[Musicians have more information at their fingertips than ever before. But how should one use this data to advance their career? This is from the May/June issue of Canadian Musician magazine and comes from Michael Raine. – AC]
If you’re an avid sports fan like I am – the type who turns on sports radio in the car and podcasts when doing chores, and reads detailed analyses of how players are performing – analytics has become just part of the conversation. Hockey fans throw around terms like “Corsi” or “shooting percentage,” or baseball conversations commonly use the acronym WAR (wins above replacement — google it). The point being, in sports, even casual fans understand that analytics are influencing the decisions their favourite teams make, even if the fans often don’t understand exactly how analytics work. For music fans, however, where the sheer amount of data available in the digital age is nearly infinite, it’s less understood how analytics are influencing what we hear, from how a song is marketed to where a band tours, or whether they get a record deal. And yet, there are many decisions, both big and small, that are influenced by data.
The idea that music is subjective is a prevalent one, and somewhat true, obviously. But there is the still-common belief that the great decision makers have some well-refined “gut instinct” for these things — that their eyes and ears can identify an artist’s potential and that elusive X factor that others don’t see. It’s perpetuated by Netflix documentaries about near-mythical industry figures like David Geffen and countless books and magazine profiles. But now more than ever, the truth is, data rules. Data, though, is only as useful as one’s ability to analyze and apply it (i.e. analytics), and there is a lot of data out there.