So Many Packages

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It seems silly, but there’s a problem in the United States surrounding online shopping. The rise of services like Amazon have already had a harsh effect on retail storefronts, but now, the problem has reached the postal industry. As noted in a recent article by the Wallstreet Journal, the surge of parcels from online retailers has created new issues for property managers. Aside from the issue of storing an apartment building’s worth of packages, real estate companies now need to devote an increasing amount of their personal funds to handling deliveries. In recent years, different businesses have implemented a variety of solutions to fix this problem. Amazon set up delivery lockers in partner locations across the United States, and the company continues to push the frontier of online shopping with same day delivery and third party parcel services. Services like Fedex and UPS changed the mail industry when they began to deliver mail, and the rise in online shopping presents another turning point for the delivery industry.

Amazon’s same-day delivery service has caused a lot of controversy since its launch. In a Forbes article from June, Tom Ryan quotes some generally differing responses to Amazon’s move. According to Chris Petersen

“It is a differentiator that will be difficult to replicate because it requires substantial infrastructure, systems and processes which are not easily created overnight. … If there ever was a wake-up call for brick-and-mortar, this should be it. If you can’t match free same-day delivery, you had better deliver over-the-top customer experience in your stores.”

Petersen seems to believe that store-front operation in major cities will face the wraith of Amazon’s new delivery service the quickest. Amazon has already set up warehouses in some of the country’s most active delivery locations, and same-day delivery will certainly put increasing pressure on box stores and general stores to compete. However, rural areas will continue to maintain during this explorative period in the delivery industry. Amazon does not yet have the infrastructure to offer these expedited shipping options everywhere. That being said, rural retailers should certainly contemplate how they might compete in the future.

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A Pay-Optional Culture

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The introduction of the internet to mainstream culture changed content distribution fundamentally. Napster’s notoriety made the public aware that the web could be a tool for sharing audio, video and text files across the world, but slow internet connections prevented P2P sharing from becoming an efficient replacement for purchasing content.

The print industry was hit hard by this change. The online news space became crowded with free options, and print publications –especially local ones– were too slow to adjust. Web advertisements grew in importance as the overall revenue from print ads declined with decreased circulation and subscriptions. A 2015 Pew report graphs the sad state of affairs in terms of annual revenue generated by newspapers both online and in print. Total revenue is down, and online advertisements are not generating enough profit to offset the money lost from print advertisements.

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Amateur DJs Are Keeping Music Alive

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Since the introduction of programs like Serato and Traktor, the profession of DJing has changed significantly. The expense of records, mixers, and turntables prevented most people from trying the craft, but digital solutions completely destroyed this barrier. Instead of spending thousands on records and equipment, DJs could digitally purchase the tracks they wanted and mix these songs with a cheap MIDI controller. The accessibility of digital mixing tools has created a surge of amateurs, and existing DJs have  seen their profession saturated with beginners willing to perform for less. However, while this situation is not ideal for professional DJs, the rise in amateur DJs is great for the music industry.

As streaming solutions continue to increase in popularity, music sales will keep declining. Music sales still have one key advantage though: the customer receives the file. While this difference does not mean a lot to the average consumer, it does mean something for DJs. Maintaining an up-to-date and extensive library is essential for professional DJs, and streaming solutions cannot replace an organized collection of .wav and MP3 files. Services like Pulselocker have attempted to bridge the gap between streaming and offline music collections, but limitations –such Pulselocker’s size constraints for offline libraries– still hinder streaming’s viability for DJs.

In order to reduce bandwidth expenses for both the consumer and service provider, streaming services also enlist compression algorithms  A Time’s article from March of 2014 (pre-Apple Music and Tidal) broke down the various bitrates across different streaming platforms. Looking at the charts, not a single service streams with lossless compression, meaning that consumers, at the most, are listening to MP3-quality files. Once again, this compression does not mean much for the average consumer, who might bot even be able to tell the difference between different quality streams. For DJs, however, high quality files are integral for maintaining the upmost sound quality on large systems. Hoping to capitalize on the lack of lossless streaming services, Jay-Z’s Tidal entered the music space earlier this year, boasting uncompressed, 1411 KBPS streaming. Tidal does not integrate with any digital DJ programs though, making it an unlikely solution for DJs maintaining a large song collection. Pulselocker has software integration tools, but the quality is only 320 KBPS, leaving room for improvement. Pulselocker is on the right track with offline song use and DJ software integrations, but the service’s limited catalog and lossy streaming will limit widespread adoption for the foreseeable future.

Professional DJs have witnessed their craft flooded with amateurs, but hopefully these same amateurs can help the music industry as a whole. Amateurs have undoubtedly saturated the profession of DJing to a point where many music fans no longer appreciate the skill that goes into mixing tracks, but amateurs might also prove to be the only music listeners who actually buy music. Record labels would be wise to cater to the aspiring DJ demographic –especially younger DJs who’s music-purchasing habits are still very impressionable. If labels can convince young DJs that purchasing music is better than streaming or pirating, the music industry might be able to maintain a small, but active group of listeners who consistently purchase music. While it is easy to empathize with professionals who are constantly undercut by amateur DJs, these amateurs have the potential to help record sales in a culture where people don’t buy albums.