Top 10 ways to use big data to launch a pop career

Ahead of next week's pop-tastic Brit Awards, Gregory Mead, chief executive and co-founder of muso-tech firm Musicmetric - which works with record execs and brands to cut through the noise to make informed decisions about working with artists - shares his top 10 tips for turning big data into big hits.

A little less conversation, a little more data please
A little less conversation, a little more data please

1. Explore the sound of the underground

Searching for artists’ hotspots can offer a guide of what countries or cities may be most up for the latest grimecore act or religious folk outfit

SoundCloud has been shown to be one of the best places to hear breakthrough alternative acts. So being able to slice and dice data and see which acts are being played above and beyond the average can be a helpful eye-opener. You can compare the number of plays an artist gets with things like Wikipedia hits, Twitter mentions or downloads to see just how much people engage after listening online.

2. Know where your fans are at – and sell to them

While nobody condones piracy, the electronic footprint left by Bit Torrent data is a great way of finding the location of downloaders. Every downloader is a potential customer and many now use this to highlight potential growth areas. Searching for similar artists’ hotspots can also offer a guide of what countries or cities may be most up for the latest grimecore act or religious folk outfit – or the latest band mimicking Radiohead.

3. Connect with those weekend rockstars

Knowing when to connect with an artist’s fanbase is just as important as knowing where they are. Some artists such as Skrillex have been shown to spike in popularity at weekends, when people blast their tunes from YouTube while getting ready to party. Others like Death Cab for Cutie tend to slump at weekends – proving that some tunes really are meant to be background music.

Artists such as Skrillex spike in popularity at weekends, when people blast their tunes from YouTube while getting ready to party

4. Report your performance

By comparing similar artists at different points in their promotional cycles (eg single or albums releases, tours or promotional activity) it’s possible to measure impact and guage performance: if your new album generated half the Twitter chatter as a key rivals, why was that?

5. Find the next Justin Bieber

Apparently Justin Bieber was found by record executives trawling YouTube. While opinion may be divided, using Big Data allows you to quickly identify trending acts on YouTube and Vevo, both of which have been shown by the Digital Music Index report to favour pop artists.

6. Land a global brand tie-up

Whether its Samsung and Jay-Z, H&M and Lana Del Ray or John Lewis and Lily Allen, there’s no denying that branding and advertising tie-ups with artists often greatly benefit both parties. Not everyone has such deep pockets of course, which is why being savvy in picking fast emerging artists can deliver great value by taking your brand on tour through a fast-growing fanbase of music aficionados. For example, Lucozade used our Musicmetric tool to pick Tinie Tempah for a global push.

7. Learn how to spend it (your advertising budget)

Seeing which channels respond well to your acts – and at what times – is vital in being able to effectively marshall tight budgets for online advertising and promotion. By displaying your radio or sales data alongside Spotify plays, iTunes sales and social media activity, you clearly see what triggers an increase in the others. From this, it’s possible to make shrewder decisions and ensure your ad spend goes as far as possible.

8. Plot a tour

As Beyonce showed with her recent album release – laced with a video for each track – in the digital age, content is king. Posters and stickers wedged inside CD cases isn't enough

Thanks to Twitter tagging tweets with the location of the tweeter, we can produce even clearer overviews of where fans are. Combined with Bit Torrent data – which can be anonymously traced through a person’s ISP – it’s possible to quickly generate a list of most popular locations for potential tour dates. Some locations where you’re popular may not have iTunes or Spotify – so physically going there may be the only way to sell them records.

9. Pay for your tour with great merchandise

Demographic breakdowns showing fans’ age and gender allows artist managers to make more educated decisions when it comes to potentially investing in merchandise, show appearances or other tie-ups. Big tours can generate large sums from merchandise sales. Plus, brands looking to for "band ambassadors" will be keen to understand the fanbase behind an artist.

10. Content is king

As Beyonce showed with her recent album release – laced with a video for each track – in the digital age, content is king. Once upon a time people wanted posters or stickers wedged inside of CD cases. Now they demand videos, games, exclusive content and other interactive features to entice them in. Having a real time overview of everything happening online and being able to slice and dice it every way you want is essential in helping inform decisions.

Now you are ready to conquer the charts. Who said Big Data was boring?

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