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Privacy Fallacies

"Since information helps markets work better, the cost of privacy is less efficient markets," writes Paul H. Rubin in the Wall Street Journal (8/30/10). That’s the first of Paul’s ten rebuttals to what he sees as "fallacies" about privacy. His point is that, contrary to what some may believe, our privacy is not free, given "a strong trade-off between privacy and information." Paul also says that the costs of privacy are not "borne by companies" because "consumers get tremendous benefits from the use of information."

He notes, for example, that Google’s various free services are "all ultimately funded by targeted advertising based on the use of information." Naturally, Paul also forwards the most common anti-privacy argument — that when ads are targeted, consumers "get better and more useful information more quickly." He further contends that the quality of those services would decline if Google didn’t have the information required to "better target searches," for example. "Shorter retained search histories mean less effective targeting, " he writes.

Refuting the argument that privacy invades our personal space, Paul points out that most information is used anonymously. He says that information-based price discrimination "makes it possible for firms to provide goods and services that would otherwise not be available, "and that less privacy creates greater safety, since information is used to combat identity theft." Opt-in doesn’t benefit consumers, says Paul, "since the use of information is generally benign and valuable." And he says consumers should not be irate over how their information is used, "because there is no harm from the way it is used."

Creepy Crawlers

"I understand that advertising supports the internet, but I am a little spooked out," says Senator Claire McCaskill in a New York Times piece by Miguel Helft and Tanzina Vega (8/30/10). She adds: "This is creepy." The senator is among several lawmakers considering regulations on "remarketing," or the practice of tracking consumer behavior online to serve up targeted ads. Zappos is among the most enthusiastic proponents of the practice, but it appears that some backlash may be brewing.

If you’ve ever shopped at Zappos, you may have noticed that items you viewed but didn’t purchase show up in ads on sites — YouTube, Facebook or MySpace — that you subsequently visit. "It’s a pretty clever marketing tool," says Julie Matlin, who found herself being followed around by a pair of shoes she had viewed on Zappos. "But it’s a little creepy, especially if you don’t know what’s going on." Julie was even more chagrined when she found out she was being followed by ads for a dieting service.

Aaron Magness of Zappos says that’s why each ad has a link to an explanation for it along with an opt-out option (which few apparently take advantage of). However, Joseph Turow of the Annenberg School says that simply telling people what’s going on isn’t enough. "When you begin to give people a sense of how this is happening, they don’t like it," he says. And Alan Pearlstein of Cross Pixel Media, suggests it’s overkill and thinks the approach could be more subtle by featuring general coupons versus specific items, for example. "What is the benefit of freaking customers out?" he says.

Archie's Empire

Archie may be 68 years old but his creators see nothing but potential in him among today’s teens, reports George Gene Gustines in the New York Times (8/15/10). "I think there’s been periods when you can tell that Archie comics had been written by men in their 50s," says Mark Evanier, a comic book historian. That period ended last year, when a new administration took over and began introducing storylines hinting at bigamy and characters who are out of the closet. This created buzz, and the buzz created sales.

At its peak, in the 1940s, a single Archie comicbook would sell more than a million copies. At its nadir, the 2000s, it "averaged around 2,455 copies." But the bigamy storyline (in which Archie imagines being married to both Veronica and Betty) sold 60,000, and now the comic averages about 5,000 copies per issue. Part of the success is owed to a different format — a larger, "magazine-size publication that is part comic book, part ‘Teen Beat.’" The approach played well with retailers, including CVS, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble.

"I hate to denigrate comic book stores," says Michael Uslan, also a comic book historian. "They are wonderful, but for a kid to buy an Archie comic or for a parent to buy an Archie comic for a kid, they are not going to go to a walk-up in a bad part of town." The Archie empire is currently run by Jon Goldwater and Nancy Silberkleit, whose father and father-in-law, respectively, founded Archie comics. They envision everything from Archie apps to apparel to Broadway musicals to using Archie to promote literacy. "We’re at the beginning of the beginning," says Jon. "Publishing will always be part of it, but we must morph into a multimedia company."

