September 18, 2023

Today's Topics

Hello! NASA has appointed a new director of unidentified anomalous phenomenon or, as some have termed it, a UFO Czar. Today we’re exploring:

  • How much does this pay? Salary transparency is coming to a job site near you.
  • Music mega fund: After acquiring 65,000 songs, Hipgnosis is now selling ~20% of them off.
  • Nation allocation: What does the UN spend its budget on?
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See-through salaries

The days of waiting until the end of a job interview to awkwardly ask about pay may soon be behind us, according to job-searching site, as new data reveals that just over 50% of listings now contain prospective salary information — more than triple the proportion seen in early 2019.

That’s the highest share Indeed has ever recorded, which has likely been accelerated by a spate of new wage laws and regulations across the country, with an estimated 44.8 million workers, over 26% of the American labor force, now covered by pay range transparency legislation.

Range life

States with laws that call for at least some level of salary visibility see their regulations reflected in Indeed’s data. Job hunters in Colorado, the first state to implement legislation tackling compensation transparency in 2021, can expect salary info on 81% of Indeed listings, while New York state — where new transparency legislation came into effect on Sunday — saw visibility almost double to 61%, after NYC implemented changes late last year.

Apart from saving time for everyone involved, as well as reducing the asymmetry of information between employee and employer, pay transparency has also been hailed as a way to reduce the gender pay gap.

Hits don’t lie

Hipgnosis Songs Fund — a music mega fund that's spent the last 5 years and more than $2 billion acquiring the intellectual property rights to more than 65,000 songs — has announced that it's selling ~20% of its portfolio for $465m.

Entire song collections from Shakira, Barry Manilow, and Nelly will change hands in the deal, as the fund seeks to cut debts and buy back shares with the proceeds generated by the 29-catalog sale announced last week.

The idea behind the UK-based fund is simple. Founder Merck Mercuriadis believes that hit songs are actually long-term predictable assets that, in most cases, will hold their value for decades to come — particularly as streaming continues to be the rising tide lifting all boats.

Born to run deals

Hipgnosis’s aggressive deal-making has contributed to the trend of songwriters cashing in on their copyrights. The allure of big lump-sum payments, rather than royalties spread over decades, is obvious. Some of the biggest names in music, including Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan, have reportedly received $500m and $300m for selling off their respective songbooks.

Funds like Hipgnosis are comfortable shouldering the risk, and the rewards, associated with the future value of their music. But in HSF’s case, they might have slightly overstuffed their playlist just at the wrong moment: a pivotal vote in October determines whether shareholders will back the fund for another 5 years, or completely stop the music.

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United front?

This week, more than 140 world leaders and state representatives will arrive in New York to discuss a range of international issues — including the climate crisis, the economy of the global South, and the war in Ukraine — at the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly. The annual summit will see global policy makers take to the stage in Tuesday’s high-level General Debate — although, notably, with fewer familiar faces.

Amongst the 5 nations in the Security Council (the US, China, Russia, France, and Britain), President Biden will be the only leader to attend the meeting, with Emmanuel Macron and Rishi Sunak both citing scheduling conflicts. Even so, this summit will be the first attended in-person by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is seeking support against Russia’s invasion in tomorrow’s session.

First aid

Since being founded in 1945, the UN has aimed to gather its member states — of which there are now 195, compared with the 51 that signed the original UN Charter — to find shared solutions to global problems. However, as the world’s needs have changed significantly, so have the UN’s priorities.

While in 2010, the majority of the UN’s budget (44%) was issued to help developing countries, the allocation for humanitarian assistance has increased substantially in the last decade, nearly doubling from 23% in 2010 to 42% in 2021. Since then, global humanitarian needs have risen further to reach record levels: amid economic hardship, conflicts, and natural disasters, the UN reported in June that 360 million people globally require humanitarian assistance — up 30% since the start of 2022.

More Data

Dollar General shares have slid another 10% in the last week, making it the worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 Index in August, after the company warned that unsold inventory was piling up in its most recent quarter.

Boom-bot: Engineers have made a tiny robot, capable of carrying up to 22x its own weight, that is able to walk by repeatedly exploding rather than using a battery.

• Today marks the 10th anniversary of the carjacking video game Grand Theft Auto V: the most profitable entertainment product ever made, which has sold over 185 million copies globally since its debut.


• Hold on tight for this drop into the biggest, most expensive, and crowded theme parks in the world.

• How different religious groups in the US view the decline of marriage.

Off the charts: Which country, that was hit by electricity blackouts last week, is set to overtake the US as the third-most-populous country in the world by 2050? [Answer below].

Answer here.

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