Big Data in the Music Industry: An interview with Chris Carey

Much has been told about music industry blurry situation, the effects of the digital impact on the business and the trial-and-error approach to their future model. In such a context, a new sort of “fortune tellers” have aroused: Big Data specialists, holding in their hands some of the big expectations of the music industry.

Far from this image of “clairvoyant”, Chris Carey surprised us with his straightforward, realistic pitch. Nothing deliberately obscure or tangled in his answers, but a sincere interest in explaining clearly the role of Big Data as an useful tool to give some light in the nebulous scenario of music industry today. One of the more celebrated Big Data specialists on music business, Chris Carey co-authored the influential Adding Up the Music Industry papers at PRS for Music, leaded innovative initiatives as Global Insight Director in strong companies as Universal Music Group or EMI Music, and now he is the founder of his own company, Media Insight Consulting.

P.N. From a technical point of view, how are Big Data used in huge music companies ?

C.C. Working in EMI or Universal we put emphasis on making sure that all the important data were grouped together in a way that everyone could connect: sales figures, number of streams, e-mail responses… The biggest challenge in front of Big Data is to put them together in a way easy for people to connect. At that point you need to ask more questions of the data, and so we are careful of how we structure them to make sure that they can answer all kind of questions: artist level questions, album level questions, fans level questions… What this means is that for an artist you can say how his music compares to the genre overall, and so for instance an artist can have a profile of the standard rock genre. Comparing their behavior to a norm, to a genre group, you can see how they behave. You can take it even further and see what happens when you compare one artist to another, or compare one song to another.

Chris Carey at Sonar +D
Chris Carey at Sónar +D Barcelona

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