Sun. Nov 28th, 2021


This is an audio transcript of the FT News Information Session podcast episode: Biden’s strategic political reserve

Joanna S Kao
Good morning from the Financial Times. Today is Wednesday, November 24th, and this is your FT News Briefing.

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Today, we will take apart the announcement by the Biden administration that it will release crude oil from America’s reserves.

Derek Brower
Some people described it as a strategic political reserve as opposed to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Joanna S Kao
Our American energy editor, Derek Brower, explains how the move may have burned back. And FT video journalist and producer Donell Newkirk will talk about his documentary on the music industry and how artists navigate the changing industrial landscape. I’m Joanna Kao, in for Marc Filippino, and here’s the news you need to start your day.

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Yesterday, the US government said it would authorize the release of 50 million barrels of crude oil from the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR. This is the equivalent of about two and a half days of US oil consumption. The White House said the goal was to lower fuel prices, but oil prices actually ended higher. The FT’s US energy editor, Derek Brower, says commodity markets knew it was coming and were not impressed.

Derek Brower
All in all, the market looked at this and thought, well, it’s not a huge amount compared to what we expected. And in any case, in a few weeks, Opec, which has asked the US administration to increase supply, may decide to do the opposite, perhaps withhold some planned increases or may even cut, some analysts say. And so if you take all those things into account, the impact on pricing was not quite what the administration had hoped for. Prices rose, not fell.

Joanna S Kao
So, Derek, is this a mistake on the part of the White House? Did it miscalculate the oil market?

Derek Brower
Some analysts say that the administration is not very well equipped to deal with the nuances of the oil market. I think it might be a little unfair, there are a lot of smart people working in it. I actually think it works well for the administration in terms of what the administration wants to do with an SPR release, which is a sign to Americans who are about to drive home for the Thanksgiving holiday, to their mother-in-law to see, to let them know that they are acting to try to lower gasoline prices, gasoline prices. Even if it does not work, it could now blame Opec and Saudi Arabia and Russia. And for the U.S. administration, it’s important, because inflation across the economy is currently putting so much pressure on President Biden’s popularity.

Joanna S Kao
So that sounds more like a political move.

Derek Brower
Yes, some people described it as the Strategic Political Reserve as opposed to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This reserve which was what the White House announced yesterday he was going to tap oil and release. And some other people described it as a symbolic move.

Joanna S Kao
The US is actually coordinating this oil release with several other major countries, including the UK, including China. How common is it?

Derek Brower
Well, that’s also really interesting, because the last time the US got involved in a coordinated release was in 2011, when there was a civil war in Libya, which is a major oil producer, and Libya’s oil production was reasonable very turned off. So it was a real emergency with oil supplies and prices, oil prices were heading north of $ 120. Today, there is no real emergency in terms of supply. In fact, supply is increasing worldwide. What there is is a political emergency for President Biden over inflation in the US. Thus, in the past, the International Energy Agency would coordinate these emergency exemptions. This time, the IEA was not involved in coordinating this, and some IEA members such as Germany were quite hostile to the idea of ​​using emergency reserves of petroleum that are there for supply disruptions such as hurricanes or civil wars.

Joanna S Kao
Derek Brower is the FT’s American energy editor.

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The way we listen to music is so different from what it was. This is largely due to technology. People now have so many ways to listen to music. And artists have new ways of making a living. FT video producer Donell Newkirk documented the journey of his own cousin, artist producer Dirty Blonde. Donell posted the video on our website earlier this year.

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This movie is about the evolution of the music business. The industry has gone digital with streaming now in full swing.

Joanna S Kao
Donell told us what inspired him to make the film.

Donell Newkirk
To watch my cousin Dirty Blonde, watch him and at the beginning of his journey, I just wanted to document everything and really show an insider’s perspective of the music industry in 2020 and beyond the current music industry. I’ve seen other documentaries. I was really inspired by Hope Dreams and The Last Dance, Michael Jordan’s Last Dance. So I just wanted to show from the inside what the music industry is.

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My name is Dirty Blonde. I am a recording artist and record producer. I’m from the state of New York. I’ve been trying to make it in the industry for about two years now.

