Borkowski Weekly Media Trends 13-05-22
Spinal Tap II | Has crypto bubble burst? | Musk's Latest Twitter Twist
Can Spinal Tap sequel turn it up to II?
Peak sequel (see also: peak reboot) has been on the cards for quite some time; the streaming era has created infinite space (and near-infinite budget) for the giants of modern media to revisit, rehash and occasionally desecrate the corpse of treasured cultural entities from days gone by.
Today’s addition to the pantheon of comebacks is Spinal Tap, a cultural monolith every bit as large and awe-inspiring as “Stone’enge”. According to Deadline, a sequel is due near 40 years on from the original.
Spinal Tap’s iconic status has many facets and its influence echoes throughout rock music and comedy.
It was such a perfect parody of the classic rock era that it has become an essential part of rock history itself. Its title is a common adjective wherein any musician acting like a pretentious, unselfaware, petulant, dim-witted diva is described as being ‘a bit Spinal Tap’.
It’s also credited with essentially inventing the mockumentary, and was a huge influence on comedy classics such as The Office. Its legacy can also be seen in instances where rock music and comedy collide, from Wayne’s World and School of Rock, to Flight of the Conchords and even We Are Lady Parts.
It’s a legacy only a handful of cultural entities can lay claim to, so why risk tainting that with a sequel? The risks are many; humour has totally changed in the past four decades; the original Spinal Tap triggered an evolution in mockumentary and genre-comedy that would make a straight rehash feel dated. Sex and the City is more recent and look at the dour reception its reboot received.
The ways music has both changed and stayed the same present further risks. Classic rock is no longer a universal cultural reference. The teenagers who listened to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath are now grandparents whose progeny think ‘classic rock’ means Paramore. Even the old rockers who have stuck with the fame game now generally provide as much entertainment by being more ‘Spinal Tap’ than Spinal Tapas they do by making music; look at the Bros documentary a couple of years ago; if the Tap sequel is half that funny it’ll have been a worthwhile exercise…and Bros formed AFTER Spinal Tap came out!
But with risk comes opportunity. The thought of David St. Hubbins trying to work out TikTok is funny enough to suggest that maybe, just maybe, there is space in our much-evolved culture for this generation’s music industry to have its ridiculous innards exposed by the old masters.
Institutional Investors and Crypto - Is the reward worth the risk?
We're used to high-profile financial mavens stoking wild excitement in the press with lofty and sometimes eye-popping price predictions for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Most validate their findings by theorising that large financial institutions will adopt crypto, instantly maturing the market. But this week, we've seen this volatile asset come crashing down, losing billions in hours and impacting the entire market's legitimacy. Cynics are touting this episode as Crypto's Lehman Brothers moment.
One of the critical factors in this collapse is the 'stable coin' Terrausd (UST). Those unfamiliar with this term think of it as the digital dollar, made for those wanting to remain in crypto without fully 'cashing out', e.g. you can sell your Bitcoin for a stable coin, and it is expected to have a dollar valuation.
But in this case, Terra wasn't so stable after it lost its peg to the U.S. dollar this week, and its expected dollar valuation plummeted after the market realised it didn't have enough cash to payout on the value; it took a free fall from a market cap of $40bn to $500m.
But minus the thousands, if not millions, who will now be out of pocket, why does this matter? Rumours have circulated that Blackrock, Citadel Securities, and Gemini had some part in the fall. The three companies have quickly denied the accusations but the theory abounds.
According to the rumours, Blackrock and Citadel Securities borrowed 100K of Bitcoin from cryptocurrency exchange Gemini and swapped 25% for the stable coin. However, the two companies subsequently dumped the stable coin and Bitcoin, crashing the prices of the two cryptocurrencies. Meaning they can now buy bitcoin at a meagre cost as a long term investment.
Whether this is true or not, it shows how fragile the crypto market is. Many economists believe it to be held up by little more than a bubble or hot air and hype. If so, when the big players come along, they can make big plays to manipulate the market and cash in for themselves. This might cause the hype bubble to burst, and put off more stable, risk-averse investors too.
So do the benefits outweigh the negatives? A bit like the dot com boom and every new gold rush, there is a lot of bandwagoning, and many who jump off too early or on too late will lose out. But crypto projects that solve problems and create particle solutions are here to stay. In the long run, institutional investors will prosper as long as governments introduce regulations to ensure that the market is adequately run and managed.
Another week, another Elon Musk story. Well it's the same story, the one Musk has drawn out for months. In the latest Twitter takeover twist, Musk is stalling in his attempt to buy the company for £36bn after Twitter announced that fewer than 5% of its users were spam or fake accounts.
Part of Musk's manifesto pledge for Twitter's takeover was to fix the 'bot' issue, and with this new information presented to him, Musk is stalling to contest the Twitter’s claims of being (relatively) bot free. There are suggestions that the number of spam accounts is actually much higher but only represents less than 5% of Twitter’s monetisable daily active users.
It's a strange detail to challenge, and this delay could be a tactic that leads to him pulling out of the takeover. The PR Musk has amassed from this ‘deal’ is seismic despite being replete with experts questioning why he was even trying to pull this mammoth acquisition off in the first place. However, one slight hurdle has opened the door to a possible exit.
Musk's decision to take some of the intricate details about the takeover public (via Twitter, no less) has been a litmus test of sorts, gauging public opinion and analysing the media's reaction which, to him are all-important. This latest development could be a test of the extent to which Twitter will feed his messiah complex; if one of the critical problems Musk has set out to solve turns out to be relatively minor, is the adulation he would receive from his acolytes for fixing it really worth more than Serbia's GDP?
It's difficult to avoid cynicism in this story, with all the twists and turns, cryptic memes and public mind games, but at this point, Musk can probably bow out and retain his cult status. But for market analysts questioning whether the takeover is primarily being driven by ego or business acumen, the plot thickens yet further.