Collective Personality

Despite considerable research to the contrary, "Generation Y’s collective personality, if such a thing exists, is not likely to be much different from other generations’," reports Benedict Carey in the New York Times (8/3/10). Much of the current research on those born after 1970 says Gen Y, or the Millennials, are "low on greatness and high on traits like entitlement and narcissism." One recent study reports that the Millennials are "more likely than previous generations to see themselves as ‘an important person.’"

But some psychologists are now challenging such characterizations, in some cases attacking the way past research was conducted or interpreted. Some say that the samples are skewed because they typically include only college students. Annie Murphy Paul, author of The Cult of Personality Testing, says the tests are inherently flawed: "We should keep in mind that personality tests are themselves cultural documents, idiosyncratic products of particular individuals that say more about their creators than the people who take them," she says.

A pair of university professors, M. Brent Donnellan and Kali H. Trzesniewski, meanwhile say that narcissism peaks in young adulthood generally, and isn’t specific to Millennials. However, "a widely used questionnaire called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory," finds that scores related to self-importance have "gone up significantly, at least in some college samples." Dr. Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me, says the most dramatic increases are among women. And then there’s the question of whether the increase is necessarily good or bad, because self-importance makes some people pompous, but others purposeful.

Little Richard

He’s 77 years old now and the song that made him famous turns 55 next month, but Little Richard’s influence still runs strong, reports Marc Myers in the Wall Street Journal (8/10/10). "I was like the rappers today, creating dirty words to blues songs on the spot," says Richard. "One of them was called Tutti Fruitti." (video) Indeed it was, and even though the original lyrics were cleaned up, teens at the time knew exactly what he meant when he sang "about a girl named Sue who knows just what to do." Woooooo.

Released in January, 1956, Tutti Frutti peaked at No. 17. It was followed by Long Tall Sally (No. 6), and Slippin’ and Slidin’, Rip It Up and Ready Teddy — Little Richard recorded "15 Billboard Top 100 hits by 1958. He also made three film appearances, including The Girl Can’t Help It, starring Jayne Mansfield (video). "I had started standing at the keyboard so I could do my stage routine without having to get up," says Richard. "I also began putting my leg up on the piano, like Otis Turner." (video)

Richard was already dressing flamboyantly and wearing his hair in a pompadour, a style he picked up from Esquerita, the R&B singer who also taught him how to play boogie-woogie piano. "I wore makeup and wild outfits to keep white people from focusing on me as some kind of a … threat," says Richard. "I knew that if I looked crazy, not cool, I wouldn’t be seen that way. And it worked. People focused on the music." The affected include Elvis, the Beatles, Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Michael Jackson. "I should be better recognized today for sure," says Richard. "I am the beginning. I am the originator."

Elvis Week

"Elvis was complicated, so you need a lot of time to make sense of him," says Jim Hamilton in a Wall Street Journal piece by Marc Myers (8/18/10). Jim is one of some 40,000 fans who descended on Memphis to celebrate Elvis Week, commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the singer’s death. Jim drove his 1959 Pink Cadillac all the way from Baltimore to be near Graceland on August 16th, which he’s done every year for the past 15.

June Balish has attended Elvis Week for the past 14 years, although she admits she’s not sure exactly why. "Elvis is infinitely mysterious," she says. Barbara McLean, also attending Elvis week for the 15th time, agrees: "No matter how big you think Elvis is, he always turns out to be even bigger," she says. "Every year, I think I’ve finally figured it all out, but I haven’t. He just keeps growing on you." It’s true that Elvis, in his 23-year career, "delivered an almost kaleidoscopic range of stage personalities."

He was a rocker, a film star, a balladeer … a pawn and a king. His persona ranged "from aw-shucks innocent to pill-dependent recluse." But whatever he was, he’s still making money. Warner just re-issued "Elvis on Tour," a 1972 documentary, and RCA/Legacy is about to release a 30-CD box set priced at $749. "He’s the only star who touches your mind, heart and secksuality all at once — and you never really fully figure out why," says June Balish. Mitchell Johnson, an Elvis impersonator, thinks he knows: "Down here, Southern hospitality has become a tourist attraction," he says, adding, "Elvis is just the soundtrack."

Unwired Coffee

Certain city cafes are getting rid of the comfy chairs and tables in hopes of getting rid of some of their customers, suggests Oliver Strand in the New York Times (8/25/10). Among them is the aptly named Cafe Grumpy, whose latest location features "a counter in the back and a chest-high table in the front." If you want to linger, there’s a bench outside. The idea is to discourage people from parking themselves with their laptops — a practice that Grumpy had already banned at one of its other locations.

