehall station?

When I first subscribed to satellite radio, I used it to try out musical genres, such as Country Classic, that I didn’t otherwise listen to much.  But now I have become lazy.  My search buttons cover seven channels, making it easy to track down favorite songs.  By punching a button I can pull up something like "Wooden Ships," "Poli High," or "C Moon."  Why bother learning more Merle Haggard?  At some margins, diversity makes us less interested in innovation.

Yana, who is now fifteen, likes satellite radio less than I do.  She hasn’t accumulated a large enough stock of favorite songs.  She wants stations that play the same material over and over again, so she can accumulate such a stock.  The Top 20 station fits this bill, but most of the others do not.  They are about something different every day, at the whim of the usually silent disc jockeys.

You can discover something you like, and then buy it.  But most fifteen-year-olds are poor.  She wants to discover something she likes, and hear it again tomorrow for free.  (This suggests, by the way, that illegal downloads are the friend of satellite radio, but that is for other families.)  This is precisely what satellite radio does not deliver, and why most of mainstream radio resorts to play lists.

By the way, did I mention that "under 25s" drive music sales?

And that is why satellite radio will have a hard time becoming more popular and maintaining its uniqueness.  Stay tuned, as they say in the business…

Satellite radio as universal jukebox

Catching Blondie’s reunion tour broadcast at 4 in the morning wasn’t an option for XM satellite radio subscriber and single father Scott MacLean.

“I was missing concerts that were being broadcasted when I was asleep or out,” he said.

So the 35-year-old computer programmer from Ottawa, Ontario, wrote a piece of software that let him record the show directly onto his PC hard drive while he snoozed.

The software, TimeTrax, also neatly arranged the individual songs from the concert, complete with artist name and song title information, into MP3 files.

Then MacLean started selling the software, putting him in the thick of a potential legal battle pitting technically savvy fans against a company protecting its alliance – and licensing agreements – with the music industry.

MacLean says he is simply seeking to make XM Radio – the largest U.S. satellite radio service with over 2.1 million members paying $10 a month for about 120 channels – a little more user-friendly.

And get this:

XM has said it plans to launch in October a new car and home radio receiver that lets users pause and rewind live broadcasts. XM also has a deal to stream its broadcasts over next-generation TiVo recorders.

The bottom line: Who needs illegal downloads? At some point radio and other media will become “thick” enough that you can just pluck the song you want. Probably this will prove well within the reach of the law. And once storage becomes essentially free (are we so far from this right now?), you will buy or download a program to record a (near) universal music library for yourself.

Here is the full story, which includes a link to the relevant software.

Should AM radios be mandated in cars?

No. Here is my Bloomberg column to that effect, excerpt:

Personally, I prefer to listen to XM satellite radio, a paid subscription service. It features channels that appeal to my specific tastes (in this case, if you’re asking, the Beatles, classical music and various Spanish-language programs). AM radio, which is usually advertiser-supported, tends to have more of a “least common denominator” flavor, as it must attract many listeners to pull in the ad revenue. I do not think the federal government should be using the force of law to favor cultural options that are already trying to appeal to the least common denominator.

When I bought my current car, it was capable of receiving a satellite radio signal, and I simply had to request that it be turned on. (This ease of use is one reason why I purchased the model, so the commercial considerations here are real.) There was no law requiring the satellite radio option — just as there should be none requiring an AM radio option. This symmetry of treatment meets standards of both fairness and economic efficiency.

So I’ll say it again, no AM radio should not be mandated in cars, even though Congress is thinking of doing this on a bipartisan basis.

Bob Dylan *Radio Hour*

Also known as German markets in everything, or alternatively why oh why can't we have a better U.S. copyright law?

Remember when Bob Dylan was DJ for those XM satellite radio shows, spinning a melange of blues, folk songs, vaudeville, gospel, and general bizarreness, with generally American themes, in the process proving himself one of the world's great musical infovres?  Some of those shows are collected on CD, in Germany, vol. I, II, and III, four discs a box, twelve discs in total.  The Amazon.de listings are here (they will ship to the US), or in German stores for about six dollars a disc, thank you Greece.

I own thousands of CDs, but these are among the very best and the song selection compares favorably to other collections of American music.  The sound quality and transfers are first-rate.

Here is a Bach box, his major choral works and some of the major cantatas, MP3, and CD, 42 euros, 22 discs, John Eliot Gardiner conducting, these are some of the best recordings of the chosen pieces and even with shipping costs this is an extremely favorable purchase.

Have I mentioned there are many outrageous bargains in Berlin, not just my apartment?

