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Beyond doom and gloom: A nuanced discussion of multifamily rentals / REITs in very high cost of living cities (VCOL)
Full disclosure: Despite my arguments below, I hold modest positions in several of the apartment rental REITs. One reason is simply to hedge against me being wrong. I also think there’s a gap between the eventual modest decline in valuations and the 40-50% decline we’ve seen in luxury coastal apartment REITs (Essex, Avalon, Equity). The public REITs have investment grade credit rating, and several of them (Equity, Avalon) have recently issued debt at ~2% due to the accommodative corporate credit environment. Many also have suburban portfolios which could prosper from the urban departures.
IntroThere’s been a great deal of hysteria in the popular press / investment forums about “the death of cities”.
This is clearly ridiculous. “Cities” are the engines of economic growth in every developed economy. The 100 largest metropolitan areas contain 65% of the US population and 68% of total economic activity (and closer to 75+% of patents, intellectual property development, etc). Cities as a whole will continue to grow and expand in the United States as they have for the past 200 years.
On the flip side, not all cities are created equally. I think a very reasonable question to ask is how will the multifamily real estate markets in very high cost of living cities (VCOL), loosely defined as San Francisco, NYC, Boston, and maybe LA fare in the near future?
I’m personally a big believer that external shocks very rarely generate new trends but tend to accelerate existing underlying ones. And when looking at the future of VCOL areas we have a story about demographics, affordability, schools / child care, job dispersion, supply, and immigration.
ThesisMy thesis is that VCOL, and in particular the dense urban cores, will see flat to negative growth in populations, rent, and condo prices as Millennials age into child-rearing years and move to areas with more affordable housing / better schools. Older generations will continue their preference for warmer, lower tax areas while foreign immigration remains depressed. This trend will be compounded by the increase in luxury rental units as projects initiated in 2018, 2019, and early 2020 move onto the market. More flexible work from home policies will also contribute modestly to this trend, but is not the main driver. Single family housing, even in VCOL areas, will likely be unaffected due to severe supply constraints.
I see Millennials primarily moving to 3 distinct areas of the country:
- Cheaper areas outside the urban core in Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), e.g. Worcester MA in the larger Boston metro area, suburban areas in NJ adjacent to NYC, etc.
- Smaller, emerging high-tech cities such as Pittsburgh, Boise, etc. that offer relatively affordable housing, walkable communities, and often close proximity to national parks, ski areas, etc.
- Sunbelt / Southern “mega-cities’ such as Phoenix, Austin, Atlanta, etc. with affordable housing and booming populations
What do the public markets say?One of the features (not a bug) of private real estate is that it moves much more slowly and is oftentimes uncorrelated with public markets. Case in point, residential housing prices peaked in the US around 2006-2007 and then decreased until 2012 (i.e. 3-4 years after the stock market and other public markets fully reflected the valuation shifts). Luckily for today’s investors, one major difference between 2008 and today is that we have large, national, publicly traded REITs in both the apartment and single family rental sectors. Even better, the apartment housing REITs have different geographic concentrations and economic consumers (i.e. luxury, affordable, student, etc.). We also have large, publicly traded companies involved in single family home building / renovations that are also great proxies for the single family housing market.
So, how are apartment rental REITs in VCOL locations doing? The first one to consider is Essex Property Trust (ESS), a member of the S&P 500. They have luxury apartments primarily in LA & San Francisco (~75%) and also in Seattle (~25%). They are down ~40% from their all time high in February. Next up is Avalon Bay (AVB), the largest apartment REIT, which owns luxury apartments in VCOL coastal areas in Boston, NYC, SF, etc. They are down ~40% from their all time high. Equity Apartments, similar to AvalonBay but with a slightly worse credit rating of BBB+, is down ~50%. UDR, another coastal luxury apartment REIT, is also down ~40%. If you read the most recent earnings calls from Equity / Avalon, one thing they both cite is their high rental collection rate (~98%) and the high household income of their tenants (~$150,000).
Let’s contrast that to the sunbelt / mid Atlantic luxury REITs: Camden Property (CPT) and Mid America Apartments (MAA). These REITs have extensive holdings in Texas, Florida, Phoenix, etc. Mid America is down ~22% while Camden is down ~25%.
The market is currently discounting luxury apartment rentals in VCOL by almost 2x the rate as more affordable sunbelt / Southern cities. This is despite the fact that rental collection rates remain high and that these properties have affluent tenants who are least likely to be affected by the recession.
The contrast is even more stark when comparing against single family rental REITs, the largest of which is Invitation Homes (a spinoff of Blackstone, INVH). They own ~90,000 homes across the Sunbelt, upper mid-west, and more affordable areas of the West. They are down only 9% off of all time highs. The US home construction ETF from I-shares (ITB) which tracks home developers such as Lennox and home supply stores like Lowes actually set an all time high in September 2020.
The bottom line is that public markets suggest that luxury, apartment rental housing companies have lost 20-50% of their pre-pandemic value, with VCOL losing almost twice the value of luxury rentals in booming sunbelt / southern cities. In contrast, single family home rentals remain extremely strong with valuations of home building companies trading at all time highs.
As an aside, if you’re bullish on VCOL areas I would strongly suggest purchasing these REITs. The dividend yields are ~4.5% which is the widest spread over 10 year treasuries (0.8%) in many years. If you listen to the earnings call from Equity, Avalon, etc. you’ll also hear the CEOs cite the high private market valuations of their properties. If the market is wrong you’ll lock in relatively high dividend rates with price appreciation.
DemographicsEven before the pandemic, VCOL had stagnant or modestly declining populations. Government census records estimate that NYC lost ~76,000 residents in 2019, a drop of around 0.4%. It’s worth noting that NYC has for years experienced net negative domestic migration, but foreign immigration balanced out the departures. The Boston metro region stayed flat while San Francisco declined slightly (~0.2%). While economically vibrant, the populations of these cities had clearly started to plateau and even modestly decline prior to the pandemic. There’s a nice graph at rent cafe that summarizes the metros with the highest and lowest net migration over the past decade. NYC and LA top the list, with Boston at the number 8 position. In contrast, the metros with the highest migration are Phoenix, Dallas, and Austin in the Top 5.
