How can data influence the music business?


Right now the hot button topic is data.  Everyone is talking about analytics, information and insight. 

Its relevance to the music business was underscored with the recent pairing of  Universal Music and Havas to create the Global Music Data Alliance.

Next month, our head of insight Jack Fryer will address a MusicTank discussion examining how data can help artists and record companies, as well as predicting consumers’ tastes.

Fryer explains the digital age has unearthed a ton of information, but millions of stats and data points are pointless unless corralled properly.  The key for the music business is to be smart with all the data it has.  “We have evolved to the point where we are not just swamped by this data,” explains Fryer, “we actually feel able to make sense of it. Building ‘tools’ is at the heart of this, democratising this information for anyone in the business to get stuck into.”

Data is also having a bigger say in the brand conversation because it can help experts match music and artists with brands and campaigns more seamlessly and, crucially, also measure how successfully those partnerships have worked.

To get our own insight into some of this we set up a roundtable and invited a few experts - they included Lee Booth co-founder of media tech company Eskimo, Chris Wistow UK chief at audience measurement outfit AdsWizz and Richard Cohen, founder and CEO at LoveLive - to discuss the opportunities and challenges of putting brands and music together. 

Their conclusions confirmed that music provides four key priorities for brands (see below) and that being able to measure the return on investment is crucial for a brand partnering with music because it allows the company to make clear decisions.

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What Music Provides Brands
Engagement - music provides access to new and wider audiences
Emotions - music allows audiences to identify and express themselves
Authentic experiences - if brands help establish events, sometimes those experiences help shape identity and create long term memories
Exclusivity - music partnerships offer brands the opportunity to own unique content

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Globe creative director Maria Murtagh-Hopkins explains that when her team matches a brand with an artist, the team’s intuition, experience and creativity help to deliver successful campaigns with consistently high levels of engagement.  However, they can now also use data to back up and enhance decision making and, later, provide a measure of success.  “We can now be 100% accountable, we can evaluate,” says Murtagh-Hopkins.

Fryer agrees, adding that data can be “doubly powerful” if it is shared between partners. “Part of a modern partnership is in this sharing of relevant data. It makes us more accountable to one another, and better at our jobs. Data helps us self-correct and it can even stimulate creativity.” 

However, both Murtagh and Fryer are adamant that although valuable, data's importance should not be over-stated. “This kind of information can be incredibly nourishing for anybody working in music,” continues Fryer, “but that doesn’t mean we have to be led by it. Data offers clues, but it doesn’t give us answers, especially not in a creative business.”

All these stats should only be one small component when making a creative decision about signing an artist or embarking on an ad campaign.  Fryer explains: “Data can try and serve up answers and tell you ‘this is the right artist’ for brand x or campaign y, but of course in the real world there are so many other factors why a partnership may or may not work. You can be quite dumb with data if you start following it slavishly. For me, data is best viewed as a stimulus for decision makers and creative, not its gospel.”

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