THE NUMBERS DICTATE THE NEXT MOVE
HOW DATA & ANALYTICS IS INFLUENCING DECISIONS AROUND THE MUSIC INDUSTRY
BY MICHAEL RAINE
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 analyse and apply it ( i . e . analytics ), and there is a lot of data out there .
“ Basically , it ’ s really based on numbers — streaming numbers , radio performance , and all that sort of thing . So , we always let the numbers and the data sort of dictate the next move ,” Scott Cooke told me last September when chatting for the Canadian Musician Podcast . Cooke is a chart-topping engineer and producer and now the cofounder of Canadian country indie label Local Hay Records , which is a joint venture with Nashville-based Big Loud Records . Cooke and I were talking about Local
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