If we look at the composition of these cities, the largest age bracket is from 25-44: 37.5% in San Francisco, 33.2% in Boston, and 33% NYC. This essentially encompasses the millennial generation, who the census defines are born between 1981 - 1997 (~23 to 39). The millennial cohort comprises ~75 million individuals and is the largest generation since the baby boomers and significantly larger than the next generation, Gen-Z.
The millennial cohort entered their mid-20s during and immediately after the Great Recession. Millennials with technical or advanced degrees flocked to the new “knowledge” jobs in tech, consulting, marketing, etc. at employers clustered in VCOL areas. With significant disposable income, these millennials fueled a rise in service industries that attracted other millennials to work as baristas, waiters, etc. At the same time, new single family home construction declined significantly due to the fallout from the housing bust.
As a consequence rents held relatively steady during the financial crisis than surged during the recovery. As one data point, rents increased ~50%+ from 2010 to 2019 in SF. As Millennials willingly paid rapidly rising rents in these VCOL, a narrative emerged that millennial were somehow different. They were comfortable renting forever, they didn’t need much space, they believed in the sharing economy and wouldn’t purchase cars, etc. The data appeared to support this data, as the number of renters earning $150,000 increased at twice the rate as home owners.
Unfortunately there is increasing evidence against this narrative. A linked MIT Sloan study suggests millennials may actually utilize vehicles more than older generations. The linked survey from ApartmentList suggests that over 90% of millennials want to own homes eventually. Millennials, based on all the studies and surveys I’ve seen, have similar aspirations as older generations. They want to eventually own, not rent, a residence and personal vehicle while raising children. All of these goals have simply been delayed due to financial constraints.
As we’ll see in the next section, these aspirations are effectively impossible for the vast majority of millennials in VCOL areas.
Affordability:There’s a popular stereotype that the average millennial is a 4 year college graduate, making $100,000+ in tech, who walks around in Patagonia vests sipping $5 lattes (fuller disclosure: this stereotype hits uncomfortable close to home). According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) only 44% of millennials even have 4 year or higher college degrees. Moreover, at age 39 (i.e. the oldest millennial), an income of $100,000 is in the top ~25% of incomes. The median net worth of the prime home buying aged millennial (30-34) is only $35,000 (including home equity), while the 90th percentile of this group is only ~$260,000 (including home equity). In 1989 (when baby boomers were the equivalent age of Millennials today) they held about 21% of the wealth in the US. In contrast, Millennials today have ~3%.
For the median millennia household, who has an income of ~$69,000 pre-pandemic, buying even a modest apartment in a VCOL is difficult to impossible without extensive family assistance. Let’s assume that most millennial households want to have at least 1 child (a Gallup poll found ~87% of millennials without children eventually wanted to have them). That means long term millennials are likely to settle in at least 2BR and more likely 3 BR and up apartments / homes.
The median priced condo (not house) in VCOL areas (pre-pandemic) is approximately ~$1.2 million in SF, ~$650,000 in Boston, and ~$667,900 in NYC (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens). This understates the lack of affordability, because these prices reflect a mixture of studios to 3+ BRs. I couldn’t find detailed sales pricing for condos segmented by number of bedrooms, but glancing at Zillow / Redfin the prices for 3BR apartments or single family homes across all VCOL areas seems to be at least $800k and above depending on quality, location, etc.
Rents are luckily far more transparent. According to Zumper, the rents for 3BR apartments and above in VCOL (pre-pandemic) areas were ~$5,000 in SF, ~$3,500 in Boston, and ~$4,000 in NYC. As an aside, if we use a 30% rent to income ratio than a millennial household would have to make at least $10,500 per month (or an annualized salary of $126,000) to rent a 3 BR in the cheapest VCOL area. For households with families in 2017 between 30-35, an income of $126,000 is at the 80th percentile. As we’ll see in the next section, childcare dramatically adds to a households costs.
So let’s focus our analysis on the wealthiest 10% of millennials (who coincidentally are also most likely to have affluent parents who can assist with a home down payment). These millennials, particularly those in the prime family formation years of 30-35, make over $170,000+. Given the well documented trend in associative mating, they are also likely to partner with other high income millennials. Let’s assume that ~5% of millennial households make >$200,000 per year (for comparison, the top 10% of all households made over $200,000 in 2019). These households can easily afford even San Francisco rental prices. And at first glance, a millennial household making $200,000 could save for a downpayment of a $1 million dollar home (~$240,000) within ~6 years if they saved 20% of their gross income. But what about affording the monthly mortgage payment?
As rough numbers, a household making $200,000 in Boston, MA would be left with $148,712 after taxes. If they maxed out their 401k, they would have $121,135 or ~$10,000 per month. Redfin estimates that a $1 million home in Boston will cost ~$4500 a month based on a 3%, 30 year mortgage and including home insurance + property taxes. If we assume maintenance + furnishings + misc expenses we can probably assume a total housing cost of ~$5500 per month. Our hypothetical household is thus left with ~$4500 per month to spend on food, entertainment, vehicles costs, etc. while also maxing our their 401k.
Let’s assume there are roughly 31 million households between 25-39, so back of the envelope math suggests that there is a pool of 1.5 million households available to buy real estate in VCOL areas (5% of 31 million) if they could afford the down payment or receive family assistance.
There is one giant impediment to that math though: affordable childcare and public schools.
Child CareThe biggest single reason in my opinion that millennials will leave VCOL urban areas is the the cost of childcare (averaging $2000 per month) and the persistent poor performance of public schools.
The premier public school districts continue to remain in the outer suburbs of urban areas. A list of the top 15 public school districts in America shows numerous school districts in suburbs surrounding Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, Boston, and Philadelphia. In contrast, public school districts in dense urban areas often receive mediocre ratings.
The simplest alternative to these urban public schools is to pay for private school. Private school tuitions in VCOL areas range widely between ~$25k and ~$70k per child. These means a family of 4 could easily pay $50k or more in combined tuition, on top of the $66k ($5500 monthly) in housing expenses noted above. These two expenses alone would effectively consume the entire after tax income of a household making $200,000 per year.
The crushing expense of childcare shows up in declining birth rates in VCOL. Since 2011, the number of babies born in NYC has declined 9%. San Francisco has the lowest share of children of any of the top 100 metros. Families with children older than 6 are in decline in high density urban areas. (There’s a great Atlantic article from Derek Thompson linked below)
The bottom line is that for all but the wealthiest ~5% of millennial households settling down and raising a family in a VCOL area is essentially unaffordable without significant tradeoffs or parental support. Buying a modest home in a VCOL area, sending your children to private school, funding your retirement, and owning a modest vehicle combined requires a household income of close to $300,000.
