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Big Data in the music industry (hit trending)

Today I’m conflicted…

Do I like this band or not?

When does explicit cross the line of vulgar and hateful?

As an artist should I “engineer” a hot, or not?

As a business man I’m sparked by the concept of “big data” in the music industry being able to predict a “hit” with 70% accuracy (Pandora).

I’m also in awe of a systems that so “song detection” help people find the music they want just by humming a few notes (the hook) in to the platform.
But the “awe bit” comes from then taking that consumer data and making it a “valuable” chart of the music people are MOST searching for and can remember, in to a “Chart”.

As a record label, this information is highly valuable.
But as an “artist” do I really want to “engineer” a hit? When does my art sell out for money?

As an artist I do want my “message” (my emotions and feelings and thoughts and reactions and experiences) to “GET HEARD” by “more people”, but to do that, do I adjust what I “want” to do, my musical style, my identity – do I want to “engineer musical style” just to get more attention?

My heart says no. My brain says yes.

My ego and my bank balance lean towards YES.
But my artistry and creativity (I want to be an original, not a clone) leans towards NO

Second Conflict:

I used one of the “song detection” charts (shazam dort com) to listen to the USA charts.
WOW! In theory the American market is so out of my taste zone. It’s presented here as an ANGRY, NOISY hip hop and rap nation.
Of course that’s a biased view. Country music. Christian music. Heavy Metal. Electronic. New Age. Ambient. ALL also “Big” in the States – especially considering the size of it. OK so maybe they aren’t so much in to “Euro handbag” but that doesn’t really matter. (I wouldn’t choose to do Euro handbag any day soon – LOL).

So this highlights 2 things.

  1. BAD DATA – the people who use this “device” are predominately young tech owners (mobile phones) and instantly that leans towards youth musical tastes. I’m not young and my tastes are in a different spectrum. by default my music will appeal to people nearer MY generation. However, I hope, I intend, that my music will appeal to some people in all generations.
    So “WHY” would I want t appeal more to my non generation?
    There’s no age grouping in what people look up what hooks. But the platform itself is biased towards young tech users.
    It may be BIG DATA, but it may well not be “my data”.
    But it does show me all the clues about what these people want. Do I sell out, just to make money, feed my ego and get heard?
    OR as I come to in a moment, do I stick trying to find TRUE FANS, who will like my “ALBUM” and not just my “one hit winder” single, that I “engineered”. Or do I have to engineer entire albums now?
    So is this stil art, or is it a “factory” now?
    Am I now just a factory line slave labourer? Or am I a poor starving artist?
  2. The f*ck*d up thing about ALL “charts” (and lists).
    Any chart is an “average”. And an average that is heavily biased towards the LCD (lowest common denominator)
    But after the MASS TASTE thinking, people FLOCK towards fulfilling their DEEP TASTES to enjoy fresh experiences of specialist music.
    And the world is HUGE, so what might not even blink in a chart, as it’s under 1%, or however they can track/show, amongst millions of people, means that the long tail can still be significantly large – especially if you only need 1000 true fans to have an on-line career as an artist.
    To save you getting your calculators out too – 1% of even 1 million people is still 10,000 potential fans. If 20% of them connected with you, that’s still 2000 potential sales..
    Even at $1 profit, do that every month and you’d have $24,000 pa. Not that much, but it’s nearly all profit, so salary levels for quite a lot of people.
    What was the last thing you did that earnt you $24,000 ?
    But note here how 20% (a minority) of a 1% micro genre (a minority of a minority) actually starts to make business sense!
    We don’t even need to appeal to the masses anymore, once the ability to connect with “individual tastes” becomes a reality.
    My own SOCIAL PLATFORM, will be one of thousands of options where you can reach such inner deep markets.

Second Conflict Continued:

So I dug deeper in to the USA charts and finally found a non mofo song that I liked. Instantly I went on to Amazon (I’m not an iTunes person as I don’t live through my mobile phone) and tried to find the song to buy. I found it – a whopping 99 cents and this “happy boppy tune about depressing sh*t” could be mine – YAY.
But I’m over the generation, or really I believe it is a “mindset”, where I don’t want one off, one hit wonders – I wanted the album – a more immersive experience. I wanted more!
When I was born, we called those “albums”. And I’d buy a series of albums by more favourite artists.

Maybe I’m in the minority these days, but I don’t want a (radio) playlist of 1 thing and then the next.
I want “DEPTH” of “emotion” – I want the immersive experience – I want the “album”.

It was actually two clicks on Amazon to get to the album state and indeed “Portugal the man” had several albums ready and waiting. BHAM music distribution works on the Internet – LOL.

But all of the album covers were SAD or ANGRY and 2 said explicit.
This was starting to smell of a 1 hit wonder (Aka only 1 song I liked) and a heap of angry hip hop/rap moaning.

It was hard to pick one that wasn’t so depressing.

“Satan” did not appeal to me. Nor did many of the others.
The mildest said it was EXPLICIT. Oh My  🙁 I tried it anyway.
Now here’s an editorial issue form Amazon! It’s not “cussing” mofo this and mofo that at all. Maybe there’s a few swear words (always questionable to add to any song – not big, not clever – why does a song need to use swear words to get emotion?) and maybe there’s an adult theme in there somewhere (I only get 20 second previews on Amazon) but not “cussing”.

Again EXPLICIT is an LCD label. It needs depth to label something! Do you mean cussing, or do you mean 1 swear word? Do you mean deeply disturbing and mind altering “adult themes” or do you mean normal human things that we don’t discuss with the Vicar at tea? What are we actually saying here?

Anyway I like all of the 20 second previews, I think. They are all bright and energetic. frankly they are fell good happy.
BUT, the themes are all depressing! So angry or sad words over bright and breezy, boppy music.

So it’s more than my brain can process right now. Especially when I think/hope I can get feel good music about feel good topics.
Of course huge furony as most music lyrics are about “losing love” not just enjoying it.
In the same way there are no GOOD NEWS newspapers – could we even fill one, as a humanity? Is there enough “mass” good news? Or is good news nearly always “Personal” ?

Again another symbol that music should be DEPP and not mass too. If the best experiences are personal, then deep tastes suggests it’s the experience to have.
And not some globally sad, angry, and lossful MASS LCD appeal.

One of my musical styles is 100% feel good, with a feel good theme.
people have told me for decades that “it will never sell”.

It’s looking like the world is wrong 😉 But YES it will never “chart”, even in a fringe chart, “UNLESS the world becomes a happier place”.

So do I sell out and engineer depression ?
Or do I hold out for making the world a better place?

The short business answer is to do BOTH – where one feeds the other. Mass attention and then filter off for deep taste needs.

You see it’s seldom black and white. It’s always shades of grey.

I’m not going to be cussing mofo phrases, but obviously people like depressing music about the loss of love – because that sh*t happens every day!

But when you’ve had your fill of empathetic loss, albeit to “upbeat” boppy music, with depressing sad angry lossful lyrics, then there’s always fringe frackers like me, trying to cheer you the f*ck up!

I hugely doubt any of my stuff will make it to a “song detector” and Pandora will probably label me as “un-measurably insignificant” (or is that a double negative?) but it “feels” liike that is what being an artist is all about.
I have a message. I need to share it. Apologies but it is about “feeling good”. It’s not a popular concept I know 😉 But why should I engineer more depressing mass crap, just because it makes the most money?

Peace & Light
Peter Buick.


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