For five or six euros, you can buy an excellent spaghetti bolognese, better than almost anything in WDC or Virginia.  Apartments are cheaper, you don't need a car, mineral water and good bread is cheaper, gelato is cheaper, and in most social circles you're not expected to dress extraordinarily well.  I'm not sure books are cheaper but they're not outrageously priced either, even many English-language editions.  It's a strange feeling to come to Europe and have most things be cheaper, which still is not the case in Paris.

Here Angus recommends five CDs for Germany, good picks but the Dylan and the Bach round out some Alvin Curran and some gospel in my living room.

How I listen to music

Ian Leslie writes to me:

I’m wondering, have you ever done a post about how you listen to music? Hours per week, times of day, technologies, degree of multi-tasking, etc…and how you choose what to listen to at any given moment. I’d be interested.

I go to plenty of concerts, but that is for another post.  And I’ve already written about satellite radio.  As for home, I like to listen to music most of the time, noting that if I am writing a) the music doesn’t bother me, and b) I don’t necessarily hear that much of the music.  A few more specific points:

1. I don’t like to listen to “rock music” (broadly construed) in the morning.

2. I won’t listen to Mahler, Bruckner, or Brahms in the morning.  They are evening music.

3. Renaissance music is best either in the morning or the evening.

4. I don’t listen to much jazz at home any more, though I am no less keen to see a good jazz concert live.  Having already spent a lot of time with the great classics, at current margins I am disillusioned with most “jazz as recorded music.”

4b. The same is true of most “world music,” if you will excuse the poorly chosen label.  I do subscribe to Songlines, a world music magazine.  I buy some of the recommendations on CD, but try out many more on YouTube or Spotify.  That is my primary use of those services, at least for music.  That is one case where I am sampling to see if I run across new sounds.

5. I don’t like earbuds and never use them.

6. Bach gets the most listening time.

7. For a classical piece I really like, I might own five or more recorded versions, occasionally running up to a dozen.  Listening to a poor or even so-so recording of a very good piece is to me painful and to be avoided.

8. Contemporary classical music — which many people hate — gets plenty of listening time.  Though not when Natasha is home.  Some of those recordings, such as Helmut Lachenmann string quartets, seem to create problems for Spinoza, noting that he is rarely not at home.  Perhaps they will be shelved for a few years.

9. I buy new classical music releases recommended by Fanfare, and occasionally from the NYT or Gramophone or elsewhere.  As for “popular music” (a bad term), mostly I wait until December and then buy CDs extensively from various “best of the year” lists.  I do some Spotify sampling then too, again from those lists.

10. The main stock of recorded music is kept in the basement. There is a separate shelf upstairs for what I am listening to actively at the moment.  That shelf might have 200 or so CDs, with some of them scattered on tables, and with some LPs nearby as well.

11. Periodically I go down into the basement and choose which discs will be “re-promoted” to the active shelf upstairs.  And if I am done listening to a disc, it goes down to the basement, with some chance of being re-promoted back to upstairs later.

12. If I don’t like a disc, I throw it out, as space constraints have become too binding.  (It is cruel to give it away, and no one wants it anyway.)  As time passes, I am throwing out more discs.  For instance, I love Cuban music but I don’t lilsten to it on disc any more.

Overall, I view this system as optimized for getting to know a core repertoire.  It is not optimized for browsing or random discovery.  I feel I have a lot of discovery in my musical life, but it comes from reading and information inflow — both extensive — not from listening per se.

And to be clear, I am not suggesting that these methods are optimal for anyone else.

Wings at the Speed of Sound — a review

Was it Ian Leslie I promised this review to?  Time is slipping away!

Speed of Sound (songs at the link) was much derided upon its release in 1976, and more recently one scathing reviewer gave it a “1” score out of 10.  Yet I find this an entertaining and also compelling work.  At least Eoghan Lyng had the sense to call it “definitely infectious and decidedly hummable.”  But it’s better than that, and I would stress the following:

1. The album very definitely has its own “sound.”  Super clean production, a limpid clarity in the mix, and sparing deployment of guitar.  Not all of that works all the time, but there is a coherence to a production often described as a mish-mash.  The sound of the whole is best reflected by “The Note You Never Wrote,” a McCartney song sung by Denny Laine, placed wisely in the number two slot.  Nothing on either the disc or the original album sounds compressed, rather it all comes to life.  It’s better than the sluggish, overproduced, horn-heavy Venus and Mars.