Before the hate mail begins, the key word in the sentence above is trade-offs. I’m well aware the maxing out a joint 401k is puts a household ahead of almost all other American families. Unlike some personal financial columnists, I’m in no way suggesting that earning $300,000 per year is close to poverty or any other nonsense like that. Clearly, earning $300,000 a year as a household is a rare privilege that lets you enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle.
The point I’m making is that in a VCOL a $300,000 salary does not make you feel affluent. You’re still likely stressed about money, still having to save for years to afford a down payment, driving a modest vehicle, etc. Meanwhile, any of your friends who live in Austin, Denver, etc. are able to enjoy a more stereotypical upper middle class life. Not to mention that your friends who move to Boise, Pittsburgh, etc. likely feel flat out wealthy.
Taxes are also worth a passing mention. Households making $200,000 in salary, maxing out both partners 401k, pay ~$10k in state / local taxes in VCOL areas (LA, SF, NYC, Boston). It’s worth noting that RSUs, i.e. the bulk of employees compensation at Big Tech firms, are taxed as regular income. Texas, Florida, Nevada, Washington, and New Hampshire all have no income taxes and most have booming metropolitan areas. The recent tax law changes passed by President Trump have also compounded the situation by increasing the standard deduction to $24,000 for married couples and capping the state and local tax deduction to $10k.
Job Dispersion:As I mentioned above, the VCOL areas had stagnating or modestly declining populations even in 2019. In stark contrast, the sunbelt & Southern cities are booming. Austin, TX experienced a 2.8% population increase in 2019. Denver, CO experienced a 1.5% population increase. Boise, Idaho was the fastest growing city in the US over the past decade. Even Orlando, FL is growing at over 1% a year.
And employers are more than happy to open offices in lower cost, “business friendly” locations. Palantir announced its intention to shift to Denver, CO. Tesla plans to open up its Gigafactory near downtown Austin. Startup funding in Austin continues to rise (albeit from low levels).
Even well established Silicon Valley offices have rapidly growing satellite offices in Austin, Denver, etc. Facebook has 1200 employees in Austin (compared with ~15,000 in San Francisco). Google has > 1500 employees in Austin as well. Google also employs 1500 employees in Denver / Boulder.
Many of these regions are anchored on world class research universities as well. The University of Texas at Austin has top 10 computer science and engineering programs. Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh is a Top 5 computer science school and leader in Artificial Intelligence research. The University of Minnesota has a top 2 Chemical Engineering program.
We unfortunately can’t discuss job dispersion without addressing the vociferous work from home debate. I frankly don’t think the pandemic will significantly impact the work from home trend long term. Many high paying sectors have already moved towards flexible work arrangements. Glancing at McKinsey’s website, we see that many of their positions list 20+ major metros as possible locations, including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, etc. Snowflake, the hottest company of 2020, lists 237 open positions on their website. Only 86 of those are in listed as San Mateo (their SF Bay Area headquarters), mostly in engineering / internal operations. The reason is obvious: over 125 positions (i.e. 55+%) are in customer facing roles in sales, professional services, etc. Companies want a geographic dispersion of these roles both across the US and internationally.
It’s also worth mentioning that “elite” companies, who provide a disproportionate number of the jobs for high income millennials, frankly don’t have that many employees. Alphabet and Facebook combined have only ~200,000 employees despite a market cap of approximately $2 trillion dollars. Bain & McKinsey combined only have ~30,000 employees. JP Morgan chase has 256,941 employees, but only 37,000 (14.4%) are in New York. The largest single office for JP Morgan is actually in Columbus, Ohio and houses 11,050 employees.
We’re also seeing a bit of a “resource curse” for VCOL cities as the extremely high costs of living / business drive out firms who aren’t as profitable per employee. McKesson, #8 on the S&P 500 list by revenue, moved its HQ from San Francisco to Dallas in 2018. Charles Schwab, is leaving San Francisco while expanding its offices in Denver & Dallas.
The bottom line is that the trend was already clear pre-pandemic. The leading companies, who pay the highest salaries, are actively investing in satellite offices or remote positions across the United States. For tech and management consulting companies, this helps distribute their customer facing sales and service teams. For financial and other companies, they are able to lower their costs by moving back-office operations outside VCOL areas. Meanwhile, companies who aren’t able to match the compensation packages of elite firms or want to lower their cost of business are relocating to cheaper areas.
As a final point, Forbes has an interesting article about the top 15 metro areas ranked by revenue of Fortune 500 companies headquartered there. While the New York metro area dominates the list with 65 companies that earn $1.7 trillion in revenue, and the greater SF / San Jose area is second with ~$1.5 trillion, the next 2 spots are Dallas ($996.2 billion) and Chicago ($842.2). Minneapolis and Houston also are in the top 7 spots, above either Boston or Washington DC.
Supply:Concerns about multifamily supply had already started in mid 2019. Years of low interest rates and strong rental price growth had led to dramatic booms in apartment housing. Fannie Mae (the government agency) has detailed insights into the multi-family market across major metros. Helpfully they also include rent growth predictions from 3 large real estate analytics companies.
The Boston, MA core urban area had a projected ~10,000 units in the pipeline for 2020 (estimated at 4-6% new supply). Rent price increases were estimated at average of 2% and trending downward pre-pandemic.San Francisco had planned delivery of ~5,000 new unites in 2019 and 2020 with a projected increase in vacancy rate of 5% (trending towards balanced). New York City already had a glut of luxury apartments in 2019, with stagnant or negative rent growth projected pre-pandemic.
It’s worth noting that while single family home construction has continued to lag demand, multi-family home construction rebounded to pre Great Financial Crisis levels by 2013. By 2015, multifamily construction had hit the highest level since 1987.
We can see the effect of supply in the fact that average rental prices in several VCOL had started to plateau around late 2018. Boston, MA saw rental price growth of only ~2-3% annually between 2016 and 2019 according to RentCafe. RentCafe also shows San Francisco average rents increasing from $3450 in Nov 2016 to $3683 in Nov 2019, for an annual increase of 2-3% as well. Brooklyn, NY average rents increased from $2603 in Nov 2016 to $2928 in Nov 2019 for a total increase of 12% or ~4% per year. One thing to keep in mind is that these average rents don’t take into account hedonistic adjustments, i.e. people moving into nicer, new luxury apartments and paying slightly more.
