Apple’s iPhone is an incredible moneymaking machine. In the first three months of 2019, Apple sold $31 billion worth of iPhones.

At the same time, the iPhone is becoming less important to Apple’s total sales as the smartphone industry stalls globally.

iPhone revenue accounted for 53.5% of Apple’s revenue for the company’s fiscal second quarter, which it reported on Tuesday. Last year, during the same quarter, iPhones sales were 61.4% of sales, and in the most recent quarter that ended in December, it accounted for 61.7% of Apple’s total sales.

The smaller share of iPhone revenue indicates that Apple is getting more skilled at selling other hardware and software products to its installed base of 900 million iPhone users.

Part of the iPhone’s diminished importance on Apple’s balance sheet can be attributed to sales shrinkage. iPhone revenue was also down 17.33% year-over-year.

But part of it can be attributed to growth in other categories.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also highlighted two big and growing businesses during a call with analysts: Apple’s Services revenue, which includes subscriptions like Apple Music and iCloud, and Apple’s Wearables business, which includes hardware products such as AirPods and the Apple Watch.

“It was our best quarter ever for services, with revenue reaching $11.5 billion,” Cook said. Services revenue was up 16% from $9.19 billion in sales the same period last year. Apple has been emphasizing its services business as iPhone sales stall, and held an event in March to launch four new services, including two new video services and a credit card.

Wedbush analyst Dan Ives estimated that Apple’s streaming services could sign up as many as 100 million customers over the next three years.

Apple also had success with what it calls its “wearables” business, which includes AirPods, Apple Watch and Beats headphones.

Although Apple doesn’t break out that number by itself — it has a similar category that includes other accessories such as cords and HomePod — Cook said on Tuesday that wearables grew at a rate close to 50% during the quarter. AirPods and Apple Watch are the two most important completely new hardware lines for Apple, and they are selling well.

Apple can increasingly sell additional gadgets and software to its installed base of 900 million active iPhones. As Apple executives have said, that is now a critical number to understand the company — think of it as the closest stat to Apple’s userbase.

Apple  did not provide new installed base figure from its last update of 1.4 billion devices, but Cook did say that it hit an all-time record last quarter across all categories in an interview with CNBC’s Josh Lipton.

The message is clear: Apple still makes a majority of its money from iPhones, and that won’t change any time soon, but it has a lot of different ways to get Apple customers to open up their wallets, and those businesses are growing as the iPhone business shrinks. That dynamic puts Apple in a great position versus other smartphone makers who are facing the same industry-wide slowdown.

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Shares of Walt Disney Co. were rocketing toward their best monthly performance in over 30 years, fueled by a record-smashing performance by “Avengers: Endgame” and the unveiling of a new streaming service.

“Endgame” didn’t just destroy the opening-weekend box office record for a single movie, the $350 million it took in over the weekend shattered the record for the largest total box office weekend all by itself, according to analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners.

The previous record was $306 million in Dec. 18-Dec. 20 of 2015, when another Disney release, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” opened with a $248 million gross, Handler said.

As of Friday, Handler had estimated a $275 million opening weekend for “Endgame.”

That helped solidify Disney

DIS, -0.44%

 as the greatest movie-launcher of all time, with 9 of the top 10 biggest domestic box-office debuts in history.

Don’t miss: How ‘Avengers: Endgame’ smashed all the records, in one chart.

See related: A urologist’s tips on watching the 3-hour-plus ‘Avengers: Endgame’ without a bathroom break.

Disney’s stock slipped 0.4% on Monday, erasing an earlier gain of as much as 1.8% to an all-time intraday high of $142.37. With one trading day left in April, Disney’s stock has shot up 25.5% this month, which would be the biggest monthly gain since it hiked up 31.0% in January 1987.

FactSet, MarketWatch

1987 was the year Disney’s “Benji the Hunted” was released, which grossed a lifetime total of $22.3 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo.

But it’s not all about “Avengers” for Disney however, as the stock has been on a rocket ride since April 12, when the company said its new streaming service, Disney Plus, will cost just $6.99 a month when it launches in November. The stock shot up 11.5% that day, the best one-day performance in 10 years, and has run up 20.0% in the 11 days since then.

