How people listen to music pic.twitter.com/snnHM9T8pS
— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) August 7, 2014
“Scientists and engineers around the world have been attempting something undeniably impossible— and yet, no one could ever question their motives. Laid bare, the act of ‘understanding music’ by a computational process feels offensive. How can something so personal, so rooted in context, culture and emotion, ever be discretized or labeled by any autonomous process? Even the ethnographical approach — surveys, interviews, manual annotation — undermines the raw effort by the artists, people who will never understand or even perhaps take advantage of what is being learned and created with this research. Music by its nature resists analysis. I’ve led two lives in the past ten years— first as a “very long-tail” musician and artist, and second as a scientist turned entrepreneur that currently sells “music intelligence” data and software to almost every major music streaming service, social network and record label. How we got there is less interesting than what it might mean for the future of expression and what we believe machine perception can actually accomplish.
The core of the Echo Nest remains true to our dogma: we strongly believe in the power of data to enable new music experiences. Since we crawl and index everything, we’re able to level the playing field for all types of musicians by taking advantage of the information given to us by any community on the internet. Work in music retrieval and understanding requires a sort of wide-eyed passion combined with a large dose of reality. The computer is never going to fully understand what music is about, but we can sample from the right sources and do it often enough and at a large enough scale that the only thing in our way is a leap of faith from the listener.”
“So could we finally be reaching a social media tipping point – at least in music marketing? My view is that potentially we may well be. Ever since MySpace arrived with public stats on friend and play counts, metrics have been central to music marketing – especially to those looking to land themselves on Radio 1. I’ve seen a few instances of unsigned bands being told by prospective labels that their social media ‘numbers’ just weren’t high enough yet. Now though, things are shifting once again – and the really telling sources for response may be less easy to spot. Of all the platforms teens still use, only YouTube really provides public data. Even Shazam only provides various charts; no numbers are listed to say how many times anything has been tagged (although the company manages over 15+m tags per day worldwide – so we know a lot of people are using it).
In many respects, this is all A Very Good Thing. For too long now, artists have felt an obligation of sorts to be social online. Accepted wisdom has long-held that it is necessary for a band to have some kind of social media page (originally MySpace, latterly Facebook) through which to engage fans. Not only was this considered a great means to sell more records, it was also playing nicely to the people in radio and other platforms who would see these social media numbers as a large indicator of popularity.
The reality, of course, is that great bands get marketed most by their fans. It isn’t necessary for any band to have a social media page as such; if their music is brilliant, people will be sharing it across their service of choice – be that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc – without the artist needing to do anything. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have presences; merely that their importance may be diminished and could hopefully no longer be essential.”
“I bought a lot of music in my youth. Some of my earliest purchases were the vinyl single of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s iconic album, ‘He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper.’
My music access only increased as I got older. In college, I worked part-time at WHOV, the campus radio station where I also DJed a couple of shifts – everything from R&B to straightforward jazz. That meant a little extra spending change … and more knowledge about music than I ever thought I would need.
In 2001, when my entire CD collection was stolen from my by a very bad person, I thought I’d never be able to rebuild. But, I was determined. So I kept collecting, this time opting for mostly-used CDs via sites like half.com. A few years later, digital music came on the scene, which made it easier than ever to organize my collection, create mood-setting playlists and buy everything I liked.
But something happened to my music buying habits recently. Free streaming services like Pandora and Spotify came along and my phone got smarter, too – or at least better at gaming the system for free downloads. I just stopped buying music with any regularity. I can’t even remember what year it was when I last updated my iTunes library, and it looks like I’m not alone. Earlier this year, Billboard reported the first drop in digital music sales since the iTunes store made its debut in 2003. CD sales continued their steady decline and overall album sales also experienced an 8.4% drop. All of this made me wonder: Is owning music important to anyone anymore? If yes, then who?”
“We started out on Myspace around 2009 when all the current bands used it as their primary source of information, and some used it as their website. We only had one song at the time and didn’t plan to do too much with TeraBrite, it was just for fun. Our Myspace eventually had over 20,000 friends, yet we still didn’t get a whole lot of activity on our page.
Shortly after we started really producing content we found out that you can make money making YouTube videos. This was a thought that blew my mind. The fact that I could take two things that I love, combine them into one, and make money doing it was a thought that I could definitely live with.
The best way to engage with viewers is to have a vlogging channel on the side. TeraBrite is our main channel, but we created a second channel called VleraBrite (TeraBrite daily vlogs) where we simply record our lives and behind the scenes of our music career in the same way that SHAYTARDS and CTFxC do. We find that uploading videos daily gives a fantastic place for viewers to sort of check in daily and see what we are up to. There’s a strong community of viewers out there that have that same craving for daily vlogs that I had when I started watching SHAYTARDS.
The fact that the vlog community is so dedicated makes the vlogs a fantastic place to update everyone on what we are working on, dates, etc. It also provides a much more intimate connection with subscribers since you are giving them a piece of your life. There is a connection there that you really can’t get with anything else, and it’s awesome.”
“The long drawn out demise of recorded music revenue is well documented, as is the story of artists, labels and managers all trying to make sense of a world in which music sales can no longer be counted upon. But the contraction of recorded revenue has occurred at the exact same time that the live music sector has undergone a renaissance. The net effect, when coupled with publishing revenue holding its own and the growth of albeit modest, merchandise revenue, is that the global music industry has largely held its own, contracting by just 3% between 2000 and 2013 (see figure). Compare and contrast with the 41% decline in (retail) recorded music revenue over the same period. Indeed it is the 60% growth in live revenue that has done most to offset the impact of declining music sales.
It is probably fair to say that we are approximately half way through a huge period of transition for the music industry. The realignment of revenue is merely a precursor to the new business models, products and career paths that will emerge to capitalize on the new world order. It is in this next phase that the real ‘fun’ will start. Expect every traditional element of the industry to be challenged to its core, expect dots to be joined and old models to be broken. But be in no doubt that what we will end up with will be an industry set up for success in the digital era.”