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Fender’s CEO learned this product lesson from Steve Jobs



Fender CEO Andy Mooney poses for a photo at the firm’s Hollywood office ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 22, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images

LISBON, Portugal — Before Andy Mooney took the reins at guitar maker Fender, he was an executive at two other companies — Nike and Disney. And it was during his time at Disney that he met iconic entrepreneur Steve Jobs.

Mooney says the Apple co-founder was “one of the first people” he met at Disney. Jobs joined the entertainment giant’s board as a result of its acquisition of animation studio Pixar in 2006.

“He grilled me on our very first meeting about what my point of view on brands was,” Mooney told CNBC in an interview at the Web Summit technology conference. According to Mooney, Jobs agreed with his perspective that “great brands are the accumulative effect of great products,” but there was a “but.”

Mooney recalls that Jobs told him: “Every single product that you make, that you put your brand on, is either a deposit or withdrawal from the bank of brand equity.”

That is, the product has to speak to the success of a well-known brand by being an instantly recognizable part of the company’s lineup.

Jobs, who died in 2011, was the face of Apple at a time when the company released some of its most iconic products, including the Macintosh family of computers and the iPhone.

“I’d say that every single guitar we’ve made over 70 years — and electric guitar amplifier — was pretty much a deposit in the bank of brand equity,” Mooney said — although he admitted the firm could “do more” in other categories like acoustic guitars and effects pedals.

‘I’m a heavy metal guy’

Fender has for decades been seen as one of the most iconic names in the guitar industry and — inevitably — rock music. Fender’s guitars have been used by everyone from rock pioneer Jimi Hendrix to Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour.

When asked about what his favorite guitar was — whether from Fender or one of its rivals such as Gibson — Mooney began by stating: “I’m a heavy metal guy.”

He admitted his current go-to guitar is the signature Telecaster used by Jim Root of U.S. metal outfit Slipknot, which Mooney said has a more “simplistic” setup in terms of electric components because “in his outfit, he sweats so much during every show that the guitar would short out and literally go quiet on stage.”

Jim Root of Slipknot performs on stage at Download Festival 2019 on June 15, 2019.

Katja Ogrin | Redferns | Getty Images

But all has not been rosy in the guitar sector of late, with headlines around Gibson’s filing for bankruptcy protection last year adding to concerns the industry may be struggling due to changing musical tastes and technology. The firm has since appointed a new team of senior executives to help it return to financial health.

Mooney, however, said Gibson’s bankruptcy was more of an isolated case. “Gibson’s bankruptcy had nothing to do with the guitar business,” he said. “The bankruptcy was brought about by ill-considered acquisitions in the consumer electronics space.” One notable acquisition was the firm’s $135 million deal to buy Philips’ audio unit in 2014.

“The fretted instruments segment has been growing robustly for over a decade now,” Mooney claimed, adding 2019 “will be a record year for guitar sales worldwide.”

Online music ‘nothing but a positive’

The strategy for Fender more recently has been updating its product line to reflect a digital-native demographic. The company has been launching a handful of new apps, including one that lets people learn how to play and another for tuning guitars.

Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have faced criticism from some musicians, who argue it’s squeezing artists’ income. But Mooney countered that school of thought, claiming the revenues from digital distribution have actually benefited music artists as well as record labels and publishers.

“Today the revenues from digital distribution for the labels and the publishers accounts for 60% of the total revenue,” he said. “They’re making more money now than they have ever made in their history. The same percentage of revenues that go back to the artists and creators is the same that it was.”

The Fender boss said the rise of online distribution in the music business has been “nothing but a positive in the sense that consumers worldwide are listening to more music than they ever have in history.” He cited the example of his 13-year-old daughter listening to The Beatles as a testament to the success of music’s digitization.

Mooney said that when reading one of her essays from school, she wrote that a fact that would surprise her classmates was the fact that she liked the English rock group. Not only that, she also claimed that if the band were around today, “they wouldn’t have a genre on Apple Music,” according to the executive.



E.P.A. to Limit Science Used to Write Public Health Rules



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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is preparing to significantly limit the scientific and medical research that the government can use to determine public health regulations, overriding protests from scientists and physicians who say the new rule would undermine the scientific underpinnings of government policymaking.

A new draft of the Environmental Protection Agency proposal, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, would require that scientists disclose all of their raw data, including confidential medical records, before the agency could consider an academic study’s conclusions. E.P.A. officials called the plan a step toward transparency and said the disclosure of raw data would allow conclusions to be verified independently.