Immigration / Baby Boomers / Gen Z:With evidence pointing towards a modest decline in the number of millennials in VCOL areas, could other groups offset their departure? What about foreign immigrants?
Regardless of your thoughts on the Trump administration, it’s clear the administration has kept its promise to reduce foreign immigration into the United States. In 2018, the New York Times reported that net immigration to the US was only 200,000, the lowest level since the Great Recession. The same article, along with a related article from PBS also notes in particular that Chinese student attendance has dropped significantly due to concerns over visas, geo-political tensions, and violence. The current pandemic and recent trade tensions are likely to only exacerbate the situation. The Department of Homeland Security websites shows that “Persons obtaining lawful residence in the US” dropped by ~150,000 between 2016 and 2019 (or ~10%). This is a problem for VCOL which have relied upon foreign immigration to make up for net domestic migration. Foreign investment has often followed this migration.
At the moment, there also isn’t an obvious political constituency to argue for increased legal immigration into the US. The Democratic Party’s immigration policy is largely focused on legalizing the Dreamers, i.e. children born to undocumented immigrants. The Republican Party’s immigration policy has largely focused around halting illegal immigration.
What about baby boomers returning to the cities for their golden years? The New York Times cites census data which indicates that 17.8% of 54-72 year olds live in urban areas (defined by density). This compares with 21.6% in 1990. Moreover, while more baby boomers are renting, they seem to prefer to do so in suburban areas.
Well, what about Gen Z (those born after between 1997- 2012)? First of all, the generation is smaller than millennials by about 5 million individuals. Second, a Pew research study has found that for the oldest Gen Zers (18-23), over 50% have reported that they or someone in their household has lost a job or pay in the recent recession compared to 40% of millennials and only 25% of Baby Boomers. Last, but likely most important, the millennials successfully revitalized and then gentrified large parts of the VCOL urban cores. As a consequence, to borrow a phrase, the rents are already too damn high. Gen Z will enter the workforce already facing sky high rents in VCOL while dealing with a weaker labor market due to the COVID induced recession.
The bottom line is that there is no obvious group to replace the millennials if they start exiting core VCOL urban cores in large numbers.
Final Thoughts:Whew, if you made it this far congratulations! I started writing this as a way to organize my thoughts, then frankly became fascinated in the topic.
If I were to summarize this article, I would say “demographics is destiny” or “the pandemic accelerates, but does not change, existing trends”. The 2010s saw the largest generation since the Baby Boomers delay the traditional milestones of adulthood to focus on their careers, education, and finances. Millennials preference for dense, walkable urban areas with deep job markets led to the urban renaissances of VCOL areas and accompanying spike in rents. A boom in multifamily construction followed as real estate developers rushed to deliver luxury rental apartments to cater to this new class of affluent urban dwellers.
The 2020s will see VCOL areas deals with the consequences of their success. Most millennials simply cannot afford to raise families in VCOL areas. Even before the pandemic we saw net migration increasing out of VCOL towards the booming Southern / Southwestern areas of the country. Companies are more than willing to follow suit, either by moving directly or by opening satellite officers to take advantage of cheaper real estate and lower taxes. Unfortunately this increase in departures is occurring exactly as multifamily supply continues to increase in VCOL areas due to a multiyear boom in construction. And there is no evidence that I've seen of any other demographic group who will rush to fill the vacancies generated by millennials. Baby boomers continue to prefer warm, low tax, suburban areas. Foreign immigration is depressed and likely to remain so for a variety of factors. Gen Z, with ~5 million fewer members than the millennials, is graduating into a depressed labor market with rents already inflated far past what the median salary can afford.
I want to emphasize that this is a modest shift in population, not a panicked flight. A number of affluent millennials will continue to reside in VCOL areas and even purchase long term residences (particularly with parental aid). Millennials who were able to buy in 2012-2014 have enjoyed significant real estate appreciation and are also likely to remain in those areas. But these modest population decreases will lead to a flat to negative rent price growth in VCOL areas as the market struggles to absorb additional luxury supply.
Unfortunately, as has been a recurring theme during this pandemic, the pain will be felt most acutely by small-scale landlords who bought properties recently in VCOL areas. Residential Real Estate is in some ways a zero sum game in that each tenant can usually only occupy one unit at a time. The large, publicly traded coastal REITs are currently tapping the corporate credit markets to push out their existing debt maturities and raise additional capital at historically low rates. They can, and are, offering deep concessions for their luxury units to attract tenants. They also typically have diversified into suburban areas and can invest opportunistically into high growth areas (notably Denver). They also have historically attracted the more affluent tenants who are willing to pay a premium for amenities (concierage, gyms, etc.) and are least affected by the pandemic.
To end on a positive note, I think the migration of millennials to more affordable, emerging cities is a net positive for the United States. Entrepreneurship, measured by small business formation in the US, has been dropping for years. I think part of the problem is that millennials in VCOL are locked into high paying career paths to afford rent, childcare, etc. Likewise spreading economic growth across the country and revitalizing other areas of the US may help bridge some of the bitter partisan politics.
P.S. If I post links in my posts they usually get blocked. I generally used NYT, Fannie Mae, the GAO, RentCafe (part of Yardi), and the Atlantic for my sources. If you're curious about a particular source I'll post it
After 10 years, here’s my (mostly complete) Fallout New Vegas music CD and record collection containing the songs from the game’s radio soundtrack from 1942 to 2009.
I've been working on other similar video game record collections, however, the Fallout series has proven to be a combination of both fascinating and frustrating in tracking down the original versions of the songs used in the game which run the gamut from shellac 78s, vinyl LPs and 45s to enormous 16 inch transcription discs, radio broadcasts, re-recordings, Snader Telescriptions, 8 tracks, and stock music. New Vegas runs the gamut from 1942-2009 and every decade and music format in between.
Important: Imgur may or many not prompt you to click on "Expand More Images"; the image album goes far beyond 10 pictures.
And of course we can't forget Mr. New Vegas aka Wayne Newton and perhaps his most famous single "Danke Schoen". Though some might say his voice is very different; many people confuse it with a woman's voice.