In comparison, Netflix Inc.’s stock

NFLX, -0.81%

 has edged up 4.3% this month. And Apple Inc. shares

AAPL, +0.15%

fell 1.2% the day the tech giant announced in late March its long-awaited new streaming service, Apple TV+, and have gained 7.7% this month. Read more about Apple’s new services.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, +0.19%

 has advanced 5.6% this month and the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.04%

 has tacked on 2.4%.

See also: Disney’s new streaming service will only cost $6.99, but will Netflix fans go for it?

Also read: Bad news for Apple: People may be reaching their limit on streaming services.

FactSet, MarketWatch

Michael O’Rourke, chief market strategist at JonesTrading, said Disney stock’s outperformance reflects investors’ belief that Disney, “and its plethora of assets,” are undervalued, especially relative to Netflix.

Disney’s stock price-to-earnings (PE) ratio is 19.2, according to FactSet, while Netflix’s PE ratio is about 133.3. “Disney’s multiple is in the process of expanding, and is now testing 20-times earnings,” O’Rourke wrote in a recent note to clients.

‘Avengers’ juggernaut is also lifting theater-chain stocks

Disney’s isn’t the only stock getting an “Avengers” boost.

Imax Corp.’s stock

IMAX, -0.94%

was up as much as 4.4% intraday, before reversing ground to slip 0.9% in afternoon trade, after the theater operator said its take from showing “Avengers: Endgame” was a gross $91.5 million over the weekend, nearly double the previous record, when “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opened.

“This gross revenue far outpaced our $50+ million projection and in our view takes [quarter-to-date] box office revenue to approximately $125 million,” MKM’s Handler wrote in a note to clients. That compares with the $256.3 million in box office revenue from IMAX DMR films in the first quarter the company reported on Friday.

The company said it also blew away its previous 5-day new-opening record in China by 65%, and set 50 new territory records in international markets including France, Germany, Japan, India and Mexico.

Elsewhere, shares of AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.

AMC, +0.65%

 gained 0.7% and Cinemark Holdings Inc.

CNK, +0.70%

 rose 0.7%.

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Pay and benefits for American workers are rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade, but not enough to stoke unwanted inflation.

The numbers: Pay and benefits for American workers advanced at a brisk pace in the first three months of 2019, fresh government figures showed, but they still growing less than 3% a year and not rising fast enough to stoke much inflation.

The employment cost index climbed 0.7% in the first quarter, the government said Monday, matching the MarketWatch forecast of economists. The ECI reflects how much companies, governments and nonprofit institutions pay employees in wages and benefits.

The increase in compensation slipped to 2.8% in the first quarter from a 10-year high of 2.9% in the final three months of 2018.

What happened: Wages advanced 0.7% in the first quarter. They make up about 70% of employment costs.

Benefits also rose 0.7%. They make up the rest of worker compensation.

Health-care costs for businesses have been relatively restrained in the past year, rising just 1.9%.

Among different workers, increases in compensation ranged from 2.2% for those in manufacturing to 4.8% for employees in information services such as media, public relations and entertainment.

Compensation for government workers increased 3% in the past 12 months, a touch better compared to private-sector employees. More of the increase was tied to higher benefits instead of wages, however.

Read: Consumer spending surges in March, but inflation remains tame

Big picture: The lowest unemployment rate and fewest layoffs in a decade has spawned a labor market so tight that companies have to offer better pay and benefits to retain or attract employees. Yet companies are still managing costs tightly and compensation isn’t rising fast enough to stoke inflation or threaten a 10-year-old economic expansion.

Read: Jobs report primed to show a rekindled economy, but not a sizzling one

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.04%

and S&P 500

SPX, +0.11%

were set to open higher in Monday trades. The 10-year Treasury yield

TMUBMUSD10Y, +0.68%

was little changed at 2.53%.

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Once we get past another batch of big earnings, notably Apple’s after the close of trading Tuesday, investors will need to get ready to face the Fed full on.

And vice versa for the U.S. central bank, which will come up against financial markets that have grown increasingly uneasy with Chairman Jerome Powell’s choice of words. All eyes will be on the one-day meeting and press conference on Wednesday.

Among those increasingly concerned about what Powell will say is research firm Miller Tabak + Co.’s lead strategist, Matt Maley, who provides our call of the day. In an interview with MarketWatch, he warns that any shift in the Fed’s dovish stance could cause the stock market rally to crack, as another fissure — soaring techs — deepens.

