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Music Feedback

It's broke: tell 'em how to fix it.
 
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The record labels complain that nobody's buying music anymore, while music-lovers (like myself) retort that there's nothing worth buying.

You'll have to forgive me for not buying [insert random pop tart's name here]'s new album-- I noticed there wasn't any MUSIC on it!

The labels roll their eyes when the music critics pan an album, but they sure take notice when they don't sell records. So evidently if it's not the experts' opinions they should be worried about, then it's John Q. Listener's.

If the record labels really want to know what's wrong with music, and if they want to fix it, they should solicit listener feedback for every album they market. You should be able to find a webpage for every artist at the site of the label to whom they are signed. There, listeners can rank the artist's songs using a 5-star system popular among many other sites. If the labels want to get serious, they could even permit listeners to rank specifics like "production", "lyric quality", "listenability", etc., and submit suggestions. The artist would do well to take the suggestions of *real listeners* to heart to improve their product.

Of course, if the labels do not wish to improve the quality of their offerings after all, they can hardly feign surprise at declining sales.

nihilo, May 30 2006

tells them some stuff http://last.fm
basically, it's what people are listening to [neilp, May 30 2006]

myspace http://www.myspace.com/
If there is a current forum for a dialogue between artists and their audience, it's probably myspace. But you may not like what you read. [jutta, May 30 2006]

The wisdom of crowds. http://www.randomho...crowds/excerpt.html
Groupthink works! [nihilo, May 30 2006]

The cluetrain manifesto http://www.cluetrain.com/#manifesto
For the umpteenth time, marketeers! Listen to the frickin consumers! [jutta, May 30 2006]

The Long Tail http://wired.com/wi...ive/12.10/tail.html
room for all [Ian Tindale, May 30 2006]

[link]






       So, the idea is to pass iTunes song ratings and similar back to the labels for quality control. Hm! I wonder if they're already doing that, and how good a predictor of play and purchase frequency these ratings are.   

       But what's with the rant? You really think that the general public ("John Q Listener"), deep down, shares your refinend tastes and would express your opinion, given a suitable outlet?
jutta, May 30 2006
  

       But it's nowhere near as good as real music used to be in the old days. Today's efforts can't compare with Baltimora "Tarzan Boy", which in turn can't compare to Taffy "I love my radio", which in turn doesn't hold a candle to Toto Coelo "I Eat Cannibals". Nope, they don't make 'em like they used to…
Ian Tindale, May 30 2006
  

       Any product can be improved. A seller that actively seeks feedback as to how his product might be improved is likely to succeed in actually improving his product. Consumers that value better quality products are more likely -- if given the option -- to choose one over inferior products, and to be willing to spend more for them.   

       The idea is that people who don't care (read: aren't *discerning*) about music are not going to be interested in giving feedback, nor are they the ones that record labels are concerned about. They're the ones that are actually STILL BUYING the Ashlee Simpson albums (for example). People who CARE about music aren't buying it, and this is manifested to the labels as a slump in sales. They offer a shoddy product, and those consumers who are deterred by shoddiness don't bite, while those who aren't, do.   

       Even if every Tom, Dick, and Harry Q. Listener decides to vote (and not merely the connaisseurs), the resulting average of consensus opinion is STILL likely to suggest an improved product. Research has vindicated the power of "group intelligence". (See link.)   

       ITunes claims not to collect users' personal info -- except for the purposes of offering recommendations in their online music store based on your library and tastes -- and definitely not analyze users' personal song rankings. Surely they tabulate sales data, but does any of this information make it back to the labels or the artists to potentially improve the quality of music? NO. If the quality of music were improved, would more music be sold? I think the obvious answer is yes, but no labels or artists have even bothered to examine what real listeners want, and do something about it.   

       It would be an exceptionally simple undertaking for the labels to create a single webpage for each artist with a simple 5-star ranking system for listeners to rank the artist's songs. That is the basis of this idea. Would people vote? I would. Could it make a difference? How couldn't it? But we don't even know, as it hasn't been attempted, yet.
nihilo, May 30 2006
  

       "Groupthink works" is a very questionable summary of the "Wisdom of Crowds" book. After all, "groupthink" is a name for one of the circumstances under which crowds are *bad* at decision making: when individuals are afraid to express dissent for fear of being socially punished for it. One of the things I liked about the book is that it made that distinction - some things work, others don't, it's interesting to ask why.   

       The experiments in the book that really worked were about predicting the results of complex processes. Since market behavior of consumers is such a complex process, it might work - but, again, not necessarily in the more refined way you want.
jutta, May 30 2006
  

       My referring to group intelligence as Orwell's groupthink was facetious. (I perhaps mistakenly assumed that anyone who would detect the allusion would likewise detect the irony.)   

       It doesn't have to work in a very refined way. That is the Darwinistic beauty of it-- it's quality selection of the fittest. If 8 out of 10 songs on the album can be generally classified as "crap", chances are many discerning listeners will not spend their dough on an album that's only 20% good. With music feedback, we'd be able to take those 2 songs and tell labels and artists "return more results like THIS. Then maybe we'll buy more."
nihilo, May 30 2006
  

       One trouble with pushing an idea like this is that it tends toward identifying and promoting a homogenising central cloud comprised of what people's opinions and preferences indicate. In turn, product offered then tends to cater for this identified big lump in the middle, and so on. The link I've linked to (The Long Tail) demonstrates that this is often what happens in supermarket music departments, which now tend to only stock the top forty or fifty, and anything that isn't in that band isn't offered for sale, in effect. And yet, to counter that, online retailing that has no bricks and mortar overhead (in theory) and JIT distribution, with the 'infinite' shelfspace of a web e-tailing application, can offer almost anything - whether it's the stuff in the crest of the popularity gestalt, or all the rest of the stuff put together (which collectively might out-equal the prominently noticeable peak).
Ian Tindale, May 30 2006
  

       That's a great article, but I think your conclusion is incorrect; quality selection will not homogenize the sample any more than natural or sexual selection has resulted in homogeny in species. In fact, the result is *fitter* DIVERSITY.   

       Case in point (from p. 2 of the article):
"People get Vann-Adib's question wrong because the answer is counterintuitive in two ways. The first is we forget that the 20 percent rule in the entertainment industry is about hits, not sales of any sort. We're stuck in a hit-driven mindset - we think that if something isn't a hit, it won't make money and so won't return the cost of its production. We assume, in other words, that only hits deserve to exist." But we're not talking about hits OR sales, because as we've seen, there is not necessarily a correlation between hit albums/record sales and music quality.
  

       The article points out "The second reason for the wrong answer is that the industry has a poor sense of what people want." And what might be one possible way to tell the industry what we want? Give us a means to communicate it. Like, say, a webpage that lets folks rate the quality of an artist's music. Build it, and they will rank.
nihilo, May 30 2006
  

       Fitter diversity? Good point. It would allow stronger islands of propagated musical culture, that might in the past have been associated with a geographical boundary effect, but now can be placed as a healthy minority cloud of demand with social networking driven links to word of mouth. Even if this didn't sweep the board and make a household name, it'd still be responsible for mature growth in areas unaffected by whatever the flavour of the month is, or whatever the popularist mindset associates with.
Ian Tindale, May 30 2006
  

       Silly me, no one cares about pop music. It must just be one of those inconsequential types of products where public opinion is neither required nor desired -- like art, or politics.   

       Some things just aren't worth bothering trying to improve, I guess. For some people.
nihilo, Jun 01 2006
  
      
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