Breakdown by decade.This is a continuation of my previous post on the 10 year anniversary of Fallout 3. https://www.reddit.com/Fallout/comments/9rkz6y/after_10_years_of_fallout_3_heres_my_mostly/
Compared the Fallout 3, finding the records for New Vegas was more difficult since many weren’t available as jukebox singles, only came on albums, were the wrong versions, or just more rare overall.
4 songs were re-recordings/obscure versions and very uncommon to find outside the game since radios do not use the more famous originals: “Heartaches by the Number”, “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie”, “Why Don’t You Do Right”, “Hangover Heart”. (Also an easy way to check if a Spotify or YouTube playlist compilation of the New Vegas soundtrack accurately uses the in-game versions) See also: “Jingle Jangle Jingle”.
New Vegas' soundtrack also tends to move forward in time with more records being first issued on the newly invented vinyl record instead of shellac 78s. More of them largely exist only on albums and weren't issued as singles.
Of course with albums comes cover art. While Fallout 3 had one song associated with a nudist film, a couple of pieces of album art for New Vegas feature a number of provocative poses even if it has nothing to do with the song itself, be warned that it is Sin City indeed.
Of course, people know the story of why Elvis was way too expensive to put in New Vegas. As for Rat Pack songs, there's one each for Sinatra and Dean Martin from their Capitol recording days. Sammy Davis Jr. would be a Decca records guy at the time (the label is much rarer to find in New Vegas compared to Fallout 3), but he is represented in the game as Tommy Torini.
- "Jingle Jangle Jingle" was recorded for Columbia Records in 1942, the same year as "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition". However, Fallout 76 actually uses the 1962 version of the song made after Kay Kyser retired, made with former members of his orchestra for Capitol Records. Weirdly, there are a couple of videos on youtube with the New Vegas logo for "Jingle Jangle Jingle" with millions of views that are using the wrong version of the song. It's not the in-game Columbia Records version, but taken from the same 1962 Capitol Records album that Fallout 76 uses. Though it hasn't been picked up by youtube's copyright ContentID program compared to the in-game version.
- "Stars of the Midnight Range" is another one of those darn 16 inch transcription discs. Imagine taking a record and enlarging it to the size of your car hubcap. Like Fallout 3's Bob Crosby songs, you need a turntable that can actually accommodate the increased size. Standard turntables will cause the record to overlap the tonearm itself. According to his autobiography, Johnny Bond recorded it in 1944. The same Soundies Inc. CD album reissue also provided "Headin' Down the Wrong Highway" used in Fallout 76 which is the only other "new" Soundies transcription song used after the dissolution of the archiving company after the death of the archivist.
- "It's a Sin" is the only RCA Victor song in New Vegas, similar to "Anything Goes" from Fallout 3. Eddy Arnold recorded it in 1946. It would take until Fallout 4 to more RCA Victor song to appear in Fallout. Probably unsurprisingly, there are quite a few songs that talk about sin in New Vegas.
- "Mad About the Boy" is another 16 inch transcription disc song. Helen Forrest recorded this Noel Coward standard in the 1949-1950 period with the rather impressively-named Carmen Dragon and his orchestra. Fallout being Fallout means that this transcription disc uses vertical grooves (up and down) instead of the more common lateral grooves (side to side). If you look very closely at the huge record sleeve, there are enormous letters that say "VERTICAL". In the days before stereo sound, the idea was that since transcription disc turntables used rubber idler wheels that horizontally rub to rotate the platter, this imparts noise in the playback since the needle also moves horizontally. Therefore the grooves should undulate up and down to avoid excess noise to get good mono playback. When stereo sound was perfected a decade or so later, grooves would move the needle up-down and left-right to get two discrete stereo channels. As such, since my cartridge is meant for lateral discs, I can't actually play this disc until I find a stereo cartridge for the tonearm, Fallout being Fallout.
- "Orange Colored Sky" doesn't actually appear in-game, though it was prominently used in a 2010 TV trailer for New Vegas. It sort of languished in obscurity with the other Fallout trailer song "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" until they finally made it into a Fallout game with 2015's Fallout 4. It was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1950 for Capitol Records. New Vegas would actually be the first in the series to start to use Capitol Records songs.
- "Hangover Heart" also doesn't appear in-game. It only appears in the end credits for New Vegas, perhaps it was cut at the last minute? Also unusual is that Hank Thompson did record the song for commercial release on Capitol Records as well as for a transcription disc around 1951. However, the credits indicate the Soundies Inc. version would have been the one used, therefore the 16 inch transcription disc. Mercifully, it's a lateral cut so I can actually play it.
- "Why Don't You Do Right?" is sort of self-explanatory. New Vegas doesn't use either Peggy Lee's breakout Columbia Records recording from 1942, nor the brassier Capitol Records version from 1948 album complete with seductive cheesecake cover. The in-game version is taken directly from the soundtrack of a 1950 Snader Telescription, an early type of music video. Aside from a VHS, Laserdisc, and DVD version of the video, the exact recording of the song seems to have only been issued on Camay Records as Peggy Lee's Greatest. Unfortunately, the audio quality on the record isn't too great and omits a large part of the opening instrumental. The end credits for the song again do not cite Columbia Records nor Capitol Records, but a certain "Morley Music Co." and "Cassidy Music, LLC". Not entirely sure how Spotify would categorize it.
- And here’s the meme song of New Vegas, that persistent earworm that people keep singing: the man, the legend...Mr. Johnny Guitar. Apparently there's a bug that causes this song to play more often than usual, the same bug that affects the other meme song of New Vegas. This 1954 Peggy Lee song is the the title tune for the movie of the same name starring Joan Crawford. The movie wasn't spectacularly popular in the US at the time with poor reviews, so sales of the record didn't do well except in countries where the movie was popular overseas like Italy, France, and Iran. This is also the only Decca Records release used in New Vegas compared to the veritable flood in Fallout 3.
