Black Coffee: How iTunes Changed Our Music Shopping Habits

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

I always write these posts while listening to music.   In fact, I can’t write unless the tunes are playing on my iPod.

For the record, I always keep my iPod on shuffle; I bet most of you do too.   I can’t remember the last time I listened to an entire album all the way through.

Before iTunes, I used to have a “three song rule” when it came to buying albums; an album had to have three hit songs before I would buy it.   Not any more though.

It’s no wonder iTunes’ a la carte shopping model that allows most songs to be purchased for 99 cents pretty much makes albums an obsolete medium now, which is a good thing in my opinion.

Still, it’s kind of sad because today’s music artists recognize this too.   As a result there’s little reason anymore to produce masterpiece albums that are tied to together by a theme, like the Beatles classic Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Consumerism Commentary4 Ways to Retire Early By Cheating.   Flexo comes up with a few good ideas for those of you looking to retire early.   His top two ideas won’t work for me though.   Sure, I’d love to marry someone who: a) is independently wealthy; or b) is willing to work their tail off while I stay home all day.   Unfortunately for me, the former is out of the question because I’m pretty sure bigamy is illegal in most every state of the union.   As for the latter, the Honeybee beat me to the punch by thinking of it first.   Darn her!   I know.   I’ll probably be sleeping on the couch tonight.

KiplingerHow to Buy Into Facebook Before It Goes Public.   Last night the Honeybee and I rented The Social Network, which was Hollywood’s version of Facebook’s rise.   I thought it was a great movie, but that Mark Zuckerberg fella came out looking like a real — how can I put this nicely? — opportunist.     From what I’ve read, the portrayal is less than fair though.     He’s not married either so, ladies, if you’re looking to retire early you’ve got someone to focus your sights on.

Financial HighwayCar Sharing Mistakes Can Be Costly.   I don’t think I’m down with this car-sharing thing you can find now in some urban areas.   It’s all part of the latest craze in frugal living called collaborative consumption, where people share ownership of items with others in order to reduce costs.     Hopefully, this doesn’t spread to the restaurant industry.     I can see it now, somebody orders and eats half an entree.   Later somebody else in an entree-sharing plan stops by and gets to eat the other half.   Hey, on second thought…

Political Calculations On the Moneyed Midways – The Best Posts of 2010.   Well, after five years of scouring blog carnivals to highlight the best business and personal finance posts from around the web, OMM is sadly closing its doors — but not before going out with a bang by highlighting their terrific list of the best articles from 2010.   I for one will miss OMM’s weekly roundups.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…

Personal Finance By the Book – Effort or Achievement: Which Do You Value Most?

Money ReasonsPride In Your Work

Oblivious InvestorEmerging Market Risks

SquirrelersThe Disposition Effect

MonevatorOur Slow and Steady Passive Portfolio

Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance Wealth in Life: Patience Leads to Success

Faithful With a FewWhy the IRS is Forcing Many Taxpayers to Wait Before Filing

Control Your Cash – Man of the Year Update

Money Smart Life10 Credit Card Rental Car Insurance Surprises

Hope to ProsperHopeful Predictions for 2011

Out of Debt AgainEasy Baked Goods Recipe: Jumbo Banana Nut Breakfast Muffins

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From January 2010:

10 Money Saving Tips to Get the Most from Coupons Not using coupons or using them inefficiently can cost you a lot of money over the course of time, so here are some hints and tips that will enable you to use them as effectively as possible.

Credits and Debits

Debit: With the 50 states facing cumulative budget deficits that may reach upwards of $140 billion in 2011, the big debate is on how to close those gaps.

Debit: This week, the Illinois state legislature got right to work by approving a tax hike of 66% as part of a plan to close their $15 billion budget deficit.

Credit: Meanwhile, in order to close California’s $26 billion budget deficit, newly-elected governor Jerry Brown ordered state employees to turn in their cell phones by June 1.   Heh.   And I thought my cell phone plan was bad.

Credit: Brown also proposed another $12.5 billion in additional cuts to the government, including reductions in cash grants to low-income families from 60 to 48 months.

Debit: Unfortunately, the governor is also asking for $12 billion in tax hikes.   Why? Well, I’ll continue to say this until I am blue in the face: just as you can’t cure a drug addict by giving him more of the same, you can’t fix a spending problem by raising taxes.

Credit: If governor Brown is looking for places where he can trim the remaining $12 billion shortfall — without raising taxes —   all he has to do is look at these 10 examples of government waste in California.

