Tuesday, January 28, 2020

You can always trust data.

Last week Swedish radio took off their Digilist, the top list over most streamed songs. This after a couple of weeks with rumors around cheating. Then an artist did a experiment and showed in a big newspaper how easy it was to buy 100 000 streams in a two week period.

To be honest, I don’t know why this comes up right now. Already in 2013, I knew about some serious cheating done to both Itunes and Spotify. My guess is that this is because the cheating has escalated so much that even the majors are beaten in the game.

“You can trust data”, was Jay Frank's comment. And was said during Billboards new prize The Jay Frank Award to honor a digital music pioneer. And I would have loved to have a discussion with Jay around this situation, I still miss those talks. We had them before, so I somehow know the answer. When the Bulgarian guy was cheating a couple of years ago, we had that discussion. Jay just laughed and said, it’s like pointing a finger against a lonely guy with a handgun while you have twenty-five super big cannons shooting in the background.

We both knew how much the majors were cheating. We all know they did it on a big scale and with different methods. When some creative person did it, well then Spotify acted. Neither Jay nor I approved of the cheating. Instead, Jay looked on a tool that was genuine to get real listeners and real fans and build Digmark a PR service to get playlisted in real playlists.

What happened two years ago inside Spotify, nobody knows. Suddenly all human playlisters jumped off. Everything became algorithm-driven. And it seems like o no one reacted on cheating. I spoke to several distributors that said the same. Less notice of cheating coming from Spotify. And we saw more and more unknown artist just sail on to the charts. All this time no one said anything, so my puzzle is why know?

So, can we trust data? Jay would have laughed at this one as well. Yes, you can. Already now there are several services that can measure data from several points. Look on post a couple weeks ago around that we need a new top chart. Like I wrote there things are ongoing. If you cheat on your numbers on one field, let’s take Spotify as an example, other figures give it away. Your Facebook/Instagram followers are intact and won’t move. Or your streams on YouTube won’t move. And your name is not mentioned in social media. Yet your Spotify streams are on full rise!
All this can be measured easily by these new services and for free. It’s kind of easy to check if your numbers in several ways. If you do it for real, the numbers add up. You cheat, and it will cost you so much to keep everything on track. Yes, all these numbers can be manipulated but it’s very hard and costly to do all of them at the same time.

The data is why you cheat, it also gives away that you cheat. Data just tells what’s in there. But this is the same as you are buying a “real” Chanel bag from the guy on the street for a fraction of the price of the ones in a real Chanel store. The risk that an unknown Canadian rapper has millions of streams, but no one knows him (Hello Manafest!) is too good to be true. And no, these cheaters will not make a career. In the end the game comes back and bites them in the rear. Their songs are not good enough neither their live shows. A career is built on trust with a real audience. 

The problem we have right now is that money is going to the pockets that should not have them. The part of the industry that has shoveled their heads in the sand, telling us that the problem is not that big (Hello PRS:s, Ifpi, Spotify) has just by ignoring probably crashed the path for several artists that was up and coming and really had what it took but didn’t cheat and because of that never saw the light to a bigger audience.

I just wish I was wrong on the last one, but I guess not. In the end, yes you can trust data, so use the data to flush the cheaters out. You can do that and yes you will be stepping on toes. Still can you please add in the majors. It’s not fair they have a monopoly on cheating.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The algorithm can’t predict the future!

Well the tech guys want us to believe that the algorithm is that magic that it actually can predict the future in the big data. Maybe in a George Orwell future, it can, but I really don’t want to live there.

I got this idea for this text from a press release of another company doing site with an algorithm that goes on the mood. In this case for sync placements. For me, that feels like 2010 when several companies did that. If you really want that search engine goes top Spotify that found out that people that want playlists just want mood playlists. And yes, sad playlists are the most popular right after workout playlists. The problem that now occurring on Spotify is that the audience is not6 listening to the music they just use it as background music on other things. It’s like the music in the ceiling of the supermarket. It’s there but no one really don’t care what it is you are too busy shopping.

What an advertising firm really want is not just mood music, it’s a cool artist with it. And if they can find someone cool as Taylor Swift for no money at all they will take it. But how can an algorithm find a cool artist? And especially cool artist when you have a low budget?