"I appreciate the idea of when you go someplace and it feels like a home away from home, but I don’t think it should be a home office away from home," says Grumpy co-owner Caroline Bell. Some customers aren’t happy about this. "I don’t find it relaxing," says Kate Sebbah. "This is a time to sit down, relax, compose my thoughts." But others — espresso drinkers especially — like the stand-up approach. "I spent a semester in Rome when I was in college and coffee there is: you come in, you pay, you get it, you drink it, you slam it and you’re out the door," says Matthew Schnepf.

Christian Geckeler, of manseekingcoffee dot-com, says less furniture is conducive to more conversation. "It’s really lovely," he says. "You have a couple of bar stools and the baristas are right there, so the conversation just naturally happens." Mark Connell of the Bluebird Coffee Shop agrees: "A coffee shop should be a place to meet your friends and hold conversations … instead of sticking your head in a laptop," he says. Starbucks in SoHo (image) meanwhile is hedging its bets with "a few stools, in addition to the expected tables and chairs."

Southwest Regrets

Fred Taylor Jr. is not officially the "chief apology officer" for Southwest Airlines, but he might as well be, reports Terry Maxon via McClatchy/Tribune News (8/24/10). Fred, along with two assistants, sends brief emails of apology to passengers when something goes wrong. Usually it’s relatively routine stuff, like delays. But sometimes it’s kind of crazy, like the time a female passenger started chewing on a seat cushion, and then doffed her top and ran down the aisle.

In such cases, Fred’s apology goes something like this: "On behalf of Southwest Airlines employees, I extend my apologies for any disconcerting feelings you may have had as a result of the bizarre behavior or one of your fellow travelers. Certainly, your patience and cooperation while the local authorities responded to the situation and conducted their respective investigation is greatly appreciated — I imagine the wait was a bit of a hassle as well, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience."

Such apologies are normally sent within 24 hours of the incident, and are accompanied by some kind of gift, "usually a voucher in dollars that can be used on their next Southwest flight." Southwest has been apologizing like this for 10 years and it helps. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, "American, Northwest Airlines, US Airways and United Airlines all have complaint rates more than five times as high as Southwest’s," which has the industry’s lowest complaint rate. Delta’s is more than nine times higher than Southwest’s.

Nordstrom's Window

A relatively simple change in merchandising strategy is yielding big benefits for Nordstrom, reports Stephanie Clifford in the New York Times (8/24/10). The change, implemented 11 months ago, integrates in-store and at-warehouse inventory, which vastly increases the odds that shoppers will find what they’re looking for. Not only that, but shoppers can either order the item for home delivery or reserve it for same-day pickup at a nearby store. The result, according to Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct, is "some pretty meaningful results."

Specifically, "same-store sales increased by an average of eight percent," versus an average decline of 11.9 percent prior to the new approach. Nordstrom does not attribute the entire turnaround to the strategy, but in any case the retailer now boasts "one of the best improvements in same-store sales over the last year" versus its competitors. Jamie says Nordstrom implemented the new policy because it was clear its customers wanted it.

As he explains: "It was the first thing we did, because the No. 1 call we got at our call center was, ‘Hey, I’m looking at this item online, can I look at it at my store?’" The strategy meanwhile increases the number of shoppers who shop in more than one way, who "spend four times, on average what a one-source shopper does." For Nordstrom, fewer leftovers also means fewer markdowns, and greater profits. "We can sell more without having to buy more inventory," says Jamie, "That plays through to margins and, ultimately, earnings."

The Daily Grommet

Jules Pieri and Joanne Domeniconi are creating a "link between buyers and inventors" that they call "citizen commerce," reports Amy Wallace in the New York Times (8/8/10). Their website, The Daily Grommet, is designed "to enable consumers to find products that support their values" and "patronize innovative companies that its team believes will treat customers well." The Daily Grommet’s staff does its own research to find such products "and features only products and companies it has battle tested."

Featured products have included "a hands-free flashlight, a newfangled pogo stick and an embroidered Peruvian belt." The criteria for selection includes "well-made products and impeccable service," from "nice companies. If those products preserve a craft or protect the environment … so much the better." Jules says there’s "a burning hunger for real leadership and access to authentic experiences and trustworthy people."