- "Something's Gotta Give" has a rather storied history. Evidently when Bing Crosby recorded it for his CBS radio show in 1955, it went directly into storage never to be heard again until it was digitized as part of a CD set for Mosaic Records in 2009. This so-called "Bing's basement" has yielded a number of lost recordings over the years ranging from the lost 1960 World Series film to the Kraft Music Hall radio version of "Accentuate the Positive" used in Fallout 4. Richard Kaplan, of Indigo Ranch fame, was responsible for the digitization project for Mosaic. If you've listened to punk and nu metal the likes of Korn, Vanilla Ice, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot, you've listened to Indigo Ranch's recording studio in Malibu, California. So Bing Crosby enters the picture through reels of brittle, acetate magnetic recording tape. In a 2014 interview with TapeOp Magazine, Kaplan relayed some details of the process along with a rather graphic description of the tape reel snapping splices flying apart when being played. Incidentally, I got a hard copy of the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of the magazine, but the Bing Crosby stuff is briefly mentioned as an online-only bonus. Most of the paper Kaplan interview is dedicated to his work on Neil Young, Beatles, and punk rock sessions, go figure. Richard Kaplan would pass away shortly after this interview in November.
- "Love Me as Though There Were No Tomorrow" was written for the musical Strip for Action in 1956. It closed rather quickly before it went to Broadway as the title is exactly what it sounds like with many stockinged legs on the cover of the 7 inch Capitol Records EP, Nat "King" Cole Sings Songs from "Strip for Action". It was reissued on the compilation album This is Nat King Cole in 1957, presumably without nudity.
- "Lazy Day Blues" was originally titled "Big Note Blues" in the UK for Parlophone Records in 1958 by Bert Weedon. This British guitarist is going to come up quite a bit.
- And of course the other meme song of New Vegas, “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins from 1959 on Columbia Records. There's no further transcription disc-exclusive songs at this point, but here's a bigger iron comparison between a 16 inch transcription disc version of the Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album and an ordinary 12 inch version. The album sold pretty well with 2 followups More Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs and Return of the Gunfighter. The flip side of the "Big Iron" 45, “Saddle Tramp”, was not on the original album until the various CD reissues in the 2000s. Though this 80s CD reissue holds a special place because of the weirdly canted Marty with very 80s looking LAZERS on the cover art.
- "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" is also pretty iconic and was featured in the film Ocean's 11 in 1960. Unusually for a Dean Martin Capitol Records 45, this is rather hard to find. It apparently failed to chart despite being in the movie. Probably because it didn't do too well, the budget compilation album company Pickwick reissued the song a lot on so-called "Greatest Hits" albums. The 1957 Pickwick album You Can't Love 'Em All is probably the earliest reissue and one of the most common. Though the end credits still credit Capitol Records for the song so they likely still retain the rights.
- "Blue Moon" is the only other Rat Pack song in New Vegas, this time by Frank Sinatra himself. It was taken from the 1961 Capitol Records album Sinatra's Swingin' Session!!! and doesn't appear to have been issued as a single though there are some obscure EP versions that cut down the album. This was his third to last studio album for Capitol Records, though it is a partial re-make of an album he had made previously for Columbia Records ten years ago when he was still a bobby-soxer heartthrob. By 1960, Sinatra would be rather preoccupied with launching his own record label, Reprise. Of course it didn't stop Capitol from releasing a number of compilation albums after his departure from the label.
- "Happy Times" is another Bert Weedon guitar instrumental. It was originally titled "China Doll" and released in on HMV (His Master's Voice) records in 1961. People of a certain age from the UK may recall when 45s came with knock-out centres lest they suffer from the record dinker tool to force them to fit in a jukebox.
- "Roundhouse Rock" was originally titled "Rockin' at the Roundhouse" for Fontana Records in 1970. Though its title is the least changed out of the Bert Weedon instrumentals used in New Vegas, it carries the most historical baggage. Basically, the Roundhouse refers to the concert venue in London which opened for the performing arts after being converted from a railway roundhouse in 1964. In 1970, Bert Weedon and other British rockabilly artists were performing a Rock Revival show in a landscape quickly changing to metal, punk rock, glam rock, acid rock etc. He wrote the song “Roundhouse Rock” for the occasion. The Roundhouse would later be known in the 70s for its early, debut performances of the Doors, Elton John, Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Stranglers etc. Bert Weedon’s Rock Revival concert would fade into musical history. Bert Weedon himself wrote Play in a Day which was the British guitarist compendium to learn and play the guitar. Biographies of the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin etc. all cite Bert Weedon as the inspiration to pick up the guitar. Though it was issued as a single, "Rockin' at the Roundhouse" was also the title track for the album of the same name; you can take your pick of the sexy punk biker lady for Fontana Records or the Tom Selleck-moustached Bert Weedon on the cover for Contour Records.
- "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" is also self-explanatory. New Vegas doesn't use the original 1941 recording of the Ink Spots using "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie". It was recorded in the same year as "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" on November 17, just before that "day which will live in infamy". The Talking Bass, Hoppy Jones, would die in 1944 from a cerebral hemorrhage. After many lineup changes due to the war and internal strife, the group would formally breakup in 1954. This did little to forestall the rise of various impostor groups recording under the Ink Spots name with the newly invented vinyl LP record, debuted in 1948. Lead singer, Bill Kenny would die in 1978. However, he apparently recorded a new album with a new backing studio group in stereo called If I Didn't Care, named after the group's first big hit. This was released in 1979, the year after his death. The various formats of the album vaguely insist it is previously released material or conveniently omits that it is re-recorded material on the LP release. This 1979 recording of "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" is what Fallout: New Vegas uses in-game. In fact, it is the only Ink Spots recording used in Fallout that's not a Decca Records shellac 78 and credited to "Dominion Entertainment" instead of "Geffen Records" in the end credits of the games.
The second came out in 1982, known officially as “L'invitation au rêve - Le jardin”.
There are several different versions with dialog, but they all feature the same images of the mysterious woman and man and personal questions.
The curious thing about the commercial is that it uses the re-recording of “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” from this very same album. The commercial garnered a feature in the December 14, 1982 issue of the New York Times, but it does not mention the discrepancy in the recordings. The recording proved so popular in France that it led to a reissue of the album in 1983 with a new cover evoking scenes from the commercial spot and sprinkling of piano present in the commercial, but not in the original 1979 album.
Later the same year in 1982, Ridley Scott would complete Blade Runner which featured similar imagery from the commercial and another Ink Spots song in the original trailer "If I Didn't Care". This was cut from the theatrical release and replaced with the soundalike "One More Kiss, Dear". The original Ink Spots tune is restored depending on which version of the movie you have.
