How Big Data Has Driven Music Intelligence (Just in time for The Grammys!)

February 8, 2013
Grammy Awards

The first few months of the year bring many things – the Super Bowl, The Academy Awards, and of course, The Grammy Awards.

With music’s big night just around the corner, it’s interesting to reflect on the role Big Data is playing in the evolution of music intelligence. Over two decades ago, the popularity of music was based mainly on CD sales, radio airplay and concert box offices. Then, in the early nineties, we were introduced to online music sales and mp3’s, which have become the dominant ways to consume music 20 years later.

As a consumer in 2013, it’s awesome to think about the capabilities and choices we now have considering the industry stalwart (iTunes) just turned 12. From commercial streaming music services such as Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Rhapsody to community music sharing sites like Soundcloud as well as specialized music apps like Wolfgang’s Vault, Vevo and TuneUp, we have access to a vast library of music where we control where and how we choose to listen and whether or not we want to own or stream the latest track. We’re able to buy the songs we want, without buying a whole album. We’re able to interact with other fans and are constantly introduced to new music based on our listening history. We’re sharing more and more data about ourselves online through music sharing sites, blogs, and applications. For consumers, it’s really convenient and cool to be a music lover in 2013.

But, for a data scientist, it’s also an excellent example of how Big Data plays a role in our everyday lives. Software now leverages aggregated and tremendously diverse music and listener data, based on very granular detail rather than catch-all segmentation, like “rap” or “rock.” This data is used as intelligence for music platforms to engage with its customers through recommendation engines, social feeds and advertising. For online and mobile apps, the real-time data stream is updated with every song, every search and every skip, giving platforms that can process and leverage this data the ability to create real-time results.

Another place where we see the harmony between Big Data and music is in the knowledge it can provide record companies. Joining the right data sources can give them the ability to go beyond what’s hot to uncover what will be hot, who will listen to it and how they’ll consume it. By building a real-time musical social graph, record companies can make the right investments in musical talent, provide better guidance from an A&R perspective and execute smarter marketing plans that target specific listeners and buyers. It’s a way for the record industry to deliver better music at a lower cost, creating an improved business model that can be successful with the right data platform.

The intelligence derived from Big Data will predict how we listen and buy music in the future. As a result of gathering real-time, detailed information and generating unique insights across the music ecosystem, Big Data should be the driving force in the next rise of the music industry. Who knows, in a couple of years you may hear a Grammy presenter say, “And the award for best music recommendation engine goes to…”