“We are committed to the highest quality science,” Andrew Wheeler, the E.P.A. administrator, told a congressional committee in September. “Good science is science that can be replicated and independently validated, science that can hold up to scrutiny. That is why we’re moving forward to ensure that the science supporting agency decisions is transparent and available for evaluation by the public and stakeholders.”

The measure would make it more difficult to enact new clean air and water rules because many studies detailing the links between pollution and disease rely on personal health information gathered under confidentiality agreements. And, unlike a version of the proposal that surfaced in early 2018, this one could apply retroactively to public health regulations already in place.

“This means the E.P.A. can justify rolling back rules or failing to update rules based on the best information to protect public health and the environment, which means more dirty air and more premature deaths,” said Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association.

Public health experts warned that studies that have been used for decades — to show, for example, that mercury from power plants impairs brain development, or that lead in paint dust is tied to behavioral disorders in children — might be inadmissible when existing regulations come up for renewal.

For instance, a groundbreaking 1993 Harvard University project that definitively linked polluted air to premature deaths, currently the foundation of the nation’s air-quality laws, could become inadmissible. When gathering data for their research, known as the Six Cities study, scientists signed confidentiality agreements to track the private medical and occupational histories of more than 22,000 people in six cities. They combined that personal data with home air-quality data to study the link between chronic exposure to air pollution and mortality.

But the fossil fuel industry and some Republican lawmakers have long criticized the analysis and a similar study by the American Cancer Society, saying the underlying data sets of both were never made public, preventing independent analysis of the conclusions.

The change is part of a broader administration effort to weaken the scientific underpinnings of policymaking. Senior administration officials have tried to water down the testimony of government scientists, publicly chastised scientists who have dissented from President Trump’s positions and blocked government researchers from traveling to conferences to present their work.

An E.P.A. spokeswoman said in an emailed statement, “The agency does not discuss draft, deliberative documents or actions still under internal and interagency review.”

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a hearing on the E.P.A.’s efforts. A top pulmonary specialist and a representative of the country’s largest nonprofit funder of research on Parkinson’s disease, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, are expected to testify that the E.P.A.’s proposed rule would eliminate the use of valuable research showing the dangers of pollution to human health.

Mr. Pruitt’s original proposal drew nearly 600,000 comments, the vast majority of them in opposition. Among them were leading public health groups and some of the country’s top scientific organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners said it was “deeply concerned” that the rule would lead to the exclusion of studies, “ultimately resulting in weaker environmental and health protections and greater risks to children’s health.” The National Center for Science Education said ruling out studies that do not use open data “would send a deeply misleading message, ignoring the thoughtful processes that scientists use to ensure that all relevant evidence is considered.” The Medical Library Association and the Association of Academic Health Science Libraries said the proposal “contradicts our core values.”

Industry groups said the rule would ensure greater public understanding of the science behind regulations that cost consumers money.

“Transparency, reproducibility and application of current scientific knowledge are paramount to providing the foundation required for sound regulations,” the American Chemistry Council wrote to the E.P.A. in support of the plan.

The new version does not appear to have taken any of the opposition into consideration. At a meeting of the agency’s independent science advisory board this summer, Mr. Wheeler said he was “a little shocked” at the amount of opposition to the proposal, but he was committed to finalizing it. Beyond retroactivity, the latest version stipulates that all data and models used in studies under consideration at the E.P.A. would have to be made available to the agency so it can reanalyze research itself. The politically appointed agency administrator would have wide-ranging discretion over which studies to accept or reject.

“It was hard to imagine that they could have made this worse, but they did,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group. He added, “This is a wholesale politicization of the process.”

Academics are not typically required to turn over private data when submitting studies for peer review by other specialists in the field, or for publication in scientific journals, the traditional ways scientific research is evaluated. If academics were to turn over the raw data to be made available for public review, the E.P.A. would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to redact private information, according to one federal estimate.

The Six Cities study and a 1995 American Cancer Society analysis of 1.2 million people that confirmed the Harvard findings appear to be the inspiration of the regulation.

The proposal gives the public 30 days to offer comments on the changes to the E.P.A.’s plan. Agency officials have said they hope to finalize the measure in 2020.

“The original goal was to stop E.P.A. from relying on these two studies unless the data is made public,” said Steven J. Milloy, a member of Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. transition team who runs, a website that questions established climate change science and contends particulate matter in smog does not harm human health.