2. The unapologetic presentation has held up fine, rejecting its own era of albums that were overloaded with ideas, overproduced, and too self-consciously parading their messages.  Speed of Sound is so deliberately unhip you can hardly believe it — who else in 1976 would pay tribute to “Phil and Don” of the Everly Brothers?  And Paul was thanking MLK (“Martin Luther”) when others were still flirting with the Black Panthers.  Surely he was right that “Silly Love Songs” would persist, so maybe people were hating on how on the mark he was.

2. At exactly the same time Wings was evolving into one of the very best live acts of the 1970s, far better than the Beatles ever were.  (Yes, I know it is hard to admit that.)  Their live act sizzled, and yes I did see it back then and I have listened to it many times since.  Check out the YouTube channel of jimmymccullochfan, for instance “Beware My Love” or “Soily,” or how about “Call Me Back Again“?  For Macca, Wings at this time was essentially a live band, and it proved to be his greatest live band achievement of all time (with some competition from his early 1990s shows), most of all pinned down by Jimmy McCulloch on guitar and Paul on bass.

You have to think of Speed of Sound as a complementary valentine to the live shows, a sweeter and more digestible version of what went into the road.  Most of all it is about Paul and Linda, about the maturation of Wings as a group, about opennness to the world and to each other (a recurring Macca theme) and about domestic life, with recurring melancholy thrown in.  Maybe those ideas are not your bag, but at least you can accept this as one piece of the broader McCartney tableau.

Now Macca knew you might not know about the live shows, but he didn’t care.  He figured he was giving you two monster hits (“Let Em In,” “Silly Love Songs”) in the process, and that was good enough.  And yes I agree he was too much the satisficer in this period.

3. The weak songs are “Wino Junko” and “Time to Hide” — 10% less democracy as Garett Jones says!  “Time to Hide” is almost good, but it relies too heavily on horns and then drags on.  “San Ferry Anne” also has a weak use of horns and the melody never quite takes off.  “Cook of the House” goes into a category of its own.  I’ll say only Wings [sic] needed to get this out of its system to move on to other approaches.  I am pleased, however, that the lyrics are fulsome in their praise of domesticity, compare it to Lennon’s effort in an analogous but not similar vein.  I don’t mind “dares to be appalling” as much as many others do.  Frankly, I enjoy this song.

4. Excellent are “Let ’em In,” “The Note You Never Wrote,” “She’s My Baby,” “Beware My Love,” “Silly Love Songs,” and “Warm and Beautiful.”  That is six very good songs on an album, with “Must Do Something About It” as “pretty good.”  The prominence of the former set on Beatles XM satellite radio should not go unremarked, as presumably listeners are not switching the dial away.  These songs are still popular nearly fifty years later.

5. “She’s My Baby” is the most underrated cut of that lot.  It starts before you realize it and it just gets down to business.  Thumping bass, innovative vocal, it keeps on going and then it segues into “Beware My Love.”  Does not wear out its welcome.

6. There is no good reason to mock “Silly Love Songs,” which is a classic, ecstatic in its peaks, and which deploys disco influences in just the right way.  The vocal and bass lines work perfectly, as does Linda’s vocal counterpoint.  It stays vital at almost six minutes long.  Once you step out of your ingrained bias, it is easy to see this is better than many of the classic McCartney Beatle songs.  I would rather hear it than say Lennon’s soppy “Imagine,” which is ideologically ill-conceived to boot.  Macca in this one is sly, mocking, and sardonic too, such as when he subtly refers to the problematic nature of mutual orgasm (“love doesn’t come in a minute…sometimes it doesn’t come at all…”).

7. “I must be wrong” in “Beware My Love” (plus the preceding guitar break) and “I love you” in “Silly Love Songs” are the two highlight moments of the album.

There are definitely disappointments in this work, but it is time we were able to view its contributions with some objectivity.  Wings at the Speed of Sound is an excellent album, still worth the relistens.  And I really am glad that the Beatles broke up — it meant more music from the group as a whole.

My Conversation with the excellent Rick Rubin

The Rick Rubin.  Here is the transcript and audio, here is part of the summary:

He joined Tyler to discuss how to listen (to music and people), which artistic movement has influenced him most, what Sherlock Holmes taught him about creativity, how streaming is affecting music, whether AI will write good songs, what he likes about satellite radio, why pro wrestling is the most accurate representation of life, why growing up in Long Island was a “miracle,” his ‘do no harm’ approach to working with artist, what makes for a great live album, why Jimi Hendrix owed his success to embracing technology, what made Brian Eno and Brian Wilson great producers, what albums he’s currently producing, and more.

