Canadian Musician - May-June 2022 - Page 44

interviewing rap pioneer and Universal Music Canada ’ s Senior Vice President of A & R , Kardinal Offishall , for a Canadian Musician cover story . “ We live in a time with music where a lot of the industry is heavy on analytics — less on gut , a lot more on analytics . I think it ’ s interesting to me because relying on analytics means you ’ re relying on the past , because analytics are something that happened already . Analytics are not something that can tell you the future ,” he told me . “ I know a lot of people don ’ t use that type of language and don ’ t really consider it that , but when you look at it at its core , that ’ s what it is . You ’ re seeing a trend , or part of a trend , that has passed already . So , now it ’ s up to you to guess — is that something that ’ s going to be sustainable , or is it going to fizzle next week or next month ?”
Knowing Offishall was a basketball and baseball fan , I pointed out the sports comparison ; that sports analytics use trends found in the past to predict the future , but he was quick to dismiss the comparison . “ Nah ,” he said , “ When you think about the breakdown of it , it ’ s like , ‘ Okay , if 1,000 guys go to that one basket , this is usually what happens .’ When you go through the analytics , break it down to get field goal percentages , three-point percentages , whatever , here ’ s what ’ s most likely to happen . But you have hundreds of guys shooting at the same single goal . In music , the equivalent would be 100 different nets , with a million different people shooting at the same time , from a million different places , in a million different courts , and trying to gather analytics from that and then make that apply to a singular artist !”
Instead , Offishall told me , when he looks at the analytics , it ’ s about the bigger picture it paints . “ I look at the analytics and it shows trends and I ’ m like , ‘ Alright , cool .’ It ’ s the bigger picture . And I ’ ve heard it somewhere that analytics are kind of like GPS — like terrible GPS . We ’ ve all had it on our on our phones or whatever when you ’ re going somewhere and it says ‘ turn right here ’ and you ’ re like , ‘ Why would I do that ? I know if I go straight , it ’ s going to be five minutes faster .’ But you follow the GPS anyway and then you ’ re like , ‘ Shit , I should have just listened to my gut .’ So , analytics is kind of like the GPS where it ’ ll get you there , but if you ’ ve gone down that road a thousand times , use the GPS for what it is .”
So , if analytics for A & R is more opaque , what other uses in the music business are there for all this data , and where is it all coming from anyway ? I checked with the data analysis team at Chartmetric , one of the leading streaming and social data analytics companies serving major music companies and artists . Its main service is an all-in-one dashboard made available to clients in the music industry to collect , combine , and analyze data from more nearly 30 sources , from social media companies , the major DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music , to more regional DSPs like Boomplay in Africa , Line Music in Japan , and Melon in South Korea .
“ If you ’ re a paying client , everyone can see the same thing , effectively ,” says Rutger Ansley Rosenborg , digital strategy lead at Chartmetric . “ That said , we do have some special arrangements with some clients who maybe need to see more from the data , or they need to see the data in a certain way , or they don ’ t want to see the data that isn ’ t relevant to them . So , if they ’ re tracking a particular roster , but they have hundreds of artists and they can ’ t do that through the tool , then we can build something custom for them . Or , sometimes they just want reports generated , which we can also do . Sometimes they have their own data analysis team and we just drop some CSVs to them . So , it runs the gamut .”
I ask if the companies getting the bespoke service are the major labels and Rosenborg stays coy , just saying , “ I guess I ’ ll put it this way — they are higher-value clients .”
Of course , a lot of data on an individual level is now made available to artists through the DSPs ’ artist portals ( Spotify / Apple Music / Amazon Music for Artists ), their digital distributor dashboard , or other Chartmetric-type services like Soundcharts . It ’ s a fantastic development that indie artists can now access their own data , which they never could in the past . But something like Chartmetric aggregates all the data and makes sense of it to inform decisions at a company / industry level .
“ In my talks with different clients , from the big indies to the major labels , it frequently revolves around playlists , but I think that conversation is kind of changing as we speak . I think a lot of them are getting past the playlist world and starting to think more about things like social engagement and how to better measure those things ,” adds Jason Joven , the music data insights manager at Chartmetric . “ So , what a lot of those teams are trying to measure is something like , ‘ Okay , artist X is always on the top editorial playlists on Spotify , but there ’ s a lot of ground to gain still in their social engagement despite the enormous number of followers that they have .’ I think that ’ s an interesting question that they ’ re starting to bat around a lot .”