It’s all music to the ears

Published: December 19, 2017 12:43 AM

Tunnels, space and AI — conquering these might seem tough enough, but not for Elon Musk who through The Boring Company has also managed to sell over 30,000 hats as of December 11, 2017.

Digital music service Spotify and the China-based investment holding conglomerate’s Tencent Music Entertainment Group (TME) are planning to swap about 10% stakes in each other for cash, according to media reports.

With the aim of expanding in other markets, Tencent and Spotify have agreed to buy a minority stake in each other. Digital music service Spotify and the China-based investment holding conglomerate’s Tencent Music Entertainment Group (TME) are planning to swap about 10% stakes in each other for cash, according to media reports. However, neither of the companies have confirmed the ratio of the stake.

TME chief executive Cussion Pang said, “TME and Spotify will work together to explore collaboration opportunities.” It is present in the Chinese market with QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo, and boasts of a combined monthly user base of 450 million people. “Spotify and TME see significant opportunities in the global music streaming market for all our users, artists, music and business partners. This transaction will allow both companies to benefit from the global growth of music streaming,” said Daniel Ek, founder and chief executive, Spotify. The 11 year-old company, valued at $13 billion, is reportedly going public in the US next year. It provides music streaming to 140 million users globally, with 60 million paying for its premium advertising-free subscription.

Meanwhile, Apple has acquired London-based Shazam in a $400 million deal. “We are thrilled that Shazam and its talented team will be joining Apple. Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users. We have exciting plans in store and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of the agreement,” said the official statement from Apple.

The Boring Company’s hat rakes in moolah for Musk

Tunnels, space and AI — conquering these might seem tough enough, but not for Elon Musk who through The Boring Company has also managed to sell over 30,000 hats as of December 11, 2017. The $20 hat has a waiting period of 3-4 weeks and its stock is currently limited to 50,000 pieces only. Musk informed, “To preserve the transcendent majesty and specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps. Almost there…” Thus far, the company has made $600,000 by selling hats.

The black baseball caps were launched on October 18. Musk informs, ‘After 50k hats, we will start selling The Boring Company flamethrower’. The Tesla CEO also changed his Twitter bio to read, ‘Hat salesman’, and if he manages to sell all of those 50,000 hats, his company would be richer by $1 million. The merchandise is supposed to fund the private company’s plan of building underground tunnels.

Musk further informed that every 5,000 th buyer of the cap would get a complimentary hat signed by the delivery guy. Currently in the process of digging tunnels to ease traffic, The Boring Company’s mission statement is: “To solve the problem of soul-destroying traffic, roads must go 3D, which means either flying cars or tunnels. Unlike flying cars, tunnels are weatherproof, out of sight and won’t fall on your head. A large network of tunnels many levels deep would fix congestion in any city, no matter how large it grew (just keep adding levels). The key to making this work is increasing tunnelling speed and dropping costs by a factor of 10 or more.” Since it is important to have funds to turn these ideas into reality, merchandising is helping Musk and his companies to make the required moolah. On December 3, Musk had tweeted: ‘The ‘real’ money comes from merchandising…’.

The rise of dollar-stores in the US

When they said, ‘penny wise and pound foolish’, maybe they knew what lies in store for the US consumers. In a country where department stores are struggling to survive, outlets such as Dollar General, Dollar Tree and other dollar-stores that offer their merchandise at $1 are thriving. These stores are expanding their footprint aiming at lower-income shoppers in small towns. Their success can be attributed to the death of the US middle class.

Pew Research Centre analysis of government data reveals that in the early 2015, 120.8 million adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined. It further revealed that 49% of the US aggregate income went to upper-income households in 2014, up from 29% in 1970. However, the share of middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down from 62% in 1970. The middle class made up 50% of the country’s adult population in 2015, down from 61% in 1971. The gaps in income and wealth between middle- and upper-income households widened substantially in the past three to four decades, notes the report. Thus, the US market is noticing the growth of fastest-expanding cheap, budget and fast-fashion retailers such as Zara, H&M and of course, dollar-stores.

The US economy is hardly showing any signs of economic recovery, and thus, “The economy is continuing to create more of our core customers,” Dollar General chief executive Todd Vasos was reportedly quoted as saying. Such stores list the households making less that $40,000 per year as their TG. Dollar-store sales grew from $30.4 billion to $45.3 billion in the US from 2010 to 2015. “We are putting stores today (in areas) that perhaps five years ago were just on the cusp of not being our demographic, and it has now turned to being our demographic,” Vasos said.

Tested in a galaxy far far away, sold out in seconds…

The Empire Strikes Back has many fans the world over, and when Colombia Sportswear created a line of limited edition products inspired by the actual garments worn by its cast, they were gone in a matter of seconds. The Luke Skywalker Echo Base Jacket was described as being ‘warmer than a tauntaun while you take on the Empire’. ‘When cold weather hits, the officially-licensed, limited-edition Han Solo Echo Base Parka will keep you warmer than a hug from your favourite wookiee,’ said Han Solo-inspired Echo Base Parka’s description. Leia Organa’s Echo Base Jacket was described as ‘this rugged yet regal combo will help you lead with confidence whether you’re battling the elements or staring down a Star Destroyer’. The collection went on sale from December 8. The collection came just in time for the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Inspired by the fact that the Empire debuted in 1980, only 1,980 copies of each of the jackets were made. The jackets sold out immediately online, and were priced at $400 and above. The company informed media that the Luke jacket sold out in five minutes 22 seconds, the Han parka in six minutes 23 seconds, and the Leia jacket in seven minutes five seconds. However, the company denies making any more of these jackets. Columbia spokesman Andy Nordhoff was reportedly quoted as saying, “Two recognised brands joining forces to honour one of the epic movies of all time certainly grabs people’s attention. The jackets also turned out beautifully and are not costumes. We built them to withstand freezing temperatures on Hoth or other galaxies closer to home.”

Last year, Columbia had brought out the Rogue One-inspired jackets, which were sold for a limited time through its online store and freestanding stores. It was the first limited-edition cinematic venture for the brand. Further, it has collaborated with actor Harrison Ford in an endeavour to raise funds for Conservation International.

Google and Amazon fight it out

Staring January 1, FireTV will not play host to YouTube. Since Amazon refused to stock the Nest thermostat and Google Chromecast, Google has decided to let go off YouTube on its Echo Show smart speaker and the FireTV stick. Amazon has refused to sell Google’s Chromecast video and audio-streaming dongle since 2015. It is a given that not having YouTube will have a negative impact on the sales of FireTV, as holiday season approaches. A statement from Google informed, “We have been trying to reach an agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products.” The search giant further said that given the lack of reciprocity from Amazon, it is no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. However, Google hopes to reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.

— Compiled by Ananya Saha

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