What You Need to Know About Big Data and the Music Industry

The way most major label executives panicked when song and album downloads started to hit the mainstream in the early 2000s shows how crucial it is for music industry professionals to stay updated about the latest technologies that could affect their work.

And the latest industry shift to take notice? Big data.

Big data is a technology that has substantial potential for the music industry. While often misunderstood, big data refers to large volumes of data that arrive so fast, and complex, that its impossible to use traditional methods to process.

Working with big data involves using powerful analytics software & to find patterns and trends within gigantic datasets.

So how does big data relate to the music industry?

Data is being collected everywhere. And it’s said the data is becoming the new oil in this industry.

data new oil

Image from the Economist.com

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Your data is being collected when you browse Facebook. When you visit websites. When you shop at the local store.

Why you may ask? Because data is valuable, towards helping businesses and organizations uncover business potentials.

Coming back to us in the music industry, people in the music industry have collected information about ticket and album sales, a musician’s media coverage, feedback from fans over the decades.

The main difference now is that big data tools allow people to look through massive datasets quickly to extract hidden insights. Research that once required teams of individuals working for weeks can now be done in a matter of minutes.

Here’s how big data can help the music industry

1 – Big Data could facilitate improved music festival experiences.

Music festival attendees can catch hundreds of world-class acts during a few days. However, as the disastrous Fyre Festival illustrated, a poorly planned event could cause long-lasting reputational damage for everyone involved. Everything ranging from long lines at food vendors to portable toilets placed too far away from the most populated areas could tarnish festivalgoers’ perceptions.

There are plenty of possibilities using big data for better festivals.

led wristbands for big data

Wristbands with electronic components in a concert.

For example, some wristbands have electronic components that people scan to gain admission to sections of the grounds. With this, organizers could depend on data collected to see when areas are too crowded and optimize by opening up new parts to enhance the crowd flow.

Many festivals also have dedicated apps that let people create customized schedules. They then provide push notifications so a user doesn’t miss the performance. Using behavioral data, festival organizers can analyze and decide to push out custom schedules for things like stage times and locations.

Behavioral data collected in such apps might show that more people than anticipated wanted to catch a certain performance or artist. With this insight, the festival organizer can choose to place different performers to perform at certain peak times or prime placements to take advantage of fans’ interest – effectively improving the flow and experience of a concert or music festival.

2 – Big Data can assist artists with tour planning.

Touring is essential for many artists to have sustainable careers. If an artist has an energetic live set and a magnetic presence on stage, they can win over new fans. That’s why the trick of many booking agents is to secure supporting act opportunities for their emerging musicians to open for larger, more established artists. Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band famously introduces the opening acts himself at each gig, indicating they have his stamp of approval.

dave matthew performing

Dave Matthews performing live at BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ.

Figuring out when and where a band should tour is not straightforward. This is where big data can help to draw smarter conclusions.

For example, some social media-based tools can determine when and what people are saying about a band, performance or song. Analyzing that feedback could assist in figuring out which markets, location or demographics are most lucrative, and where the highest numbers of fans exist.

Big data can also support technologies, like the Internet of Things (IoT), which relates to gadgets that connect to the internet. Among many popular IoT devices, is a device known to many – Alexa, the virtual assistant by Amazon. Speaking of which, you may even have an Alexa sitting at home.

So how does this work for the music industry?

Ticketmaster recently launched a skill for Amazon smart speakers that enables finding and buying tickets with voice commands. One of the functions it offers is to search and see where the users’ favorite artists are touring.

Although Ticketmaster did not explain the kind of information it collects from the Alexa skill, it’s easy to imagine how the voice queries from customers, turned into insights can help ticket retailers shape tour schedules, add new tour dates or even formulate a promotional strategy.

3 – How artists are gaining momentum with Big Data.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about — and perhaps worked with — artists who worked hard but struggled for years before finally breaking through and finding success.

Numerous factors contribute to making that happen, but streaming platforms such as Spotify are certainly part of the puzzle.

During an April 2019 call with investors, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek confirmed that the company adds nearly 40,000 tracks daily. Spotify and similar streaming platforms are quickly becoming saturated with music. How would an artist hope to be discovered?

So here’s what Spotify is doing with big data to help artists get discovered.

spotify data algorithm

Credits to ‘How Does Spotify Knows You So Well‘ by Sophia Ciocca on Medium.

Spotify hires human curators to make its playlists, plus keeps tabs on data generated by individual users using machine learning. Behavioral data is generated at every step when you use Spotify; such as which tracks or artists a user likes most or tends to skip.

Based on this data, Spotify even provides personalized collections of songs for its users every day. The company recently announced it’s tailoring public playlists based on an individual’s preferences.

This method reportedly led to an 80% increase in people seeking artists after first discovering them this way.

Proceed With Caution

The three examples here show how big data is can impact the music industry.

As an artist, fusing big data with creativity is something worth exploring. There are composition helper apps in the market that collect big data to determine the types of song composition and arrangement that would most likely be a hit.

As a business owner, it’s time to use big data within your business to better understand music consumers.

Big data is certainly worth exploring. Just bear in mind that because of increasing consumer privacy concerns and regulations that dictate how to handle collected information, they will be future challenges for music industry professionals that rely on it.

What are your thoughts on big data and how is it impacting you – as an artist, music producer or business owner? Let us know in the comment section below and discuss!


This is a post written by Caleb Danzige, a tech blogger and freelance writer. He co-owns thebytebeat.com with his friend Jenna. 

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