Is the Music Industry Addicted to Data?

It’s All About The Numbers

Previously, we’ve looked into the impact of tech giants, Spotify and Shazam and how they both work in terms of collecting their data from their users.

From validating the integrity and value of artists by how many streams they’ve acquired, to working out the ‘perfect marketing’ playlists on Spotify, it seems that the music industry is becoming less ‘expressive’ and more materialistic. With more and more major labels, managers and artists alike focusing more on the numbers and less so on the impact their music has on their consumers, just how dangerous can data be?

Regardless, the music industry is still an industry at the end of the day and so – – we must not be surprised that they are driven by money. I mean, let’s be honest, what isn’t driven by money?

However, with the might of heavy data behind artists, corporations and marketing experts, it allows these to develop fantastic insights into just what songs work and what don’t.

To rely too much, however, may cause music labels to preemptively drop an artist before they have even been given a chance to release a debut or even play that top spot at the festival, because the numbers just don’t add up with the festival demographic.

Which may be seem like dynamite in terms of guiding the lost through this unpredictable industry …

The Powerful Bargaining Tool

With music streaming CEO giants being some of the most powerful individuals in the music industry, it is clear to see why organisations hold so much value to joining the dots. Having a consistent audience is everything for artists, labels and organisations to thrive in this scary industry, and so for them to bargain with such powerful tools at their disposal – their perfect demographic audience, for instance, is perfect for them to not only invest in worthy shares in other global services to cement their worth; but also to contribute over $300 million to the music industry across the years.

The likes of Liberty Media, Access Industries and Tencent, to name but a few.

Furthermore, according to RIAA’s report, “MUSIC DRIVES SOCIAL MEDIA,” musicians have driven social media engagement with 57% of users following a band or artist. That is more so than the other top five categories of actors, athletes and TV stars, which just resembles the strong correlation between the music industry and social media. The report is available to view at the end of this blog, if you wish to read further into this, of course.

The Harsh Reality of Thriving on Data

But a few big names have had their doubts about how driven the industry really is. Even Lyor Cohen, head of Music over at YouTube – a site literally made up of collating data – has said his piece about this topic. Cohen has warned the industry against getting “drunk off the data” because “human instinct can see around the corner” of an artists’ career or a music trend than any algorithm or data graph can. At the end of the day, it’s the old-fashioned argument of Man V Machine again, and it seems it has made its way round to the music industry again.

Above all, though, it seems that the major crisis on our hands in time of how we thrive on data, is the problem of metadata.

The Problem With Metadata

Metadata refers to the song credits you see on services like Spotify or Apple Music, but it also includes all the information tied to a released song or album, including titles, songwriter and producer names, the publishers, the record label, and more.

According to sources like The Verge (link(s) below), this information needs to be synchronised across all kinds of industry databases to make sure that when you play a song, the right people are identified and paid. And often, they aren’t, which is a real shame. It seems that the effect of data here, is starting to have repercussions on our musicians in the industry, with thousands of musicians having lost out on royalties across the years where their repertoire has been released on these services.

With the music industry contributing to thousands of jobs across the UK, it is not uncommon for a song to have more than one songwriter or publisher on the rights-list to be paid. Of course, this causes all sorts of technical errors with the metadata with most errors down to the right people not being correctly identified or validated on a song that they rightfully contribute the composition rights to. So, it often seems that too much data can not only affect how we display, listen, obtain or view music to the public, but it also could personally affect our music industry employees directly too. From the engineers and publishers right back to the musician themselves, it seems that they are losing out on their royalties through this system.

Final Thoughts

From this, I think we need to be more careful and less drastic with how we use this collated data. It may end up doing more harm than good. Because, if we are not too careful, we could thrive too much on the numbers, and thrive less on the music.

Of course, data has benefited those that otherwise may not have got where they are today, and of course, has contributed to the overall value of the music industry exponentially – which is bloody fantastic.

But, we may need the best of both worlds to truly capitalise the value of the music industry in the future.

Further reading:

https://www.theverge.com/2019/5/29/18531476/music-industry-song-royalties-metadata-credit-problems

https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamhochberg/2020/01/16/the-music-biz-is-addicted-to-data–and-new-privacy-laws-may-make-it-go-to-rehab/#6abdb9a43f86

https://www.musicwatchinc.com/blog/music-scores-a-gold-record-on-the-social-media-charts/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s