And an excerpt:

COWEN: Do you think the widespread advent of streaming threatens the economic viability of a successful ecosystem for musical production and sale?

RUBIN: I think it can be. I don’t think it is yet. If you look at the history of recorded music, at the time that the Beatles were making albums, I think they were paid several pennies per album sold. Then over time, the artists got more leverage and were able to negotiate better deals. I think it finally culminated in the old music business with Michael Jackson who was getting maybe $2 per album that was sold, which was much more than everybody else. In the early days of singles, people were paid very little. Every time there’s a new format of music, the rights holders seem to take advantage of that.

Like when CDs first came in, artists got paid less on a CD than they did for vinyl, and it’s been very time. Every time there’s a new format, the artist gets paid less. Now, they only get paid less until their attorneys realize, “Oh, in our next deal, we’re going to negotiate to have better digital rights,” or better whatever it is. Then it eventually evens out because ultimately, the artists have a great deal of leverage.

Like now, for the handful of the biggest artists in the world, they probably make more money through streaming music than anyone has ever made in the physical world of music, but it’s very much of a top-down thing. It’s only the very top percent who have that. Eventually, hopefully, it’ll get more equitable. It always has. In every case, it has so I’m optimist that it will again.

COWEN: Do you worry about the decline in music education in American schools? Does that matter for popular music in the future, or do people just teach themselves? There’s YouTube, there’s streaming, whatever.

RUBIN: I don’t think it matters. I like the idea of learning what you want in school. If you want to learn music, it would be nice to have that option, but I think that people learn the things they love wherever they are, not in school.

And this:

RUBIN: Yes. I listen to The Beatles [satellite radio] Channel all the time. I love The Beatles Channel.

COWEN: As do I.

RUBIN: It was funny one of the things that when I was talking to Paul McCartney, one of the first things I said to him was like, “Oh, yes, you make all the music that’s on The Beatles Channel, right? That’s who you are. You’re the guy who makes the music for The Beatles Channel.”

Interesting throughout, and best experienced as a whole.  And here is Rick’s new book The Creative Act: The Way of Being.

The Neil Young vs. Spotify saga

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one bit:

Some see the musician as an intellectual hero for taking a stand. Yet [Neil] Young’s own record in this area is far from pristine. For years, he has spread scientific misinformation about GMO foods. While experts have consistently judged GMO foods to be both safe and useful, Young in one song referred to them as poison. As a guest on the “Late Show With Stephen Colbert” in 2016, Young suggested that GMO foods caused “terrible diseases.” It is hard not to wonder to what degree anti-biotech sentiments like these, ironically, might have fed the current skepticism of Covid vaccines.

I also question whether Young’s motives in the Spotify fracas were purely ideological. Just a few days ago, Young participated in the launch of a (temporary) satellite radio Neil Young channel. I don’t begrudge him that business decision, and I will listen myself. Yet I also recognize that demand for his satellite radio channel could grow now that he is off Spotify. All the publicity stirred up by Young’s departure from Spotify probably won’t hurt, either.

Joni Mitchell by the way ragged on DDT way back when (admittedly the costs of the anti-DDT crusade are sometimes overrated by those on the Right).  So many musicians are purveyors of misinformation, I wonder how she and Neil feel about being paired with Lennon’s “Imagine” song on Spotify.  And here is the close:

The more you understand that nobody’s position really makes any sense, the more quickly you can embrace your inner Heart of Gold, a song that is still on YouTube, right along with these speeches by Adolf Hitler.

Recommended, not the speeches though.

Straussian Beatles, Paul McCartney solo edition

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Paul is his willingness to be a plain, flat outright snot about other people.  Did you see lately when he called the Rolling Stones “a blues cover band”?  Not wrong!  Ever listen to the lyrics of “Another Girl“?

Anyway, if you paw through the Ram album you will find some real daggers.  “Dear Boy,” for instance, is Paul mocking Linda’s ex-husband, here are some lyrics:

I guess you never knew, dear boy, what you have found,
I guess you never knew, dear boy,
That she was just the cutest thing around,
I guess you never knew what you have found,
Dear boy.

I guess you never knew, dear boy,
That love was there.
And maybe when you look to hard, dear boy,
You never do become aware,
I guess you never did become aware,
Dear boy.