Maley says the Fed will be weighing up some encouraging data, such as first-quarter growth numbers, and an equity recovery, spurred on by the central bank’s market-friendly policy U-turn late last year.

“Now that the market has bounced back they might not be so dovish,” he said, adding that he doesn’t think Wall Street is ready for that. “That doesn’t mean it will be another big correction like we saw in the fourth quarter, but the market is getting overbought,” he adds.

He said investors need to only look to China, where stocks fell 5% over the last several sessions on after the central bank said it won’t loosen policy further. Up 23% so far this year, the Shanghai Composite is still the best-performing global market of 2019, but some say its best days are behind it.

Maley says he’s nervous about the big gains from Wall Street equities so far this year, though he doesn’t adhere to so-called “meltup camp,” which believes previously sidelined investors may pile into the market and cause a sharp and unexpected rise for stocks.

He’s also increasingly wary of a strong performance for tech stocks, notably semiconductor names, even amid some downbeat news. On the heels of a warning from Intel

INTC, -2.52%

Korean phone and chip maker Samsung

005930, -0.65%

 on posted a 57% profit drop on Tuesday.

“It’s funny because when stocks react well to bad news that’s usually a good sign, but when you have so many different companies making fairly negative comments about the next few quarters, you just wonder if people are whistling past the graveyard,” said Maley.

Investors should take profits on some of the big gainers of the rally so far and add defensive stocks (companies that are stable no matter what the economic cycle) such as consumer staples that produce goods always in demand and utility stocks. He likes oversold health-care stocks and dividend-paying. He said having some cash on hand would be helpful if there’s a market turn.

“You could get a washout that could present an opportunity like late December,” he said, adding that a stock pullback of 5% to 7% could offer a better chance for investors to scoop up stocks.

The market



S&P 500


 and Nasdaq


 futures are flat. The Nasdaq

COMP, +0.19%

and S&P 500

SPX, +0.11%

 posted back-to-back record closes on Monday.

The dollar

DXY, -0.34%

is down as the euro

EURUSD, +0.3397%

 rallies on upbeat data. Gold

GCM9, +0.20%

 is climbing and crude

CLM9, +1.84%

is also bouncing higher

Read: Should stock market investors fear the wrath of King Dollar?

Europe stocks

SXXP, -0.15%

 are lower. In Asia, China stocks

SHCOMP, +0.52%

 rose, even after data showed weaker factory activity.

The chart

Our chart of the day shows some pain for shares of Google-parent Alphabet

GOOGL, +1.47%

which are down sharply after revenue came up short and profit got hit by a European fine:


Opinion: Google management has some explaining to do

Read: Amazon tops Facebook and Google in first-quarter lobbying spending

This is something I have written about a lot in GMI and Macro Insiders. Google is a media company almost wholly reliant on advertising. Advertising is massively leveraged to GDP. Advertising is slowing fast. Google is a cyclical, not a tech secular play.

— Raoul Pal (@RaoulGMI) April 29, 2019


Shares of conglomerate GE

GE, +1.67%

are soaring after a better-than-expected quarter. Results are also rolling out for auto maker GM

GM, +0.83%

pharma groups Pfizer

PFE, -0.95%


MRK, +0.20%

 and Eli Lilly

LLY, -0.23%

, Mastercard

MA, +0.18%

 and McDonald’s

MCD, -0.15%

After the close, Apple

AAPL, +0.15%

results will swing into the spotlight (preview).

The buzz

President Trump, three of his kids and his real-estate business are suing to stop Deutsche Bank

DB, +1.59%

 from turning financial records over to the House. The suit claims Congress is overreaching, and the subpoena is politically motivated.


AIR, -0.80%

is set to be crowned biggest jetliner maker for 2019. The company’s profit leapt and plane deliveries shot up, as Boeing

BA, -0.46%

 had to cut production of its 737 MAX planes following two fatal crashes.

In a bid to compete in a tough market, Tesla

TSLA, +2.69%

plans to announce price cuts in solar panels, says the New York Times.

As a fresh round of U.S.-China trade talks kicks off Tuesday in Beijing, Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin says the next two weeks will be telling on whether a deal is possible or it’s time to “move on.” Meanwhile, European phone giant Vodafone

VOD, +0.82%

 found vulnerabilities in its Huawei equipment stretching back years, though those issues were resolved some time ago, Bloomberg reports.