"We are seeing an unprecedented democratization of innovation, but existing retail and distribution systems don’t give everyday people access to the fruits of that trend," says Jules, who also notes "that new, cheaper prototyping tools have made it easier to become an inventor." The Daily Grommet is based in Lexington, Massachusetts and "promises buyer satisfaction and a moneyback guarantee." Its endorsements can’t be bought, and the site carries no advertising, but the Grommet makes its money by taking "a cut of the revenue" on all sales.

Flower Power

"I’m going to be in jail for committing tomato Ponzi," says Zachary Lippman in a New York Times piece by Robin Finn (8/22/10). Zach probably won’t be going to jail, but he may be laughing all the way to the bank once his research into tomato genetics bears, um, fruit. Zach and his team at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have figured out how to "make a tomato plant increase its yield by half and simultaneously sweeten its produce."

But they’re doing it not with "genetically modified tricks" but rather as Mother Nature intended. The process involves "manipulating a single copy of a mutant gene … known as S.F.T. (single flower truss)." Called the "flower power gene" it "tells plants when and how many flowers to generate." The hope is that one day any gardener with a packet of Zach’s superseeds could produce a bumper crop, not to mention the commercial potential of sweeter, more plentiful tomatoes.

There’s also the possibility of manipulating melons and soybeans in similar fashion. "If this technology can be transferred to other species it could be quite valuable, and that’s what Zach is working on now," says Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Zach’s fellow scientists may not be so impressed though; a group of them recently greeted him with shouts of, "Hey Zach, nice tomatoes!" But Zach is undaunted: "If I had a million dollars, I’d start a seed company tomorrow," he says. A patent on his mutant seeds is pending.

Personal Watermelons

The nostalgia some Arkansans have for big, heavy, oblong watermelons isn’t shared by folks elsewhere around the country, reports Kim Severson in the New York Times (8/18/10). "When I was growing up, the guys were always talking big melons," says Lloyd Bright, who lives in Hope, Arkansas (which, in itself, may explain the comment). He also holds the record for having grown the world’s largest watermelon, weighing in at 268 pounds and 8 ounces (image). The trend, however, is toward smaller, rounder watermelons — without seeds, of course (only about 20 percent of melons sold in the US today have seeds).

Purists think that these "personal watermelons" lack the personality, character and flavor of old-fashioned melons. But for farmers and consumers, the smaller melons make more sense. "You can handle them better and stack them better," says Ernest Brown, a farmer. In addition, the big watermelons might yield just 40,000 pounds per acre, while the personal size might yield up to 80,000 pounds. Others note that the growing process for traditional watermelons is "chemical heavy."

It is also wasteful, as it involves "culling plenty of healthy, unripe fruit to let the vine turn its attention to the most promising watermelon." And as far as consumers are concerned, the smaller melons are more practical, as well: "Most people, particularly urban people, would rather have a small one," says Dr. Terry Kirkpatrick of the University of Arkansas. "With the big ones, you fill up all your Tupperware containers and you’re still not done." Terry still prefers the old-fashioned varieties, though: "I grew up in the country, and the ability to spit seeds is something that is an art," he says. "You just have to spit seeds once in a while."

Shopper Back

Karuna Rawal, Arc Worldwide
Shoppers expect brands to meet their needs anytime, everywhere.  By Karuna Rawal. (more)


Zero Waste

Even mighty Walmart can’t get a handle on "zero waste" when it comes to the apparel it sells, reports Stephanie Rosenbloom in the New York Times (8/18/10). It’s an issue since "about 15 to 20 percent of the fabric used to produce clothing winds up in landfills because it’s cheaper to dump the scraps than to recycle them." Where Walmart has used its clout to support compact fluorescents and concentrated detergents, it apparently hasn’t yet exerted as much muscle where clothing is concerned.

Manufacturers face other obstacles, as a zero-waste goal likely would involve "re-engineering the supply line," and "overhauling a factory is obviously expensive." But that’s not stopping zero-waste zealots like Timo Rissanen, co-author of "Shaping Sustainable Fashion," who says he is re-learning how to design, scrap-free. One technique involves creating a pattern that fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Another avoids cutting the fabric altogether, and instead drapes it over a mannequin to be tucked and sewn.

