In today’s society, the information has become the most valuable kind of goods; any other form of recourses is almost useless without the timely information. One of the best illustrations of the importance of information can be found in the film The Imitation game. This movie is about the great mathematician Alan Turing, and it explains that the most important battle during the World War II didn’t take place on the battlefield, but inside an office. This is where Turing and his colleagues managed to break the Enigma (famous German machine for data encryption), and thus won the most important battle - the battle for information. This way they were able to decrypt German messages and were always one step ahead their enemy. This was probably the crucial point of the World War II. Although many people are not aware of this, the World War II was basically the war on information, and thanks to the victory in this domain, the Allies won the war.
This is a very vivid example of the importance of information. Fortunately, today we are no longer in the war, but the timely information is still the crucial element in any kind of production and business, especially in our technological society. Due to the internet, any data can be sent from one part of the world to another literally in the blink on an eye, so all of the companies have to stay in touch with the latest trends in order to be able to make the best decisions.
Of course, the music business is no exception.
The overall balance
As any other form of company, record labels have to understand that the importance of information cannot be overstated. Considering the financial domain, the necessity of right decisions becomes clearer. One of the most important tasks for every record label is recognizing the new potential talent so that their financial sources could be invested in the right person or band. Did you know that the overall investment in the newly signed artist for an average label can go beyond two million dollars? This package can include different kinds of activities, such as advance, recording, video production, tour support, marketing, promotion, etc… This is why the record company should give their best to collect enough data in order to accurately estimate the market situation. Otherwise, a company can make a great loss by investing in an artist and then realizing that his popularity is not on the expected level.
In order to make the proper estimation, record labels have to conduct objective and comprehensive research. One of the most common mistakes that these companies make is relying on a data that is not trustworthy or is more subjective by nature. Of course, although they are common, it is relatively easy to overcome these mistakes.
Subjective and Objective methods
You can often hear people say, “How come this band is so popular, I don’t know anyone who listens to it”; this is known as a subjective method - making conclusions based on a small number of observations. If you are using subjective methods, soon you will find out that any kind of band can be chosen for the best in the world, depending on what group of people you are interviewing. If your referent group is Norwegian metalheads, you will probably receive results according to which Gorgoroth is the most popular band in the world. Of course, if you focus on Mediterranean Italy, the results will probably be a little different.
It is very important to use data from different sources and to gain as much data as possible.
The “Viral Lift”
The first thing that comes to our mind when it comes to the measurement of popularity is the number of views. However, although it is very intuitive and seems logical, it is actually not a very good parameter. Why is this so? You would probably agree that there are many songs with lots of views that are not considered as very good songs. The thing is that the popularity is not the synonym for the quality. Of course, music is a form of art and all of the record labels have an obligation to promote the high-quality music and talented artist. Besides this “ideological” point of view, there is also a more practical one. It is easy to “trick the customer once”, but it is very hard to do it twice. This is why the investment in an artist who is not very talented is often not beneficial. Some companies even buy likes and try to come up with some kind of a scandal in order to boost artist’s popularity, but it often lasts for a very short period of time. The important thing to have in mind when it comes to the estimation of one’s popularity and the population attitude towards it is “the viral lift”. It is basically the measurement of how often and how quickly some content is shared via social networks. For some companies, like BuzzFeed, it is a crucial parameter and more important than just the number of views. This is easy to understand; we all often click on something that is not very interesting, sometimes from curiosity and sometimes because we were “deceived”, but neither way we will share the content. An insight in the speed and frequency that some content is spreading on the internet is often the crucial factor.
How to use the data
The internet has done its job, so in today’s society, there is literary endless amount of data that can be found online. Just to illustrate this - do you know how many percentages of the data in the world were created in the last two years? 10%, maybe 15%? Not even close. The correct answer is 90%. Let me ask you one more thing: Do you know in what period of time the overall world’s data is doubled? Believe it or not, the answer is 18 months.
It may seem unreal, but this is the reality. There is an ocean of data and it seems that it is relatively easy to collect it, whether by engaging professional help or not. However, to know how to interpret the data is sometimes more complicated that the process of getting it. Record labels often have to provide an extensive and very complex statistical analysis in order to ensure reliable pieces of information, because their future decisions will be based on it. Of course, the majority of companies are not capable of providing these analyses by themselves, so an experienced and highly professional help needs to be ensured. It is true that this is often a very expensive solution, but it is also the best one there is. Record labels should consider this as a form of investment, not as an expense. One of the companies that have been shown to be a successful one in this domain is SumAll, but of course, there are many others, so record labels should do their research and chose a solution that they consider to be the most suitable one.
Of course, this kind of data shouldn’t be considered only before the first step (for example, before the decision about the investment), but also during the whole process. This is because the constant feedback needs to be ensured so the initial decision could be evaluated. Ones this becomes the routine for a company, it will start to monitor the whole process from the first step to the last one. This way, a company will learn from its mistakes. You should follow as many parameters as possible, so you could start to analyze which one has been proven as the most successful in different situations and circumstances (for what kind of artist, band; what kind of the investments, etc…).
Ones these data are collected it should be used in a practical way. Every segment of a company should consider obtained results and should work as a team in order to come up with the most pragmatic solution.
As mentioned, this is a highly complicated (and often expensive) solution, but it is definitely the best one.
Information and data are very important in the music business (most of the people would say that these elements are the crucial ones). However, you shouldn’t forget that it is not the computers or the particular number that should make the final decision - the one who should do it is you. You shouldn’t be drawn by “the power of numbers” and comply blindly according to them, but should rather use them as a form of tool. Sebastian Wernicke in his TED talk has explained this in the context of TV shows, but the logic is the same. Focusing only on data without considering our own deliberation can sometimes tour out to be a huge mistake, especially in the music business. After all, music is not simply a product that should be sold; it is a form of art and it should be given the respect it deserves.