The economy

A busy data week continues, with the employment cost index, Case-Shiller house-prices and Chicago purchasing managers index, as well as updates on consumer confidence and pending home sales, all on tap.

The tweet

As I watch all the coverage of the 20+ candidates in the 2020 race, I always remember that Donald Trump hadn’t even come down the escalator at this point 4 years ago…

— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) April 30, 2019

Random reads

Chinese workers fed up with the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. workday

Local politicians fuming after “Simpsons” episode skewers upstate New York

Pope Francis wants hairdressers to lay off the gossip

Japan’s emperor steps down and history is made

Woodstock 50? The show will go on

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General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra announces a $300 million investment in the GM Orion Assembly Plant plant for electric and self-driving vehicles at the Orion Assembly Plant on March 22, 2019 in Lake Orion, Michigan.

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

General Motors will report first-quarter earnings before the market opens Tuesday.

Here’s what Wall Street is expecting, according to analysts surveyed by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $1.11
  • Revenue: $35.28 billion

In April, the company reported sales that fell 7% from a year ago, but said that buyers were interested in its more expensive sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. It plans to launch more full-size pickups in the second half of 2019, with two new heavy duty pickups from Chevrolet and GMC.

As part of its plan to adapt to changing market demands, GM has idled factories that produce slow-selling vehicles, consequently cutting more than 14,000 jobs at factories in the U.S. and Canada. The company is also shifting focus towards self-driving and electrified vehicles.

Shares of GM have risen more than 6% over the last 12 months and are up more than 20% since the beginning of the year.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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Boeing Co. 737 Max planes are seen at the company’s manufacturing facility in Renton, Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Mar. 12, 2019.

David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images

General Electric added Boeing’s grounded 737 Max airplanes as “a new risk” in the company’s quarterly earnings report on Tuesday, citing production of engines for the planes as well as ownership of several of the aircraft for its leasing business.

GE said in a press release that it is “working arm in arm with Boeing while actively monitoring the grounding of the 737 MAX fleet.” Despite the addition of the aircraft to the company’s risks, GE reaffirmed the company’s forecast for 2019 in its first-quarter earnings report.

Here’s what GE said about risks from the Boeing 737 Max:

“Aviation develops, produces, and sells LEAP aircraft engines through CFM International, a company jointly owned by GE and Safran Aircraft Engines, a subsidiary of the Safran Group of France. The LEAP-1B engine is the exclusive engine for the Boeing 737 MAX. In March 2019, global regulatory authorities ordered a temporary fleet grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX. Boeing has announced a temporary reduction in the 737 MAX production rate, and while CFM intends to continue its current production rate for the LEAP-1B, the announcement may impact the timing of those related cash flows.

GECAS owns 29 of these aircraft, all of which are leased to various lessees that remain obligated to make contractual rental payments. In addition, GECAS has made pre-delivery payments to Boeing related to 150 of these aircraft on order and has made financing commitments to acquire a further 19 aircraft under purchase and leaseback contracts with airlines.

As of March 31, 2019, we have approximately $1.5 billion of net assets related to the 737 MAX program that primarily comprises pre-delivery down payments and owned aircraft subject to lease offset by progress collections. No impairment charges were incurred related to the 737 MAX aircraft and related balances in the first quarter of 2019 as we continue to believe these assets are fully recoverable. We continue to monitor these developments with our airline customers, lessees and Boeing. “

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An Eli Lilly & Co. logo is seen on the cap of a pill bottle in this arranged photograph at a pharmacy in Princeton, Illinois.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Merck rose more than 1% in premarket trading on Tuesday after reporting first-quarter financial results that beat Wall Street’s expectations.

However, shares of drug giant Eli Lilly dropped 3.0% after the company reported first-quarter earnings that topped expectations, but revenue that missed. Eli Lilly’s key drugs Trulicity and Alimta fell short of Wall Street’s forecasts.

Health care has been the worst-performing sector in the stock market this year on concerns of drug pricing reform and “Medicare for All” proposals from Democratic lawmakers. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR Fund, an ETF that tracks the health-care industry’s biggest companies, has risen by just 2.7% as of Monday, significantly lagging the broader market indexes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 13% over the same period, and the S&P 500 is 17% higher.