Parsons the New School for Design is also now offering a course in zero waste in which students will be challenged "to figure out how to create zero-waste jeans without compromising style." This includes not only fabric waste, but also "the dyes added only to be washed out again, the energy used to transport the denim all over the world, the packaging, and the gallons of water used by consumers to clean the jeans." The winning design will be manufactured by Loomstate, an organic fashion label, and sold at Barneys New York next spring.

Sonic Chips

Frito-Lay is making more noise than it would like with its newly biodegradable bag of solar-baked chips, reports Suzanne Vranica in the Wall Street Journal (8/19/10). Frito might have expected nothing but praise for its new bag design for its Sun Chips brand (commercial). After all, the estimated life-span of a traditional snack-chip bag, which is made of "polymers such as polyproylene and polyethylene," could be as long as 100 years.

But the new Sun Chips bag, which was introduced in January, is made of polylactic acid, "which fully decomposes in about 14 weeks when placed in a hot, active, compost pile." The only problem with this is that the new bag is really, really noisy. It is so noisy that J. Scot Heathman, an Air Force pilot, tested its loudness using a RadioShack sound meter. He squeezed the bag and recorded it at 95 decibels (video). That compares to 77 decibels for an environmentally-unfriendly bag.

Indeed, Frito’s new bag is so noisy that there’s even a Facebook group called, "Sorry But I Can’t Hear You Over This Sun Chips Bag," with more than 30,000 fans. The real issue is that the noisy bag may be hurting Sun Chips sales, which have been in decline since its introduction. But Frito is not backing off, and is now posting at-shelf signs reading, "Yes, the bag is loud, that’s what change sounds like." However, a Frito engineer admits he’s working on developing a quieter, crunch-free, biodegradable chips bag.

Monolingual Americans

"Americans are still stubbornly — even proudly — monolingual, more concerned with protecting English than with learning another tongue," writes Evan R. Goldstein in the Wall Street Journal (8/20/10). America’s monolingualism persists even in a post Nine-Eleven world and a report from the National Research Council that stated, "A pervasive lack of knowledge about foreign cultures and foreign languages threatens the security of the United States as well as its ability to compete in the global marketplace."

Almost ten years later, and after a $114 million program established by President Bush in 2006 "to encourage the study of high-priority languages, such as Arabic and Farsi," American interest in foreign languages has only declined: "Between 1997 and 2008, the percentage of elementary schools offering foreign-language instruction decreased to 25 percent from 31 percent; in middle schools, that figure dropped to 58 percent from 75 percent, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics."

As English has grown to become the dominant language of international business, the military and science, some question whether knowing more than one language matters anymore. Others also note that it won’t be long before there’s an app to translate anything you might want to say into any language. But Rosemary Feal of the Modern Language Association points out the cognitive and cultural development that comes with learning other languages and counters: "As humans, we will always use language in ways that are creative, culturally specific and idiosyncratic … and you can’t replace that with an iPhone App."

Bilingual Babies

Growing numbers of parents are looking for ways to teach their babies to learn a second or third language, reports Jenny Anderson in the New York Times (8/19/10). Some are hiring foreign-language babysitters (-: while others are investing in products like Spanish in a Basket :-). In some cases, it’s because it’s easier to learn foreign languages at a younger age. In others, it’s because the parents have some kind of connection to other languages. It’s also because they think it will make their children smarter, although there’s some debate over that.

"Once you are trilingual, your brain can break down new languages that make it so much easier to learn your fourth, fifth and sixth languages," says Simona D’Souza, whose three kids speak German, Spanish and English. Research does indeed show "that learning a second language makes it easier to learn additional languages." But psychologist Ellen Bialystok says that doesn’t necessarily mean being multilingual makes you smarter. "There are documented cognitive developments," she says, "but whatever smarter means, it isn’t true."

Ellen’s own research finds that multilingual kids "tend to have smaller vocabularies in English than their monolingual counterparts," and that they "have to work harder to access the right word in the right language which can slow them down" — if only by milliseconds. But research also shows that "bilingual children do better at complex tasks like isolating information presented in confusing ways," and some believe this flexibility can be helpful in science and math. "We view it as a gift we are giving him," says Nir Liberboim, who "hired a Peruvian nanny to speak only Spanish" with his 18-month-old son.

