One of the big pitches we have heard for years from digital services is how they can provide artists with data resources to connect with fans. That is–everything except a meaningful way to connect with the fans that the artist isn’t already driving to the service in the first place.
Of course, the most laughable part of this pitch is that somehow knowing you’ve been streamed in Shoreditch, Tyler, Yellowknife and Brooklyn is going to be meaningful to a talent buyer, even if that talent buyer books in those towns. Yet we frequently see journalists dutifully spout this received wisdom as if it meant something other than trying to gin up a reason to pay artists and songwriters a still lower royalty to offset the cost of rent at World Trade Center.
Alan Graham’s recent post in Music Business Worldwide has put his finger right on another problem that defies the conventional wisdom and Spotify narrative–big data ain’t all it’s cracked up to be and may be going the way of Cambridge Analytica.
Big data was a solution pitched and sold to the music industry as a panacea to fan engagement problems. While big data seems very attractive, using personal data and profiling fans may in fact turn out to be, like oil and plastics, already outdated and toxic….
In a 2014 New Yorker article, Spotify was keenly aware of the power of such data:
All this, Ek explained, will help Spotify to better program the “moments” of a user’s day. “We’re not in the music space—we’re in the moment space,” he told me. The idea is to use song analytics and user data to help both human and A.I. curators select the right songs for certain activities or moods, and build playlists for those moments. Playlists can be customized according to an individual user’s “taste profile.” You just broke up with your boyfriend, you’re in a bad mood, and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” from the “Better Off Without You” playlist, starts. Are you playing the music, or is the music playing you?
…In fact, when you agree to use Spotify, third-parties who install the Spotify widgets on their sites may also send data as to which page on what site you are visiting.
With this knowledge, just how comfortable are you knowing that Facebook is now contextualizing your private chat messages to suggest music on Spotify?
via @agraham999: ‘BIG DATA IS ABOUT TO BECOME A VERY BIG PROBLEM FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.’