For more on investing in health-care innovation, click here to join CNBC at our Healthy Returns Summit in New York City on May 21.

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One millennial couple just took the plunge and, in a matter of days, will be embarking on an adventure of a lifetime: A one-year journey across 40 countries.

The primary hurdle, of course: money.

But ThatStuffAddsUp, as the husband goes by on the internet, is a firm believer in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) philosophy, and he has a plan.

Read: The path to financial independence and retiring early

“It’s been a tough past 15-20 years where I’ve been going 100 mph to try and be successful, create wealth and simply enjoy life,” he wrote in Reddit’s “Financial Independence” group, which counts 559,000 members. “Problem is, I’ve been so focused on being successful that I’ve rarely allocated time to enjoy life… to truly live with child-like wonder without worrying about a constant income.”

So ThatStuffAddsUp quit his well-paying job, knowing the risks such a bold move involves, and is only days away from beginning his adventure. He says checking off these goals was the key for him to realistically make it happen:

  • Eliminate all debt, incl. their $100K in student loans, cars, etc.
  • Fund the trip with their own money, points and miles.
  • Save enough to last one year upon return.
  • Don’t sacrifice retirement contributions while employed (last 2 years).
  • Don’t buy a home, yet.
  • Don’t have kids, yet.
  • Stay healthy and don’t get injured.

He explained that achieving the first four steps meant sacrificing some of the normal things in his life. The couple downsized their apartment, sold one of their vehicles, got a Costco

COST, +0.19%

 membership, ate at home more often, cut the cord, etc. — all basic tenets of FIRE.

All in, the couple has budgeted $70,000 for the trip, including all transport, housing, meals, visas, activities, insurance. Everything. He says his goal is to ultimately come home well under budget.

“I understand that tomorrow is not guaranteed,” he said. “We may not live to be 60. And, if we do, we may not have the health to travel the way we want to at that age. So, we decided now is the best time for us to take a sabbatical.”

The overwhelming response has been one of support and congratulations, with words of advice sprinkled throughout the thread.

The one tip that kept popping up focused on the itinerary, which calls for just a few days in each destination: “When you are two months into your trip, and tired of traveling, please look at this reply: Spend more than 4 to 14 nights in each country,” advises Tbrooks0807. “If you spend that much time in each location, you will be so tired of traveling in two months that you won’t want to do it anymore.”

And some reality checks, from the likes of Zdth:

“Okay, honest question, how do you plan to explain this 2-year work gap on your resume when you return and look for jobs? Or are you planning on not having to do 9-5 work ever again?” he asked. “I’m so confused by this part of it — how do you return to full-time work at a high salary after traveling like this?”

No immediate response to that one. Apparently, reality can wait.

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The future of fast food is plant-based. Nationwide fast-food restaurants are pivoting to vegetarian-friendly menu items.

Burger King

QSR, -1.44%

 announced earlier this month that it was selling a meatless Whopper, made with a vegetarian patty by Impossible Foods that tastes and bleeds like real beef at select locations. On Monday, the fast-food chain said it’s taking that Impossible Whopper nationwide.

However, the Impossible Whopper costs about $1 more than the regular beef patty Whopper. The special blend from Impossible Foods, a company based in Redwood City, Calif. involves genetically modified yeast that many reviewers say tastes remarkably similar to meat, without the cholesterol.

Catherine Lamb, a food reviewer at The Spoon, found that it costs an extra $4 to replace a beef patty with an Impossible Burger in some restaurants. But people appear willing to pay more for food products that are labeled “healthy,” according to a recent nutrition survey by Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian.

One food reviewer said it costs an extra $4 to replace a beef patty with an Impossible Burger in some restaurants.

A healthy diet should actually have “low amounts” of food that come from animal sources, nutritionists say. In fact, many of the nutrients people rely on from meat for, such as protein, can just as easily come from plants like vegetables, legumes and nuts, such as peanuts.

“Fresh ingredients with not too much fat –– that’s what people want. The market is changing,” New York-based restaurant consultant Jason Kaplan told MarketWatch. Some 22% of consumers now limit their meat and poultry consumption, and 52% increased their fruit intake in the last year.