Bamboo Bikes

"There’s something going on with bamboo bikes," says Jay Townley in a New York Times piece by Malia Wollan (8/12/10). "They’re catching on with urban and commuting cyclists," adds Jay, a market researcher. Bamboo bikes are still a relative rarity, but some cyclists like both the bike’s "eco-credibility" as well as their distinctive look. Unlike steel, bamboo grows like a weed and can be composted. But interestingly, it has a "strength-to-weight ratio similar to that of steel."

Some cyclists are willing to pay dearly for this: "Nick Frey, owner of Boo Bicycles, builds and sells high-performance bamboo-frame bicycles … ranging from $3,000 for just the frame to $10,000 for a tricked-out racer." Ironically, super-cheap bamboo bikes — selling for about $60 each — will soon be built in Ghana, as part of the Bamboo Bike Project sponsored by Columbia University. Other enthusiasts are taking a do-it-yourself approach, using one of the "step-by-step, how-to-build-a-bamboo-bike guides on the Instructables web site."

Marty Odlin of the Bamboo Bike Studio in (where else) Brooklyn, offers bamboo bike-building workshops. Marty and his students harvest their own bamboo "from patches on the property of landowners who eagerly granted permission to anyone willing to assist in taming the plant … Because of high demand, the studio now orders bulk shipments of bamboo from Mexico." He also has created a "mail-order, do-it-yourself bamboo bike kit." Other bamboo bike makers include Signature Cycles, Renovo Design, Panda Bicycles, Organic Bikes and Calfee Design.

Sk8tr Bikers

"The perfect bike is one where every part is exactly where it belongs," says Max Schaaf, a builder of skater-inspired motorcycles, reports Austin Considine in the New York Times (7/18/10). Max runs 4Q Conditioning, a custom-bike shop in Oakland, California, and is "widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in skateboarding and custom bike building." The prevailing aesthetic is "minimalism: Every visible part seems to have an equally visible function; the pieces are as gorgeous and meditative as they are spare and athletic."

In other words, they are not "chrome cruisers with stretched-out front ends and high-rise handlebars … These are sleek stripped-down machines, recalling a style, popular after World War II, in which owners chopped away excess to make their bikes leaner and faster … Typical design features of the genre include custom handlebars, fenderless front wheels, suspensions shorn of all extraneous brackets and no-frills seating for just one person."

One thing these skater-bikes have in common with other choppers is a disdain for unmodified bikes. "Stock Harleys are boring," says Lee Bender, a skater turned biker. "It’s kind of like going to Walmart and buying a skateboard," he says. Harley embraces these skaters, though, and "is using star skateboarders to promote a new variation of its Sportster model." The skaters themselves recognize "an overlap of skater and biker subcultures." As Max Schaaf puts it: "We’re just wired a certain way … For some reason the death and danger are just a part of us."

Arcade Fire

If an indie band hits number-one on the charts, is it still an indie band? That’s the question some fans have now that Arcade Fire, a bastion of indie-bandedness, has sold more records in a week than Eminem, writes Ben Sisario in the New York Times (8/15/10). Nevermind that being number-one on the charts today means having sold just 156,000 copies, "a quantity that might not have been enough for the top 10 a decade ago," much less in 1992, when alt-rockers Nirvana topped corp-popstar Michael Jackson.

But number one is still number one, even if it isn’t what it used to be, and Arcade Fire is celebrating with two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden. They got there, some say, through shameless self-promotion on Facebook, paid promotion on Twitter and a $3.99 download special on their new record, "The Suburbs," on Amazon. As one fan tweeted: "Corporate indie, anyone?" It seems that the music itself hardly matters anymore.

Nor does it seem to register that every other band of any size or stripe has to promote itself to realize anything like success. As Ben writes, "What separates Arcade Fire from most others isn’t the band’s tactics; it’s that those tactics have worked." And it’s worth noting that, unlike most other number-one acts who "turn over their rights to a record label," Arcade Fire retains the rights to its songs, which arguably meets the definition of "independent." And yet the only saving grace may be that, this week, Eminem is expected to re-claim his spot on Billboard’s Hot 200.