Despite a widely held belief that the market for music-based analytic tools is already overloaded and has more than enough companies servicing the industry, relatively few options actually provide all the data needed to cover the expansive nature of the entire business, which includes labels, publishers, managers, promoters, agents, brands, film and TV companies, and artists.
Sure, there are several established players that provide solid business intelligence to major corporations, such as Nielsen for sales and airplay data and NPD Group for consumer survey information. Other cutting-edge firms, meanwhile, have offered more specialized functions, such as BigChampagne, which came early to peer-to-peer (P2P) data and later added accounting for social media and streaming.
Seeing opportunity in these more underdeveloped areas, a growing crop of start-up companies are bringing fresh approaches to data mining and applying the research to music. U.K.-based Musicmetric, for example, represents the new parade of services hoping to help the U.S. music market make sense of the incredible amount of data now available. Such music-focused analytics services may not know the intimate details of consumers' lives in the same way as a large Internet marketing company like, say, Acxiom. But it does track and archive mountains of social network activity, online streams and, occasionally, P2P downloading data.
In early July, Musicmetric announced the opening of its first U.S. office, and people unfamiliar with the company might have shrugged at the news. But Musicmetric co-founder/VP of business development Maria-Alicia Chang believes the company is well-suited to serve a diverse entertainment industry with a broad variety of genres. "There's room for us in the U.S.," she says.
Buzzdeck founder Kevin Bacon (and no, it's not the actor of the same name) says that today's analytics services try to answer the "Whys?" behind all of the different numbers, calculating gains and losses in Facebook followers and Myspace streams, as well as several music-specific websites. His own firm, an independent company that originally grew out of the reams of data gathered by U.K.-based music distributor AWAL, charts iTunes sales along with YouTube streams, Google trends, Twitter mentions, Spotify streams and other online services.
Providing actionable analysis means tailoring products for specific situations. Bacon, whose company has worked with Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Concord Music Group, says Buzzdeck works to meet each client's specific demands and is "less interested in serving everybody at every level."
Next Big Sound also works very closely with clients, integrating sales data into its database of social activity and online streams that date back to 2009. The company counts Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and WMG among its clients.
The service's value comes down to putting the proper information into context, A&M Octone senior VP of sales and artist development Rome Thomas says. He especially likes Next Big Sound's visuals, including its dashboard, the way the data is presented and the ability to export data to other formats like Excel. "You'll meet these start-up companies, and there's a great intent and vision," Thomas says, "but sometimes they don't have the resources to pull it off on an engineering level."
MusicHype takes a different approach to big data. The 2-month-old service tracks online activity to connect clients with only their most valuable fans. MusicHype tracks what its CEO Kevin King calls the fan's "social footprint" that has been left on the Internet, including plays on streaming services, activity on social networks and photos uploaded to various sites.
Based on a fan's online habits - the most active listeners' use of streaming services, for example-MusicHype will inform the client when the best time might be to reach out to that fan. Connecting to actual individuals requires some sort of opt-in, so MusicHype has created a system called "Grab Your Fans" that lets fans join an artist's following on either Facebook or a page at MusicHype.com. Another option is to match up MusicHype's data with an artist's existing email list provided by the label or management company.
After just a few months, King says, the MusicHype platform is being used by about 500 acts, including Thievery Corporation, the Tragically Hip and Dead Sara. "There's obviously a long way to go, but we've been pleased with the sign-ups so far," he says.
"It's the wild west of social media," Buzzdeck's Bacon adds about the importance of today's analytics services. "Everybody has been on a massive learning curve."