It’s all about the future. Let say I have an unknown Canadian band with a really nice song. But I also know that this band is booked for these three cool festivals. Also, I know they are recording for a new album that is released around the same time as the commercial and on top of that, I know they will be in the sofa of the best morning show. This info is really crucial. But the algorithm will only find out this (if ever) when it already has happened. This is not written in any public records. And when it has happened it’s dead on arrival. Yes, knowledge is power.

So, the only way an algorithm would know if its ear dropped on you. Or for speaking out loud, spying on you. Yes, we have all that experience that you talked to a friend about new speakers for the living room and boom hours later you get online commercials just around speakers. We know that big companies listen to us with their speakers, on our phones, etc. Even though none of them would admit it.

But that is the only way that an algorithm would have a chance to predict any future. Because if it just gets to the info when you search for these speakers online. The chance is just that you also bought them and the commercial you get later on is just annoying since you just bought your new speakers.
This only goes for really big companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft. It won’t work when you need special people like supervisors. That is too narrow to get into. Spotify is to small to eardrop on you. And how on earth would they find out when you really start to like a song or a new artist? If that is going to happen the algorithm has to be implemented in your brain. And I hope we have sense enough to stay away from that.

The algorithms today mainly just goes on old info. The algorithms would say that this artist is totally out, but don’t know that the artist might just wrote the song of their lives. In that way recommended the whole wrong thing to the buyer. They would have loved to be part of that great song that just was written and have their brand connected to it. The artist might have liked the brand and could get some extra marketing money for it. I would have seen the algorithm that could predict that Queen was taking over Live Aid 1985. They were counted out as going away. But their live experience took over and they came out as a new hot band.

I hope we never goes so far that the algorithm should be able to predict the future. It’s enough that it spies on what we do and learn from that. That is still a guess, to leap that it can read us is not a pleasant thought.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

We need a new top chart!

I’m utterly tired of explaining to idiots that you have millions of streams doesn’t make you a star, or even successful. In the old days, the counting of sales was a good measurement of how popular you were. That is NOT the same as streams. Streams can be anything. A bought physical thing is an action you must do and a lot of thresholds so in the end yes that can prove something. A stream is not even a person pressing a button it can be on a playlist that really no one is listening to is just a background in a store or even on a chine mobile farm. There is no investment from the fan in a stream. And that is why it can never prove any fanbase whatsoever.

So, bragging that you have a couple of million streams is stupid. If you want it to be more stupid those million streams are just on one platform.  The easiest trick is to compare an artist through different platforms. You want to get even more stupid those millions of streams were created before 2019 when you could easily cheat on several playlists.

The industry has left the counting of streams long ago. It only matters if it’s done organically. And that is very seldom that is done organically of the artists that have over a million streams.
No, I’m really fed up with that the media are claiming something just because an artist has millions of streams. It’s not comparable with a million of sales.  The headlines are, “Popular artist done something” and then in the text it says that the artist has millions of streams on Spotify. Well, millions of streams together with all songs. Still the artist has never toured played live or even sold any merch. In fact, I have a hard time even call it an artist. It’s like calling anyone that happens to get a clip viral a movie star.

What we need is a system that also looks on the live side, ticket sales, how many radio plays, all streams from all platforms (to many just looks on that they have millions of streams on Spotify, then they just have a thousand on Youtube and how many do you have on Tiktok?). It all must count in to get a better picture of what is popular. What does the audience really care about? I know there are some out there but they are not good enough and just number crunching from bad sources that can be manipulated. We need something really better.

I know there are several companies working on this right now. My question is though how long it will take us to erase the whole damn conception that a stream is not a sale and that social media is more a filter bubble and nothing that proves that much. So even if that correct top list comes what kind of impact will it have and how threatened will the labels be if they can’t manipulate that chart?
Problems that we deal with later, first we just need another measurement and top chart before we get totally overloaded with a nonsense artist that claim their fame for nothing.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Genre is not needed, haven’t we got further then that!

Genre is not needed, haven’t we got further than that!
The line is from a new artist that was in the pre-selection of the Idol 2015 in Sweden. And now she is doing a comeback with a new totally unknown local record label. And this what she said in the local newspaper.

