Spotify and Shazam proved picking Grammy winners -- most of the time -- isn't rocket science. Both companies simply dug into their data to predict the winners in Sunday evening's 55th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
Shazam correctly predicted nine out of 15 awards based on the tag volume of a song, album or artist. In most cases the most-tagged -- that is to say, the most-searched -- nominee had far more tags than the other nominees. For example, with tag volume indexed to 100, Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know" had a tag volume of 100, while Fun.'s "We Are Young" was only 56. Shazam correctly picked Gotye to win both Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
But choosing based on tags doesn't always work with the Academy voters. Mumford & Sons' "Babel" had tag volume of just three, while Fun.'s "Some Nights" was at 100 -- 33 times as much. "Babel" ended up winning Album of the Year.
Spotify correctly picked four out of six awards based on its listener activity. The service understandably erred in picking Carley Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" to win Best Pop Solo Performance; it lost to a live version of "Set Fire to the Rain" by last year's big winner Adele. And Spotify miscalled the Lumineers as Best New Artist. That went to Fun. It correctly called both big Gotye wins, the "Babel" win for Record of the Year, and the Best Country Song win by Carrie Underwood's "Blown Away."
A person without access to Spotify's or Shazam's data could have mixed results using Nielsen SoundScan for some of the big categories. Gotye had the top digital track sales in 2012 in the two main categories it won. Mumford & Sons had the top sales in 2012 in the Album of the Year category. But Best Country Song winner "Blown Away" sold less than Eric Church's "Springsteen," and Fun.'s "We Are Young" sold slightly less than Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."