‘The major labels are spending big on data. Indies must turn to tech to compete’

The following MBW blog comes from Simon Wills (pictured), Director of UK-based Absolute Label Services. Absolute this week unveiled a major new update for its Absolute Project client portal. Pulling in data from the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes and more, Absolute Insider (AI) sends emails to a client’s inbox alerting them to key events in a ‘news story’ format; for example, if their track has just been played on a certain radio station or has been added to a streaming playlist, or if there’s been a significant lift in an artist’s streams or shipments.

Big data has become one of the buzzwords of the modern-day music business, and for good reason. In an increasingly mature digital world, there isn’t a single point in the route to market – from promotion to distribution to retail – that can’t be monitored in incremental detail at the touch of a button.

It’s important to remember, however, that collecting data is only half the battle when it comes to creating opportunities.

More important is the way in which managers, labels and other divisions of an artist’s team interpret and apply the raw figures. Naturally, as the mountain of data in front of us grows, that’s a task that requires more time and resources. As ever, that means that the independents of the music world need to work smarter if they are to keep up with the financial clout of the majors.

The big three, after all, have become data-driven companies. Social media stats feature heavily in A&R meetings, and back catalogues are now referred to in terms of lucrative ‘long tails’. As a result, the majors have gone on a spending spree, acquiring infrastructure and hiring whole teams dedicated to number crunching.

“the major labels have gone on a spending spree, acquiring infrastructure and hiring whole teams dedicated to number crunching.”

They’re not trying to hide it: Sony Music boss Rob Stringer told investors last week how important data was to his company’s future in no uncertain terms, when he said: “All our business units must now leverage data and analytics in innovative ways to dig deeper than ever for new talent… Now the A&R [teams at Sony] have extremely large data analysis departments.”

Of course, individual artists, managers and independent labels have access to a similar amount of raw data but there’s still a disparity between major and indie when it comes to actually making sense of that data.

Simply put, small operations don’t have the in-house resources – the “extremely large departments” – necessary for identifying and exploiting every opportunity that big data provides.

As a community, the independent music business needs to ensure it’s making the most of data as it becomes an increasingly valuable currency. They need to make sure they are giving themselves the same exchange rate as the majors when it comes to transferring raw data to real strategy.

At Absolute, we believe that technology will play a central role at any independent label or management operation looking to punch above its weight and stand alongside the giant corporations.

With that in mind, we’ve implemented the AI update for our Absolute Project portal to turn big data into manageable data.

Essentially, it’s a virtual assistant. You don’t need to decode pages of data or get your head around stacks of graphs and tables – you don’t even need to open your laptop. It will talk to you in plain English.

It may seem like a simple addition but, for those without a team of analysts on the payroll to keep an eye on the minutia, indies need to discover data trends, milestones and developments in the smartest way possible.

AI will also offer reminders and suggestions as your campaign progresses: It can flag up when warehouse stock is low, recommend price reductions after a period of release or around live dates, alert you to missing metadata and more besides.

Essentially, it’s a data analyst in your pocket; a member of staff that’s never off sick.

Big data is one thing but usable data is the Holy Grail.

The indie music community has done a great job of empowering itself on the route to market and around negotiating tables to date.

The next test will surely be whether or not independent operators are able to punch above their weight once more when it comes to spotting important trends – and quickly responding to them.Music Business Worldwide

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