More fast-food chains are following that advice. The Impossible Slider costs $1.99 at White Castle compared to 91 cents to $1.78 for a meat slider, or $1.13 to $2.21 for a meat slider with cheese. However, White Castle Impossible Sliders are about twice the size of regular meat sliders.

“With the popularity of alternative meats and meat substitutes, it’s a much more appealing approach to people who are health conscious, but also want something that has a strong flavor profile as opposed to the boring veggie burger,” Kaplan said.

There’s money in meatless products: 22% of consumers limit their meat and poultry consumption, one study said.

Adam Eskin, the founder of Dig Inn, a vegetable-focused fast casual restaurant chain with locations in New York and Boston, said it takes expertise to serve vegetables that are just right. Like meatless burgers, Dig Inn salads don’t come cheap: They range in price from about $10 to $12.

Founded in 2011, the New York-based chain’s signature item is called the “marketbowl,” a mix of seasonal vegetables, grains like brown rice and farro, and a choice of proteins like wild Alaskan salmon, chicken meatballs or tofu.

“Scratch cooking vegetables in a fast environment at the volume we operate is very complicated –– we straddle a very thin line, not wanting to be too far ahead and ending up with overcooked broccoli,” Eskin told MarketWatch.

Dig Inn recently received a $15 million investment from Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group –– the team behind Shake Shack –– this week that will help with expansion plans. Dig Inn is up against some stiff competition, including salad chains Chop’t, Tender Greens and Just Salad.

Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality group also invested in 2014 in Sweetgreen, the salad chain with founded in 2007. Customers often wait on long lines for its $12 salads. Last year, vegan plant-based chain By Chloe received $31 million in funding for its international expansion.

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The professional narrators behind two 19-hour Mueller report audiobooks faced the tightest turnaround of their professional lives — and made their own small dent on history in the whirlwind process.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s two-year probe produced a long-awaited 448-page report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. His partially redacted two-volume report, released last Thursday, dissected the Kremlin’s plot to sway the presidential election, established “numerous links” between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, and detailed 10 instances in which Trump had potentially obstructed justice in response to the investigation.

The report probed behind-the-scenes drama within the Trump campaign and White House. Producing the audio version so quickly involved a certain level of intrigue itself.

The report also spawned at least two audiobooks. One, an accompaniment to the Simon & Schuster print edition, featured reading by 12 professional narrators and four Washington Post journalists, debuted on Saturday. It currently sells for $24.80 on Amazon. Audible Studios on Monday also released its own free edition, featuring three narrators.

The report, in part, probed behind-the-scenes drama within the Trump campaign and White House — and producing the audio version so quickly involved a certain level of intrigue itself.

The narrators were recruited months in advance, but kept in the dark about the exact nature of the project until the last minute. To expedite the process, voice actors recorded the audio simultaneously in a marathon session starting the day of the report’s release.

Major publishers’ print editions of the Mueller report peppered Amazon’s

AMZN, -0.63%

  best-seller list: A version by Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint with analysis by reporters from The Washington Post was No. 1 on Thursday evening, while Skyhorse Publishing’s edition with an introduction by attorney Alan Dershowitz was No. 7. Melville House’s no-frills “report and nothing but the report” version was No. 17.

Most people know the conclusions of the report: Mueller ultimately did not establish that members of the Trump campaign had “conspired or coordinated” with Russia, and declined to make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the obstruction matter. But for critics of the current administration, the devil is in the detail. “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mueller concluded.

Planning the audiobooks began months in advance

“Because we expected interest in the Mueller report to peak at the moment of its release, our goal was to make it available on audio as quickly as possible,” Elisa Shokoff, vice president and executive producer at Simon & Schuster Audio, told MarketWatch in an email. “It immediately became clear that we would divide up the report among a group of narrators, and record them simultaneously on the day of the release in various locations.”

Simon & Schuster began gauging its professional narrators’ availability months ago, according to narrators who worked on the audiobook, but didn’t reveal to them the nature of the project until the week of the report’s release.

‘It was an honor, it was a shock. I just felt so privileged.’

— singer and narrator Cynthia Farrell

“As we didn’t initially know the length of the report or when it would be released, we didn’t know how many narrators we would need or who would be available,” Shokoff said. “We created a pool of some of our finest [and] checked their availability every week. When the day came, we knew who was able to begin recording immediately.”

