How is data changing the music industry? You might want to read this.

The music industry is filled with risk. Record labels deal in musicians, a product that has opinions, health issues, is prone to drug and alcohol abuse, and tends to work on its own schedule. Hey, you can’t rush creativity.

This is why the industry has always looked for an edge, a way to cut down the risk of a song being a stiff. In the old days (and, frankly, in some quarters today), the solution was payola, greasing the hands of radio people with money, hookers, and drugs, to make sure the song got heard.

Now, though, things are much more sophisticated. The thinking is that if enough data and be collected and crunched, it’ll be easy to determine which songs truly have hit potential and which do no.

First, labels started running songs through predictive software programs like Hit Song Science. Using many, many data points collected by analyzing hit songs of the past six decades or so, the software was said to rate a new song in terms of its hit potential. But now that there’s more data from more sources–streaming, social media activity, and so on–the number-crunching has gone insane. It’s all about the analytics, baby.

This is from Complex:

“Numbers and analysis have long been powerful tools in the music business (think of album sales, BDS counts of radio spins, and the Billboard charts that crunch those numbers). But with more of music consumption becoming digital, there is an ever-increasing amount of information available. Increasingly, numbers are being used to discover potential breakout songs, help advance artists’ careers, and even to determine the sound of the music itself.

“Ankit Desai worked on analytics at Universal Music in Sweden before breaking off to run Snafu Records. Desai came to the record business after studying economics, which meant when he first arrived at Universal, “I was the only one with a background in data, analytics, and economics in a very creatively driven company.”

“Analyzing information from Spotify, Desai discovered something interesting: a much larger than normal percentage of Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” listeners were adding the song to personal playlists and playing the song repeatedly. Those stats convinced the label to invest more marketing dollars into the song, and it paid off: the track ended up making it to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and it went quintuple platinum.”


“Data is becoming a primary way for labels and other tastemakers to find their next stars. Shav Garg is the co-founder of Indify, a company he calls a “music data platform.” Music pros use his company to figure out who the next hot artists are, and they were extremely early in noticing artists like Khalid, who the company first featured in the fall of 2015, nearly a year and a half before his debut album.”

Think that music is a meritocracy? Think again. Read the whole Complex article here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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