He dismissed concerns that the new rule could be used to unravel existing regulations, but he said he did expect it to prevent pollution rules from getting tougher.

“The reality is, standards are not going to be tightened as long as there’s a Republican in office,” he said.


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Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials — November 11, 2019



Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic: Evo Morales Finally Went Too Far for Bolivia

The socialist president claimed authoritarian powers in the name of the popular will. But average citizens were fed up with arbitrary rule.

Evo Morales has been attacking Bolivia’s democracy for many years. Since coming to office in 2006, the socialist president has concentrated ever more authority in his own hands, denounced the opposition in aggressive terms, and placed loyalists in key institutions, from the country’s public broadcaster to its highest court.


Commentaries, Analysis, And Editorials — November 11, 2019

Maduro’s military stands in the way of a Bolivia repeat in Venezuela — Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera, Reuters

Released Lula in for greatest fight of his life — Pepe Escobar, Asia Times

Back to jail, or run for president: the legal maze facing Brazil’s Lula — Ricardo Brito, Reuters

Should China Police the Strait of Hormuz? — Lyle J. Goldstein, National Interest

Saudi Arabia’s Newest Tactic To Hush Dissidents — Michael Kern, Oil Price

Saudi Arabia’s Terrible War in Yemen Isn’t Going as Planned — Matthew Petti, National Interest

Iraq protests should be moment of truth for US State Department — Michael Rubin, Washington Examiner

‘Too late’ for Hong Kong government to gain citizens’ trust — William Yang, DW

Despite big bangs, Thai Muslim rebels fading away — Anthony Davis, Asia Times

How the Wagner Group Expands and Inflates Russia’s Influence — C. Rondeaux, WPR

Russia has joined the ‘scramble’ for Africa — Patrick Gathara, Al Jazeera

Russia Positioning Itself in Libya to Unleash Migrant Crisis Into Europe — Paul D. Shinkman, US News and World Report

Poll brings Spain no respite from political uncertainty — Barry Hatton and Ciaran Giles, AP

Socialists win repeat Spanish election, Vox becomes third-biggest force in Congress — El Pais

Why Britain’s Election Is So Unpredictable — Matthew Goodwin, Chatham House

What Should Donald Trump Really Be Impeached For? — Amitai Etzioni, National Interest


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Deval Patrick, Ex-Governor of Massachusetts, Is Considering White House Bid



Former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts has told Democratic officials that he is considering making a last-minute entry into the 2020 presidential race, according to two Democrats with knowledge of the conversations, the latest evidence of how unsettled the party’s presidential primary is less than three months before the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Patrick has told party leaders that he doesn’t think any of the candidates running have established political momentum and that he thinks there is an opening for somebody who can unite both liberals and moderate Democrats, according to Democrats who have spoken to him.

At the same time, Massachusetts Democrats close to Mr. Patrick have started to reach out to prominent party leaders in early nominating states to alert them that he may run, according to one Democrat who has received an inquiry.

His candidacy could complicate the strategic assumptions for a number of candidates, including the two who have led most national and early-state surveys: Mr. Biden and Ms. Warren. Mr. Patrick could threaten Mr. Biden’s support from black voters and also make inroads in New Hampshire, where Ms. Warren is counting on a strong performance in the southern part of the state that borders Massachusetts.

He and Ms. Warren have had an amicable, if not personally close relationship, and when she was asked at an event last week to name African-Americans she’d have in her cabinet she included Mr. Patrick.

Were he to run, the former governor may find it difficult to create a full-fledged campaign organization so late in the process. Two of his longtime Massachusetts aides are already committed in 2020: Doug Rubin is working for businessman Tom Steyer’s presidential campaign and John Walsh is overseeing the re-election of Senator Ed Markey, who is being challenged by Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.

According to Massachusetts Democrats, though, Mr. Patrick has lined up at least one former adviser: Jennifer Liu, who worked for his political arm when he was governor and was recently laid off from Senator Kamala Harris’ campaign, where she had been finance director.

Mr. Patrick traveled to some early nominating states last year but decided against a presidential bid last November, saying at the time that he did not want the “cruelty of our elections process” to adversely impact his family.

The governor did not immediately reply to a text message seeking comment on Monday. Last month, when he was asked to fully rule out the prospect of a last-minute entry, Mr. Patrick said: “Don’t ask me that question.”

Thomas Kaplan contributed reporting.


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