Voice actor Samantha Desz, who narrated portions of the Washington Post analysis, recalled her surprise when she learned she would be working on the Mueller report.

“They mentioned it to us a while back, saying, ‘We have this very confidential project — we can’t tell you what it is, but what’s your availability in the coming weeks and months?’” Desz, 41, of Kansas City, Mo., told MarketWatch. “Then we all got the email that’s like, ‘OK, this confidential project is the Mueller report.’ And we’re all like, ‘Oh my goodness.’”

“It was an honor, it was a shock,” added Cynthia Farrell, 46, a singer and narrator who lives in lower Manhattan. “I just felt so privileged.”

Marc Watley

Samantha Desz narrated portions of the Washington Post analysis.
Narrators, editors and support staff worked around the clock

The report dropped on the Justice Department’s website about 11 a.m. on April 18. Simon & Schuster divided up the text among the dozen-plus voices and sent each person their assigned portion that afternoon, and assigned each person their own dedicated editor. The publisher circulated a document ahead of time containing pronunciations of tricky names — including Russian ones — expected to appear in the report, the narrators said.

Simon & Schuster circulated a document ahead of time containing pronunciations of tricky names — including Russian ones — expected to appear in the report.

“We engaged a Russian-speaking pronunciation consultant to be on call on the day of recording for any last-minute questions,” Shokoff said. “We also consulted with lawyers throughout the recording about how to read the legal terms aloud.”

Simon & Schuster narrators would send their audio recordings to their editors, who then advised them of any small corrections to re-record (or “pickups,” in audiobook parlance), according to narrator Gibson Frazier, 47, a Harlem-based actor, writer and filmmaker with off-Broadway experience.

The narrators remained on standby during a final quality-assurance process. It was all-hands on deck. The Simon & Schuster Audio team worked around the clock and finished by 2 a.m. Saturday, Shokoff said. “It was intense and it was hard, but it was also manageable,” added 36-year-old narrator Jayme Mattler, of Bushwick, crediting the publisher for a well-organized execution.

Audible, employing similar secrecy, tapped actor and audiobook narrator Victor Bevine for the project months ago without telling him what it was. He recalled one “false alarm” prior to the report’s actual release, around the time Attorney General William Barr received the report.

Victor Bevine has acted in ‘CSI’ and ‘Star Trek: Voyager.’ He narrated ‘The Fifth Risk’ by Michael Lewis and got his break in the industry reading parts of the Bible.

Bevine has had roles in “Law & Order,” “CSI,” “Oz” and “Star Trek: Voyager,” according to his IMDB profile. He also narrated Michael Lewis’s “The Fifth Risk,” and says he got his break in the industry recording parts of the Bible.

“Audible reached out and said, ‘Are you free this weekend?’” Bevine, who lives in Hudson Yards and declined to disclose his age, told MarketWatch. “At that point, I figured it out.” He had been keeping up with speculation surrounding the report’s release.

While Bevine was originally slated to narrate the entirety of the report, the report turned out to be more voluminous than expected — so Audible roped in actor Marc Vietor to read the second of two volumes and actor Mark Boyett to read chapter headings and the appendix. (Listeners may recall the duo’s voices from the audiobook of Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84.”)

Bevine says he stayed in the studio from about 4 p.m. to nearly 11 p.m. on April 18, worked 12-hour days on Friday and Saturday, and then wrapped the project on Easter Sunday.

Courtesy of Audible

Victor Bevine
‘I think it was quite elegantly written’

The narrators had their work cut out. Frazier, for example, was assigned about 35 pages that covered the storied June 9, 2016 meeting in Trump Tower between top campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak’s encounters with then-Senator Jeff Sessions and campaign adviser J.D. Gordon, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s activities.

‘Our job is to make it sound like we’re just sitting down and reading this to you for the first time …hitting all the pronunciations correctly. It takes work.’

—Gibson Frazier, 47, a Harlem-based actor, writer and filmmaker

Frazier’s finished product amounted to “a couple of hours” of recording length, he said. “Our job is to make it sound like we’re just sitting down and reading this to you for the first time … hitting all the pronunciations correctly,” Frazier said. “It takes work.”

Robin Miles, the award-winning voice actor of audiobooks including a Michelle Obama biography and the young-reader adaptation of Kamala Harris’s forthcoming memoir, tackled about 50 pages that contained case-law citations.

