Beyonce stops by Wal-Mart, pays for shoppers’ holiday gifts

Beyonce celebrates the release of her latest album
Beyonce stopped by a Wal-Mart store for a little shopping of her own, including a copy of her fifth self-titled album. Then she played Santa, paying for shoppers’ purchases to the tune of $37,500. (Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images)

Great human interest story about a really nice gesture by Beyonce  during these trying economic times…

Los Angeles Times

And the “#BeyGood” season continues.

Beyoncé stopped by a Wal-Mart in Tewksbury, Mass., on  Friday, shocking hundreds of holiday shoppers with her presence alone. But a simple appearance with hugs and smiles to customers around wasn’t the only surprise Beyoncé had in store, according to media reports.

After a brief introduction over the intercom, Queen Bey wished everyone a Happy New Year and opened a tab of her own: The first $50 of everyone’s holiday shopping was on her. It was a “Merry Christmas” wish to the tune of $37,500 before the singer took the stage as part of her Mrs. Carter Show world tour.

The singer hugged some of her smallest fans and smiled at others, who snapped pictures and took video as Beyoncé made her way through the store. But Christmas would not have been complete for her without purchasing a baby doll for her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, and a copy of her fifth-self titled album.

Beyoncé had already given her fans another shock earlier this month when she announced the album’s release through a 15-second Instagram video with a one-word caption: “Surprise!”

Target and Amazon refused to sell the album because of its initial release online, exclusive to Apple’s iTunes store. But that hasn’t hurt sales, as dedicated fans have moved the album to 1 million sales worldwide, according to the Associated Press. The album skyrocketed to record numbers on iTunes with the largest sales in a week in more than 100 countries, according to Apple.

It’s safe to say that the days leading up to Christmas weren’t jolly just for those few hundred shoppers, but also Beyoncé herself.

Sony Profiteering Off Whitney Houston’s Death

Think Progress

Stay classy, Sony. According to the Guardian, after Whitney Houston’s death, her label raised the price of at least one of her albums to take advantage of the immediate spike in sales:

The music giant is understood to have lifted the wholesale price of Houston’s greatest hits album, The Ultimate Collection, at about 4am California time on Sunday. This meant that the iTunes retail price of the album automatically increased from £4.99 to £7.99. Houston’s The Ultimate Collection, originally released in 1997, was the second top-selling album on iTunes on Monday morning. Apple returned the album to its original price late on Sunday.

It seems like it ought to have been enough for Sony to privately enjoy the revitalization of an album from its back catalogue: Houston was years away from her peak selling potential at the time of her death, which sent The Ultimate Collection to the top of the iTunes charts. A move like this may be strategic from a business perspective, but it looks impressively greedy. Given how hard the content industry is pushing to sell the public on the idea that they’re only acting in the best interests of creators in pushing for stronger copyright protections, profiting off a dead artist is decidedly off-message.

Will Spotify revolutionize the way we listen to music?

Spotify is streamed onto a mobile phone: Europe's popular online music service is coming to the U.S., and may mean serious competition for iTunes

Some wise person once said:

“Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” ~ Plato

On that note…

The Week

10 million European users have been raving about the free music streaming service for years. A guide to why you may want to get excited, too

“Any track, any time, anywhere. And it’s free!” That’s the mantra of one of Europe’s most popular — and praised — music streaming services, the Sweden-based Spotify. And now, the service, which has 10 million users across Europe, is coming stateside, though no specific launch date has been set. Spotify allows users to stream almost any widely released song online for free, and American music fans have been rabid for its debut in the U.S.—which has been almost two years in the making.  

Here’s a brief guide:

What makes Spotify so great? 
For starters, there’s the sheer number of songs offered. “When you get the urge to listen to a particular song, it’s there — and you don’t need to jump through any hoops to get it,” says Kat Hannaford at Gizmodo. The European version of Spotify has been diligent in securing permission from the major record labels, meaning all listening is legal. You can listen to whole albums, individual songs, or organize playlists — which can be shared online with friends who can add to the playlist themselves. Spotify will also import your existing music library, “so you theoretically never have to listen to iTunes again,” says Jared Newman at TIME.

And it’s free?
Yup. It doesn’t cost anything to download or use Spotify, though there are some restrictions. You can listen to 10 hours of music per month, and five listens per track for free. For $5 a month, those restrictions are lifted, and you get unlimited online streaming. Make it $10 a month, and you can access to Spotify on mobile devices, too.

How do I get it?
The announcement on Spotify’s website only says that the service is coming to the U.S. “soon,” though “sources” at Billboard anticipate that its launch is likely to come next week. Typically, you have to be invited to join Spotify. But the company’s website is currently allowing prospective users to sign up for an invitation.

Why has it taken so long to get here?
Plans for Spotify to enter the American market date back to July 2009. The company aims to offer the same extensive song library it makes available in Europe, and “it’s no secret” that record labels here haven’t been as generous licensing their content, says Britain’s Guardian. But after securing a $100 million investment in June, it appeared that the company would have the resources to close deals with the labels.

Will it be a success?
Spotify’s free service is “unparalleled,” says Newman at TIME. Unlike similar services — MOG, Rhapsody, Rdio, and Zune — the perks that Spotify offers at such a low cost makes it likely that potential customers will go for the premium service. Yet the service still doesn’t have licenses for songs from the Warner Music Group catalog, says Alex Pham at the Los Angeles Times, meaning a “treasure trove” of music from the likes of Bruno Mars, Green Day, and Eric Clapton won’t be available yet. Yet the three other major record labels are a go, which is still a “revolutionary” step for a free music service. Says We’re “waiting with headphones ready.”

Stewart Takes On Big Banks For Accidental Foreclosures (VIDEO)

Huffington Post

After being bailed out and sticking the American tax payers with bad mortgage loans, lenders like JP Morgan Chase and Bank Of America are now admitting that they might have foreclosed on some homes by accident because of not reading fine print correctly. Last night on “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart lambasted the big banks for ignoring the fine print that they themselves came up with.

“Wait, what? The banks weren’t reading the fine print? You’re the people who came up with the f**king fine print in the first place!” Stewart said in shock.

Stewart pointed out that regular people typically never read fine print, using the length of a standard iTunes contract as an example, but that the banks weren’t even reading the “regular print” when they decided to change the locks on homes that were not in foreclosure, which happened in Orange County, FL recently.

Since the American tax payers are now part owners of these crappy mortgages, Stewart said we should request a halt to the foreclosures until all the paperwork is straightened out, but analysts suggest this would collapse the economy.

So, it is up to Congress and President Obama to solve the problem and protect people from accidental foreclosures, but as Stewart learns, only one of them will actually do something about it.

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