For "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie", it's arguably one of Billy Kenny's last recordings before he died in 1978.
Again, you have to be careful with buying the Ink Spots on vinyl LPs. After the Ink Spots broke up, many impostor groups rand around recording under the Ink Spots name even if they didn't have any original members. At best for Ink Spots LPs you can have mono or fake stereo, but original recordings, the worst will have entirely new re-recordings with no original members. Most of the Ink Spots repertoire was originally recorded on mono shellac 78s and a couple of the songs used in Fallout never made the jump to vinyl. If you want to find vinyl compilation albums with the original versions you know and love from the games, try to find labels and the subsidiaries which hold the original rights like Decca, MCA, and Brunswick to reduce the chance of them being re-recordings.
Of course for "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie", it is taken from an album of re-recordings though with Bill Kenny as the original member. I've been able to confirm the following issues as having the New Vegas version of the song though it could be there are others especially on compilations with other artists. While all of the other Ink Spots songs used in Fallout are licensed from Decca/Geffen Records, the New Vegas end credits for this song mention a Dominion Entertainment which appears to be a K-Tel subsidiary which also provided the other oddball New Vegas song "Heartaches by the Number". I'm not sure how Spotify would categorize this.
- The Ink Spots originally recorded "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" for Decca Records in 1941, but New Vegas does not use this version of the song.
- Bill Kenny did record "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" for Mercury Records in 1962 for the album Bill Kenny Sings the Golden Hits of the Ink Spots, but this is a different version.
- If I Didn't Care (1979) is the first known issue of the New Vegas version of the song. It had a couple of issues in 1979 under the Columbia subsidiaries of CBS/51 West Records. Unfortunately, it's a rather vague title featuring the Ink Spots' best-selling song, muddling searches quite a bit. It features a fountain pen, an ink bottle and a rose on the cover. Depending on which format you find the album, it may or may not actually mention if it's re-recordings. The LP says it's full of "previously released material", but I have not managed to find an earlier issue of these recordings. The cover and the label mention a certain "Springboard International" and "Koala Record Company".
- Ink Spots Greatest Hits (1982) again has a rather vague title, but it was made by Era Records. I don't know why the cover art features a woman in a suggestive pose covered in stars if none of the titles reference this. I guess it was the 80s. The cover does mention that it's re-recordings by "Key Seven Music" and "Dominion Music Corporation".
- The World on Fire (I Don't Want to Set...) (1983) Again, the title is rather vague, but this is an unusual French issue under Carrere/Media Plus. The cover art features imagery from the Chanel No. 5 perfume commercial as mentioned above with the man and the tower looking on a man and a woman enjoying a chance meeting. The text boxes reference this with "Musique originale du spot TV" (Original music from the TV commercial) and "Nouveaux enregistrements" (New recordings). There also was a lead single 45 with the same cover art, but it only has the version of "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" from the commercial and "We Three (My Echo My Shadow and Me)". The cover mentions "Kilo Music Limited" and "Key Seven Music".
One more note on this song: I haven't been able to find much about the recording of the album. There is some information about the album having being made in Nashville in some newspaper articles for the Vancouver Sun in 1982-1983 by Denny Boyd. It was brought forth by Bill Kenny's widow Audrey McBurney who apparently tried to sue the Chanel No. 5 perfume corporation for unauthorized use of the song from the album. Other newspaper articles from 1985-1992 either misidentify or correctly identify the version of the song used in the commercial.
Presumably there would be more information about the album in the court case if it still exists. I've tried to visit a couple of legal libraries over the years, but Canadian court cases and appeals are hard to get this side of the border and since it took place around 1982, it is before the 1985 digitization limit. The case was possibly dropped and settled out of court, but if there are any Canadian Fallout fans who have access to the legal archives in Vancouver, I'd greatly appreciate any help in this matter on Bill Kenny's last album.
- "Heartaches by the Number" is also another self-descriptive song. New Vegas doesn't use the original Guy Mitchell recording made in 1959 for Columbia Records. It's a re-recording made in 1980 for K-Tel Records. After contacting the head of the Guy Mitchell Appreciation Society in the UK, I was forwarded a list of the many versions of "Heartaches by the Number" he recorded through the decades. The recording sessions also yielded a number of UK compilation albums which do have the correct version of the song while I needed a filter out quite a few Benelux and European pressings which may or may not have had the New Vegas version.
Candlelite Records provided the earliest issue of the New Vegas version that I could find. There appears to have been an acquisition/lawsuit/bankruptcy between Candlelite and K-Tel in 1980 and 1984. However, they were multiple Candlelite compilations issued in 1983 which have the New Vegas version.
- The Top 100 Country Hits of All Time (1983) This is a long 5 LP set (or 3 8-track) Candlelite set. The minuscule asterisks mention this version of the song is a re-recording by the original artist provided by "Imperial Music".
- The 1950's Rock and Roll Music Collection - Looking Back (1983) This is part of a colorful Candlelite series, this one is yellow and features a woman precariously rocking back at a bowling alley. It's a 3 LP set with a large booklet featuring random 1950s trivia. The album mentions a random mix of original and re-recordings by the original artist, some provided by "Imperial Music".
- Country Music Cavalcade - Nashville Graffiti (1983) 3 LPs. This is a confusing issue for Candlelite Records. First, there is a nearly identical 1976 version of Nashville Graffiti which uses the CBS/Columbia Records version aka the original recording not used in New Vegas. Cavalcade is also a series with nearly identical covers which have different bylines like "Welcome to Candlelite Country" while emphasis should be placed on the Nashville Graffiti byline for the New Vegas version. The cover is a scribbly one-line type drawing with a man and woman singing next to a jukebox and a car near a diner. It mentions re-recordings from "Key Seven Music".
- Heat of the 50s (1987) This is a cassette released by Master Sound a subsidiary of the Mastertronic video game company from the UK. There's a long story about this release, but the intriguing thing is that it also has the version of "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie" from New Vegas as well which is extremely unusual. The cover features black and white clipart of a man dancing? The tape does mention re-recordings from "Kilo Music Limited".
- Those Fabulous 50s (1988) Another UK release from Ocean Records. The lamination is unfortunately peeling off from the cover which features a large closeup of a car. The label does mention re-recordings from "Kilo Music Limited".
