The data moun­tain is grow­ing and no one knows what to do

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - COVER STORY -

You don’t hear much about the Euro­pean Union wine lakes or but­ter moun­tains any­more. Once upon a time, such colourful ex­pres­sions were used to de­scribe just how much sur­plus food and drink was around Europe as a re­sult of the Com­mon Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy.

The mu­sic in­dus­try too has al­ways had its lakes and moun­tains (those one-off re­leases from acts who sub­se­quently dis­ap­peared with­out a trace, for ex­am­ple) and the cur­rent sur­plus of choice is prob­a­bly data. And like those Euro­pean civil ser­vants when it comes to ex­cesses of food and drink, most mu­sic in­dus­try people don’t have a clue what to do with it.

The prob­lem is that there is no clear, de­fine­able way to turn spread­sheets of tweets, plays, views, fans, fol­low­ers, friends, sub­scibers and likes into sales. You’ve just got data – lots and lots of it – and people who are still a lit­tle un­sure what it all means.

We know that you can’t quite equate thou­sands of fol­low­ers on Twit­ter to a long-term, sus­tain­able ca­reer. It will help, but it’s just a sign and not the so­lu­tion. The spark still has to be there – and that spark means amaz­ing songs which will res­onate with an au­di­ence and charm them to come your way.

While data will help to kick things on, it can’t and won’t start that process and get the project off the ground. You don’t be­come a fan of a band be­cause you like their datamin­ing skills. You be­come a fan be­cause you dig the songs they’re cre­at­ing and you can’t rely on data to do that.

There’s al­ways go­ing to be a ques­tion of over­sup­ply in an age of plenty. The ques­tion for the mu­sic in­dus­try is how to keep a fo­cus in a world where the amount of data is doubling ev­ery 18 months.

Blind data: Tweets, plays, views, fol­low­ers, friends, likes ...

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