Donell Newkirk
We grew up in the church, our grandparents, so we were all pretty musically inclined. Sing in the choir, play instruments. He has been playing drums since he was like a toddler. And so when he started making music, it was kind of just a natural transition.

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As with, I think, every artist, you know, they start with that dream of getting a record deal and making it big, but you have to adapt. It is not easy to get a record deal. It’s not easy to get yourself out as an artist. As you can see in the documentary at 300 records, he tries to perform for a record company, plays all his music, sings his heart out, gives it all he had. Essentially a test for the record company. And they gave him his feedback, and then they will see if they want to work with him or not based on his music and his character and things like that, his charisma. So yes, we saw it all. He went from record company meetings to independent platforms and released music online, stuff like that. See how he adapts to find platforms where you can post your music independently there and then market himself on social media and things like that. He just had to adapt and go with what the trends are and to stay relevant.

[FILM CLIP PLAYS]
Before Covid happened, I was about to have a party, but because the virus hit, it was shut down. So now I’m doing a virtual live performance with eMusic Live. It’s just a new way of entertaining is a new way of earning too as an artist, you know.

Joanna S Kao
It’s not just artists. Record companies also had a big adjustment. Etiquette once dominated the industry, and many people would say they exploited artists with terrible contracts. Donell interviewed several record company executives for his documentary.

[FILM CLIP PLAYS]
What is the right choice for an artist? Kind of the artist to decide, right? I think today artists probably have more choices, which is why it’s difficult, whereas in the past it was simple. You really have one path that has been through a big record company, and I believe artists should do whatever is best for them. Some artists do not need a lot of money. Then you have it.

[SONG PLAYING ON THE BACKGROUND]

Because the labels are currently so full of cash from streaming while competing with each other for talent, they are also driving up the price of signing talent. All that means we have artists who are truly in a better position to negotiate contracts and they can now get bigger advances, better terms like higher royalty rates or even ownership from their masters, with the label just being a distributor perform.

Donell Newkirk
Some artists do not need the label. You can inflate on TikTok. You can distribute your music independently and therefore you automatically own your masters and you own the majority share in the royalties. So you get all your money back. You do not share it with anyone but the rest of your team.

[SONG PLAYING ON THE BACKGROUND]

But labels are great for some artists. They are still very powerful. They still have great marketing teams that can really help you stay focused. They help you get sync licenses and sponsorships and stuff like that. So they do, they do serve a purpose for some artists, but every artist just needs to really look at their situation and see what works best for them and what is most important to them.

[FILM CLIP PLAYS]
I learned that it’s not just about music, it’s about business too. As an artist, you are a business, as Jay-Z put it: “I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man.There are different ways to make money. I think as a smaller artist, you know, it’s about the hustle and bustle.

Joanna S Kao
You can watch the entire documentary on FT.com. We will have a link in the show notes. Special thanks to FT video producer Donell Newkirk, to Jess Smith for producing this piece and to Breen Turner for mixing it.

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And a music note before we go on Radiohead, one of the earliest groups to take advantage of technology. The English rock band streamed the release of the album Kind A more than 20 years ago. It’s prehistoric in internet time. In 2007 they made the album In Rainbows, available as a pay-what-you-want digital purchase. And this month, the group released an interactive exhibit focusing on the reissue of Kind A and Amnesiac. It is downloadable on computers and video game platforms. Radiohead produces a psychedelic experience with Epic Games, the developer behind the hugely successful game Fortnite.

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You can read more and more of these stories at FT.com. This was your daily FT News Briefing. We’ll be off for the next two days for the American Thanksgiving holiday, but make sure you come back next week for the latest business news. The FT News Briefing is produced by Fiona Symon and Marc Filippino. Our editor is Jess Smith. I’m Joanna Kao, and I presented to Marc this week. We also had help from Peter Barber, Gavin Kallmann and Michael Bruning. Our global head of audio is Cheryl Brumley, and our theme song is by Metaphor Music.

This transcript was generated automatically. If there is an error, please send the details for a correction to: tikfout@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.



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