Credit: Actually, cutting most everything on that list would save an additional $25 billion in state government expenditures — and permit lower state taxes.

Debit: Then again, despite evidence to the contrary, there’s at least one group out there that believes some people aren’t being taxed enough.

Debit: While California’s money troubles are completely self-inflicted, the sad truth is California may eventually end up being bailed out by the federal government if it can’t meet its obligations — despite denials by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Debit: The promise of a Fed bailout would permit free-spending states like California, Illinois and New York to essentially have their cake and eat it too at the expense of fiscally-responsible small-government states.

Credit: Finally, it’s only appropriate with the record cold and fresh snowfall on the ground in 49 of the 50 states, that an Oklahoma boy had to be rescued after he got his tongue stuck on a stop sign pole.   I know.   An obvious victim of the sinister triple dog-dare.

Letters, I Get Letters

Crystal, from Budgeting in the Fun Stuff wrote in to ask:

“Have you seen these four burgers McDonald’s has introduced to Japan?   They are named after US cities and states and are full of calories.”

I have, Crystal!   I’d really love to see them unveil a “Washington DC Burger.”   That’s because I bet it’s loaded with pork.   Best of all it’s probably going to be free — the “wealthy” guy standing behind you in line will have to pay for it.   (Hey, I’m here all week folks!   Don’t forget to tip your waitress!)

If you have a question you’d like to ask, or a comment you’d like to make regarding some of my irritating opinions, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at:

I’ll feature the most interesting question or comment I get each week here on Black Coffee — assuming I get one, that is.

If you’re lucky enough to be the only question in the mailbag I’ll highlight your letter, whether it’s interesting or not. 😉

By the Numbers

Speaking of pork, welcome to California, the not-so-golden state:

$26.4 billion California’s projected budget deficit for 2o11.

96,000 Cell phones currently allocated to California state employees.

48,000 Per governor Brown’s executive order, the number of cell phones that will be confiscated by June 1, 2011.

10,700 Cell phones currently issued to state prison bureau employees.

$36 The average cost per month for each cell phone.

40 Percentage of California state employees who currently have a cell phone paid for by the taxpayer.

$20 million The anticipated annual savings from the executive order.   (Only $26.38 billion more to go, Jerry.)

My $100 Reader Appreciation Giveaway News   – Update!

As of today, entrants to my reader appreciation giveaway have a roughly 1 in 60 chance of winning the $100 grand prize.     Those are pretty good odds, if you ask me.   If you haven’t entered, why not?   People actually pay good money to enter the lottery when they have a better chance of being struck by lightning.   Twice.     On the other hand, my giveaway is absolutely free — so what are you folks waiting for?   Enter for your chance to win!

Other Useless News

Speaking of iPods, here were the last 10 songs played on mine while I was writing this.   If you’re listening to your iPod, what’s playing right now?

1. I’m Gonna Crawl (Led Zeppelin)
2. Your Love (The Outfield)
3. Raise Your Glass (Pink)
4. Theme from “Shaft” (Isaac Hayes)
5. Dr. Love (KISS)
6. Too Daze Gone (Billy Squier)
7. Breakeven   (The Script)
8. Some Velvet Morning (Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood)
9. Up on the Roof (The Drifters)
10. Howard Jones (No One Is To Blame)

Here’s a friendly reminder for ya: if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please make sure you follow me on Twitter. And, if you’ll be so kind, don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! :-)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

The Carnival of Rejected Blog Submissions @ Len Penzo dot Com   (Editor’s Pick – Hooray!)

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 1


    Wow, a 66% tax hike is crazy! So my state’s tax rate is 6.5% that would mean it would be over 10%!!! Madness!

    Well at least California is taking some steps in the right direction…

    Thanks for the mention!

  2. 2

    Holly says

    Nice eclectic playlist, Len! Woo-Hoo…Led Zeppelin!!!!!!!!! Woo-hooo…the Drifters!!!! Now I want to steal my daughter’s ipod; she’s 10 and she never uses it anyway.

    Enjoyed the round-up, thanks!

  3. 3


    @MoneyReasons: That is crazy, isn’t it? There goes the savings they were going to get from the 2011 two-percent payroll tax holiday. It sucks to live in Illinois. Hopefully California voters (like me) don’t approve the tax hikes Governor Brown is asking for. I’d much rather see our state go bankrupt.
    @Holly: Yee haw! I’ve got over 3000 songs on mine right now — with artists spread out from as far back as the 1950s to today. No commercials either… I love it! :-)

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