Big Data

Predicting the future superstar

Thomas Bosshard
  • Thomas Bosshard


  • Big Data

Will analytics revolutionize the ailing record industry?

As a consequence, CD sales have steadily declined in the past decade. Left behind by technology, the record industry has been rated to be among the top ten dying industries. And, as CD sales dwindle, traditional sales metrics have largely become meaningless as a measure for gauging the popularity of an artist.

But the internet is also giving record labels big opportunities. The explosion of data generated from sources like torrenting, streaming sites and social media platforms has offered the music industry the ability to clarify what the public really wants to listen to and to spot upcoming artists.

This development has led to new partnerships in the industry. In February, Twitter announced its collaboration with the music label 300 Entertainment. Considering that music is the most popular topic on Twitter users discussed it in more than one billion messages in 2013, this partnership could help artists with hype on Twitter get discovered more easily. International success stories such as Justin Bieber’s rise to fame by means of YouTube have shown quite plainly that social media has the power to reveal a new superstar who would otherwise go undetected.

The big data potential in the music business is enormous. It gives the music industry a huge opportunity to understand its customers like never before. Shazam, for example, a mobile app with which users can find out the name and artist of a song by uploading segments they are listening to, has released a list of artists that are gaining the most attention. This list is based on solid data: Shazam users make 15 million song identifications per day.

Music analytics might have the potential of turning the art of finding the right artist and predicting future hits into more of a science. But will the most successful talent scout in the industry soon become an algorithm? Faced with this question in an interview with The Guardian, a Universal Music executive responded with due calm: “It’s important to remember that [music analytics tools] is just a set of tools to help inform us. The data doesn't make the decisions; that's an un-replicable part of what we do.”

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