- Hooked on Country (1990) Another UK release, this time a true-blue K-Tel record instead of one of its subsidiaries. It's a gatefold for a single LP with 50 non-stop country classics. Because it's non-stop, it's mostly one giant groove with no track separations, so cuing is a little difficult. The track credits are a bit of a mess with some tracks being re-recorded and some not. "Heartaches" is credited to a "S J Productions Inc." You can actually hear the New Vegas version of "Heartaches on this very old K-Tel TV commercial for the album.
This is the last track used in New Vegas that was originally issued on vinyl before the soundtrack moves forward into the newer CD era.
1990sMuch of this information comes from the physical CDs themselves and their liner notes booklets. Surprisingly, the original CDs were among the hardest things to track down for New Vegas. Some people assume these songs were composed specifically for New Vegas mostly because they don't seem to exist outside of New Vegas. But these were songs composed by many talented musicians who are still working today. I will try to list instances where the song also appeared in media earlier than New Vegas.
- "Cobwebs and Rainbows" (1993) New Vegas starts the tradition of covering a fairly modern song to with a new recording to fit into Fallout. The New Vegas end credits apparently used to call this song "Green Clouds and Dust Whirls" back in 2010, but by 2011 it has been patched to call it "Cobwebs and Rainbows". It was written by Dick Walter for the KPM 2 CD set Pure Big Band and the booklet gives a nice description of the musicians who played on the CD. Josh Sawyer laid down the vocals for the Lonesome Drifter with three songs based on old folk songs as part of New Vegas' unlockable songs with James Melilli and Nathaniel Chapman on guitar. However, he sang "Cobwebs and Rainbows" for Bruce Issac which uses the backing track from the CD "Cobwebs and Rainbows (c) Alternative version for cocktail lounge piano and rhythm section". If you're wondering why the title is "Cobwebs and Rainbows" even though they're never mentioned in the song, it's because they were mentioned in the 1993 vocal versions provided by Claire Martin and Danny Street as alternate male and female versions. If you're a 90s kid and viewer of old Nickelodeon cartoons, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, you may recognize the same song from the 1994 episode "Yellow Fever" sung by the character over the end credits with the original lyrics. The backing track is from the CD "Cobwebs and Rainbows (a) Dreamy romantic ballad featuring saxophone".
- "Goin' Under" (1997) is taken from the Bruton 2 CD set Nashville Timeline 1 and 2. It's an imitation of Hank Williams who is depicted on the cover art. While the liner notes mention the writers of the song Wayne Perry and Tommy Smith and extensive lyrics, it doesn't reveal the singer or the musicians playing. Just a biography of the writers, the names of the producers, and that it was recorded in Battery Studio in Nashville. If you remember the Disney movie Cars, this song actually plays very faintly at the beginning of the 2008 animated short "Toyko Mater" Unfortunately I can't find the English version of the short that didn't get copyright struck, but here's the official Dutch episode.
- "In the Shadow of the Valley", "Let's Ride into the Sunset Together", "Lone Star" (1998) were all taken from the same Sonoton CD Swingin' Out West. As for the cover art, it really pushes clip art and word art styles to the limit. On the Lost Weekend Swing Band's official website, they mention recording the album for Sonoton in 1998 and are still touring today. The liner notes are fairly detailed listing the writers and arrangers of each song. The personnel is clearly listed with the band's lineup in 1998 (the current touring lineup is a little different) though the vocals are just piled together in one credit line. The album was recorded at Bay Records in Berkeley, California, and it's a DDD CD to boot.
- "I'm Movin' Out" (1998) is taken from the Bruton CD Portrait of the 50s. Unlike the other Bruton CD, the writers, singers, and musicians are clearly documented for each track. "I'm Movin' Out" was written by the brothers Billy and Steven Roues and Gary Solomon with lead vocals by Billy Roues. There are detailed biographies, but no location on where it was recorded. If you recognize the dancing couple on the cover art, it's the same stock image used for the cover of the Cinemusic Dance Orchestra CD which provided archival recordings of the Jack Shaindlin songs "Let's Go Sunning" and "I'm Tickled Pink".
2000sHere we are firmly in the CD era and some of Fallout's most modern songs. Some of these CDs would be issued on cardboard digipaks instead of plastic jewel cases.
- "I'm So Blue" (c. 2000) This actually comes from a multi-CD set released by Carlin over several years, Country Music 1, 2, 3, 4, (possibly a 5). "I'm So Blue" appears on both Country Music 3 - Songs/Line Dancing and Country Music 4 - Songs/Instrumentals. They appear to be ever so slightly different takes. Unfortunately, 3 and 4 don't have release dates, but 1 and 2 have dates of 1998 and 1999 respectively. The booklets both credit Martyn Laight and Katie Thompson as writers, but no further details on the musicians. However, the track was used in the 2000 film Remember the Titans when they are thrown out of the restaurant. It was also used in the 2008 Supernatural episode "Lazarus Rising".
- "Where Have You Been All My Life?" (2003) This comes from a Bruton CD Singers and Swingers. It's mentioned as the latest Hal David and John Cacavas album in the May 3, 2003 issue of Billboard magazine. The booklet is forthcoming with the vocalists, Jeff Hooper sang on this track, but only mentions a "Musician Fixer" and a Metro Voice Chorus. It was recorded at Battery Studios & Whitfield Street Studios in London. It actually shares an identical melody and arrangement with "Underneath the Mistletoe" found on the next Cacavas/David album the 2004 Bruton album In the Christmas Swing.
- "Sit and Dream" (2009) was released on a cardboard digipak as the Bruton CD Colourful Characters. The composer is listed as Laurie Stras and there are two male and female vocal versions. Laurie Stras coincidentally recorded for Obsidian Records singing early 16th and 17th century music. Unsurprisingly, she's a music professor in Southampton and mentioned Pete Thomas, the composer of the following track "Total Dreamer", sang the male vocal for her song. Apparently her young son is impressed with her getting a song in a video game though she wasn't notified.
TL;DRLike all Fallout games, trying to track down the original releases and information about the songs in New Vegas was simultaneously interesting, rewarding, surprising, and very frustrating since so little information seems to exist about many of the songs outside of the game and the wide range of formats from shellac to vinyl to transcription discs to reel to reel tape to 8-tracks to cassettes to CDs. And yet after 10 years on the anniversary, it is still incomplete and I'm still looking.