I guess you can say that genre is not needed but not like this. Spotify found out pretty quick that people didn’t care about genre, instead, mood was something they rather looking for. And yes sad playlists are still very popular.

Then the girl above has no understanding of what the genre is for. She thinks the genre will lock her up in a box and that you can never get out of the box. That is so far from the truth you can come. No one will stop you from doing whatever music you like many artists has a career doing a different project with different styles.  A good example is Sting.

Then of course your fans might expect something. I remember when I got a ballroom dance star in Sweden and she wanted to record some rock albums. Sure, her old audience didn’t like her new stuff and some reviewers didn’t get what she was doing. Still, overall it worked pretty fine. She just has to be honest and really explain I wanted to do this for this period of time.

In this kind of light, trying to fight genre is just plain stupid so when you get the question from a journalist what kind of style you are doing, answering everything is just contra-productive. The same as counterproductive to invent a small own genre like not exists like dishwasher metal.

What you need is kind of a broad description of what it is. As a booker, I really need to know what I’m booking. And with over 3000 artists applying I can’t really go and listen to everyone. And if my stages are dived in sort of genre one pop stage, one for harder metal music, one sing and songwriter, etc. I’m not interested to go through 200 artists that play jazz if I need a metal band. You don’t really need a long exact on-point description.

A to point description can also be misleading. A metal band can play a softer song like Sounds of silence with Disturbed. But still Disturbed is not a pop band. The major part of their repertoire is metal or rock.

Yes, we need genres. Not though that many believe that we go in on Spotify and just write pop and get the perfect song. It’s about when you cannot listen to a song and need a short description here it is handy. Still keep it in the broad not going to deep to try describing your last single with a new genre.
Also don’t try to fit into a genre of you, not that genre. No Nickelback is not a Metal band. Yes, Ramones can be both Punk and a Rock band.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Social media is not the right way to go!

I just read an article around social media on a business site. Really interesting reading. It's in Swedish and you need to subscribe to read it so no point to link it here.

Still, it really got my attention because it enlighted a phenomenon I have been watching for some time but hasn't got to the music industry yet. The music industry is not leading the media any longer, is just a follower. The death of reach in social media. In the article, they compare posts that got viral 2017 with today just two years later and new algorithms make it's impossible to get viral. Same that big number of followers would help. And an account with millions of followers has the same problem as a small account. Yes, we are back to where your My Space page is as powerful as the rest of your social media channels. We are going back to basics here.

This is the death of many of the theories in the music industry. Something I more or less predicted when many were talking that you can do a career in big data. With a landscape that is in constant change, the data also lose value very quickly. It is not that effective. At least not for an upcoming artist. The stupid Spotify numbers you get are totally useless. I saw an old dude that gives out crappy country songs being over happy that people from 56 countries had streamed his songs. The big problem he doesn't know who they are, how they streamed it or if they are even real. My guess is they are mainly miss streamed on a playlist somewhere. The music is really crap. My guess is also that these people never listen again or skipped after 30 seconds. In the end, it's just useless data.

So if Spotify is useless. Social media is useless. What is there? Of course real fanbase. But how do you get that? Real networking. The digital things are just good tools to communicate with people that you already have got in your circles. It's not so much a tool to reach people any longer. On if you do it with real people with real feelings.

Three years ago I already had a hunch around this. Instead, I saw a need to talk to people in person. The human contact is unbeatable in the digital world. I sat out to build the biggest network I could for three years. Actually, I put in a five-year plan but my gut feeling says that it's ready for a beta test right now.

For the past three years, I have been visiting fifty showcase festivals. Being networking my ass off. Meet wonderful people from around the world. My guess is that I have one of the stronger networks in the industry right now. Lets put everything to a test.

I will be totally open in the blog over the next half-year on how I will work an artist career. And everything in the new system where data is secondary.

So who is the artist? I have chosen The Magnettes because they are on their second album and have a spot that will suit this mission.

I know this is really risky. This can easily crash. Then you will follow a crash in real time. Still, my gut feeling to be able to make things work the human connection is a must. Time to prove all computer geeks that so far its just empty words. We still have many years until this can be done by big data or social media. So I post this on the first post of the new year. And let the ball run.