Can big data in music predict next year’s Grammy Award winners? Believe it or not, yes. And that’s not all. It can predict a lot more.

One of the most surprising music industry trends in recent years, and one that many casual listeners might not be aware of, is the overwhelming, all-consuming influence of big data.

Big data serves analysts well at helping them make predictions about trends, popularity, and even major awards shows.

How Big Data In Music Works

To a music fan streaming their favourite album on Spotify, data analytics might not seem all that important, or even particularly interesting.

To those in the know, however, there are few business strategies that provide such crucial and relevant information about current and future trends.

The use of data in consumer marketing is nothing new, of course. The music business has been driven by careful review, educated predictions, and heavily publicized trends since the very early days. Long before computers even existed, labels took note of what had seemed to work in the past and applied it to new artists, promoting them in a very specific and commodified way to ensure maximum profit.

Whether this is an ethical practice is a discussion for another time. Regardless, no matter what business you’re in, statistical analysis works. It’s not artistic, it’s not interpretive. It’s just straightforward, old-fashioned number-crunching. This is perhaps an appalling idea for many musicians who dream that the industry is supportive of the arts and based around authentic creative expression, rather than simple customer preference. But it’s true.

What Is Big Data In Music?

What is Big Data, exactly? It refers to a very old, tried-and-true process of examining and analyzing very large amounts of information. Data analytics experts mine massive swarms of data for subtle hidden patterns, seek out unlikely and surprising correlations, and make educated guesses about the future of the global marketplace.

It might actually be the most subversive strategy for the music business to implement right now, at a time when sales don’t seem to be motivated by artistic appreciation alone.

Consider Spotify’s “Related Artists” section, which connects certain artists that tend to attract similar fan bases and expose listeners to brand new music that might fit their tastes. A business intelligence application known as Hadoop BI and a workflow management platform called Luigi are the two guiding forces behind real-time data analysis on Spotify.

Big data is utilized en masse on everywhere. Twitter recommends users you may enjoy following based on your previous interactions and engagements with individuals and brands. Facebook has always used the “People You May Know” feature to encourage you to friend people who you share social connections with.

Big Data On Spotify

Big Data has revolutionized virtually every industry. Even small business owners are finding it to be advantageous in the technological era. However, few companies are using it more to their advantage than Spotify.

Being able to make predictions about consumer likes and dislikes is advantageous to the continuing success of the music industry.

Record labels, publishers, and distributors are at the mercy of data, since it allows them to predict emerging trends and capitalize on them.

Post-pandemic, when the music industry has only begun to start making significant money again, number-crunching and predictive, consumer-driven information is more useful than ever.

What many people don’t know is that real-time analytics do more than simply tailor user’s listening preferences and recommend cool new artists to people streaming on their mobile phones or laptops.

Big Data goes one step further and promotes real-world engagement with musical artists. Spotify uses big data expertise to make highly accurate predictions about how music fans engage with their favourite artists outside of their bedroom.

Big Data In Music Festivals

Music festivals are massive celebrations of music. From the Ultra Music Festival for EDM and dance music to Glastonbury in the UK, Lollapalooza in Chicago, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and others, music festivals don’t put together their lineups by picking names out of a hat.

Music festivals book artists that they know are popular on online streaming platform. They rely on big data to demonstrate with certainty that people will want to buy tickets for these artists. They feel certain that music fans will pay money to attend festivals with lineups that feel personal.

Extremely large and highly anticipated annual festivals like Coachella are even more highly curated than most. A lot of expense goes into planning them.

You can be certain that big data will play a significant role in deciding who will play the main stage next April.

If you’ve ever read a festival lineup and seen so many of your favourite artists’ names on the roster that it felt like they had specifically designed the festival for you, it might be because, in a way, that’s what happened. It’s big data at work.

More accurately, the organizers reviewed the largest number of people’s tastes and compiled a lineup that would make them the most money. That’s all big data really is. The analysis of large, large amounts of data based on how music is being interpreted and consumed.

Big Data In Music Has Its Limitations

This all brings us back to the Grammy Awards.

Spotify is capable of making predictions about everything from festival headliners to concert attendance, so it really shouldn’t come as much of a shock that big data has been able to predict many of the winners of Grammy Award categories.

Big data in music has its limitations though. In 2023, Chartmetric got every Grammy prediction wrong based on Spotify data. Yet, there are other years where Spotify’s streaming data has been able to successfully predict several Grammy categories.

Considering how right and wrong it can be, is it reasonable to bet money on big data in music? Let’s say no.

That said, there is more data being created today than ever before. For record labels and the music business, big data is playing a fundamental role in making key decisions in artist releases, music festival bookings, and Grammy Award campaigns. There is no question about it.

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