When i stepped in, my heart was down and out,
But her love came through and brought me ’round,
Got me up and about…

I hope you never know, dear boy,
How much you missed.
And even when you fall in love, dear boy,
It won’t be half as good as this.
I hope you never know how much you missed,
Dear boy, how much you missed

Maybe it’s OK to take public stabs at your new wife’s ex-husband (is it?), but keep in mind Paul was raising the guy’s daughter at the time.  What did she think?  Or maybe up in that Scottish farm she just never listened to Ram, or this song.  Paul himself has admitted the underlying meaning in radio interviews.  The guy, by the way, committed suicide — woe unto him who is attacked by Paul McCartney!

Brian Wilson, by the way, was a big admirer of the voices and harmonies on that one, here is the cut.

Gentler but still cutting is “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey“.  It’s Paul’s account of why he has not been calling “the rellies” back home, namely because they are too boring and too removed from the reality of his life.  Paul is reporting (sarcastically) that his life is too boring to have anything to say to the guy:

We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
We’re so sorry if we caused you any pain
We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But there’s no one left at home
And I believe I’m gonna rain

We’re so sorry, but we haven’t heard a thing all day
We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But if anything should happen
We’ll be sure to give a ring

We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But we haven’t done a bloody thing all day
We’re so sorry, uncle Albert
But the kettle’s on the boil
And we’re so easily called away

Of course he really did have an Uncle Albert, and I bet he didn’t call much.  Can you blame him?  This interpretation, by the way, comes from Paul himself, many years later on satellite radio.

“Too Many People” — the paradigmatic Macca Straussian song deserves a post of its own.  It has more passive-aggressive references to John Lennon than are usually reported.

And that is all just on one album!  Here are previous installments of Straussian Beatles.  By the way, “Yesterday” may in part be about the early death of Paul’s mother.

Comfort foods make a comeback

Comfort foods from big brands are seeing a resurgence, executives say, as consumers seek familiarity and convenience amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Many shoppers have favored fresh and specialty brands over Big Food’s processed products in recent years, while others have opted for cheaper store brands. Now, the world’s largest makers of packaged foods say frozen pizza, pasta sauce, and mac and cheese are rising in favor as consumers in lockdown eat at home.

Nestlé SA NSRGY 3.04% became the latest to detail the trend Friday when it reported stronger organic sales growth for the first quarter driven by Americans stockpiling its DiGiorno pizza, Stouffer’s frozen meals and Hot Pockets sandwiches. Baking brands like Toll House and Carnation also performed well, it said…

Overall, U.S. store sales of soup rose 37%, canned meat climbed 60% and frozen pizza jumped 51% for the week to April 11, according to research firm Nielsen…

“We’ve seen time and time again that big brands tend to do well when people are feeling anxious and under threat,” Chief Executive Alan Jope said. He added that he expects the shift to larger brands to last a couple of years.

I wonder how general this trend is.  I have seen data that readers are buying more long classic novels, and I am struck by my anecdotal observations of satellite radio.  I am driving much less than before (where is there to go?), but per minute it seems I am more likely to hear “Hey Jude” and “In My Life” on the Beatles channel than in times past.  Who wants to go out for their periodic 20-minute jaunt and have to sit through 6:34 of George Harrison’s “It’s All too Much”?

Here is the full WSJ story by Saabira Chaushuri.  As for food, I am more inclined to consume items that can be easily shipped and stored, and if need be frozen.  That favors meat and beans, and disfavors fresh fruit and bread.  Frozen corn is a big winner, as are pickles.  The relative durable cauliflower and squash do better than some of the more fragile vegetables, such as leaf spinach.  I am not desiring comfort food per se, but I do wish to cook dishes requiring a relatively small number of items (otherwise maybe I can’t get them all), and that does almost by definition overlap with the comfort food category.

#ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion

Stephen Stills is underrated.

He was the driving force behind three of the best (non-Beatles) songs of the 1960s/early 1970s: Bluebird, Wooden Ships, and Suite: Judy Blue Eyes; in the process he anchored two of the major super-groups of that era.  “For What It’s Worth” is one of the most recognizable and oft-used iconic songs of the 1960s.  “Helplessly Hoping” is good too.  He was an underrated guitarist, try Super Session, with Michael Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

One of his problems may be that his underlying personal aesthetic is often corny and unappealing (“Love the One You’re With,” “Change Partners”), and that comes out all too strongly when he is removed from monitoring collaborators of equal or greater stature.

On satellite radio the other day I heard the acoustic solo demo version of Suite: Judy Blues Eyes (try “Stephen Stills Suite Judy Blue Eyes” on Spotify) and thought “People don’t praise this guy enough!”  In general, artists should be judged by their best work, and his is very good indeed.  I’d rather hear one of those Stills songs than anything by the Rolling Stones.