Drilling Down On Data – Your Future in Your Hands
Graham Ball
Senior Lecturer, MA Music Business Management, University of Westminster
2nd March 2015
Drilling Down On Data – Your Future in Your Hands

Like it or not in this digital world, seemingly everything is reducible to ‘data’. It’s this way in sport, with detailed analysis of football data – be it Messi’s brilliance or other players’ idleness.

Social media is no different. Every interaction between a musician and a follower online leaves a trail of data and we can access and understand trends revealed within our social media interactions.

At the heart of this is the concept of Big Data – that which is generated by our online social media activities arising from band websites and artist’s profiles on leading social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud.

Musicians set these up so that other users on, for example, Facebook can connect with you and by so doing also connect to your other followers.

Communicating via social media gives music followers an increased sense of belonging, involvement, participation and most crucially, engagement with musicians.

One benefit of this digital engagement is that it is measurable. Big data can simply be understood as the measurement and interpretation of our social media data. In detail, artist website traffic can be analysed using the pretty simple to install Google Analytics, which displays the data in a clear visual format.

Douglas DareOn Facebook one can assess feedback on how well our posts are working by looking through our Timelines plus an area called Insights in the Admin section (though this isn’t available if less than 30 people like your Page). Many musicians using Twitter use Hootsuite, which generates the statistical information for them.

Whilst this may sound far too techy, virtually any teenager (or in marketing-speak, ‘digital native’) can do this stuff; it’s the modern equivalent of looking under the bonnet of a car. Many shrewd musicians simply ask a young’un to help them.

For those who prefer to teach themselves there is some great help online, for example at www.makeitinmusic.com (analytics for musicians) and Neil Cartwright’s intelligent booklet - A Musician’s Guide to Social Media.

So once we’ve got access to our data what might we do with it?

If we ask the right questions and look carefully at our data, it can yield invaluable information, for example about which songs fans are liking and why, what people think of your new merchandise and how many followers you have in Derby compared to Nottingham.

By studying their own social media feedback, musicians are accessing a free-of-charge flow of information direct from their followers - this same Big Data information is also being used within the music business by professionals using it to guide them towards breaking artists and songs. Shazam’s UK Breakers Chart is now used by Radio One to help guide and inform their decisions on which new songs to playlist.

The good bit about all of this is once you’re set up with a website and profiles on social media sites, analysing your data is pretty much free, which is more than can be said of many things these days, so it’s worth giving it a bash and seeking help from the online sources mentioned earlier or a young digital native.

And for those really interested in engaging with fans and finding out more about the future of music discovery, promotion and marketing, there’s this exciting forthcoming March MusicTank event…

Moneyballing Music: Big Data, Consumers and A&R

Tue 10th March – 6.30-9.00pm, central London. Tickets from £15

Taking its lead from the recent publication of an MA thesis on the subject of Big Data, this event will consider how the recorded music industry is currently collecting and using data to support a historically subjective process of signing new artists.

Help Musicians UK readers can get £5 off the standard event rate with this promotional code:

HELPMUMAR10 (use by 5pm Thur 5thth March)

Full details and booking: http://www.musictank.co.uk/events/big-data

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