Miles happened to have worked as a paralegal after college at the law firm Skadden, she told MarketWatch — the former workplace, coincidentally, of ex-Obama White House counsel Gregory Craig, who was charged with lying to federal investigators this month in a case spun from the Mueller probe. (Craig pleaded “not guilty” to those charges.)

With legal-proofreading experience under her belt, Miles already knew how to read aloud abbreviations like “U.S.C.” (United States Code) and “F. Supp” (Federal Supplement), for instance. “[Simon & Schuster] just got lucky on that,” said Miles, who lives in Harlem and declined to give her age. “I don’t think anyone knew I had been a paralegal for nine years.”

‘My favorite part was that I got to quote the President saying “f***.” Who gets to quote a president saying that? I felt very special and lucky.’

—Narrator Jayme Mattler

And Mattler, who says she typically gravitates toward fiction and nonfiction projects with a “quirky, sarcastic, edgy feel,” received a meaty 40-page portion in the obstruction-of-justice volume — including a coveted line describing Trump’s allegedly slumping back in his chair and declaring, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f***ed,” upon learning of the special counsel’s appointment.

“My favorite part was that I got to quote the President saying ‘f***,’” Mattler said. “Who gets to quote a president saying that? I felt very special and lucky.”

Some even found the report more engaging than they had anticipated. “I was expecting to find it more dry than it was,” said Vietor, 48, who lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. “It was clearly written. I think it was quite elegantly written.” Mattler said she was surprised at how “palatable” the writing was.

Rod Goodman

Cynthia Farrell
How narrators played it straight

Narrators told MarketWatch they avoided editorializing, and didn’t use character voices for quotes or otherwise infuse their recordings with emotion. “My thinking was just to make it as clear as possible,” Frazier said. “The object of the report is clarity, and so that’s got to be my object when narrating it.”

“You don’t need to sell this book. You don’t need to amplify anything in it,” Miles added. “Just present it.”

Narrators told MarketWatch they avoided editorializing, and didn’t use character voices for quotes or otherwise infuse their recordings with emotion.

Mattler, echoing her colleagues, said she “played the whole thing straight,” even the F-bomb. “It was important for any opinion that I had not to shine through — this isn’t an opinion piece,” she said. “Things could have been said very calmly, and it’s not my place to amplify an emotional state in a book like this.”

Vietor also read the President’s alleged expletive for Audible’s version. “You want something to be fluent and understandable and engaging, but you don’t want it to sound like you’re telling a story in the interest of forming an opinion,” he said. “It’s tempting to read a line like that very dramatically.”

Miles, for her part, recalled reading certain passages she found “jaw-dropping.” “You’ve got to deal with that, dispense with the emotion, and move on,” she said. “You stop; you let it wash over you: ‘Wow, OK, that’s damning.’ … And then you go back to your position of neutrality.”

Narrators who spoke with MarketWatch, some of whom said they were SAG-AFTRA members, declined to discuss how much they had been paid for the gig.

SAG-AFTRA’s 2019 Sound Recordings Code sets a $210.50 minimum standard rate for narrators per finished hour of recording. But while some companies may pay union members the Sound Recordings Code rate for audiobook work, such work is typically done under separate audiobook agreements, SAG-AFTRA’s website says. “I will tell you this: I don’t work at minimum anymore,” said Miles, a SAG-AFTRA member.

‘A public service’

Aside from the obvious time constraints — narrators said this audiobook had the quickest turnaround they had ever experienced — the project posed certain logistical difficulties.

“Sentences being broken up by constant references to previous cases, and making that flow, was a challenge,” Farrell said. She said she tried to be as active and present as possible in her delivery, avoiding the clinical tone that can put some listeners to sleep.

For Bevine, “the hardest thing was that there were footnotes on almost every page.” “We were constantly deciding: ‘Should we include this footnote here? Will it be helpful or will it be more confusing to the listener?’” he said.

Some narrators said they felt their role in recording the much-awaited special counsel report made them, in a small way, part of history. Bevine called the Audible Studios version, available for download free of charge, “a public service.”

“It was my son who said, ‘Wow, Mom’ — a 16-year-old knew what this was. He was impressed that his mom was part of it,” Miles said. “I’ll take it.”

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