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The ability to understand and interpret data is crucial in today’s new economies, and the music industry is no exception. The emergence of digitization and online distribution demands new skills of graduates who are able to compile and interpret the vast information generated by music streaming platforms and social media so that companies and artists can make better decisions about their business. These drivers led Emilien Moyon and Alexandre Perrin, director of and a professor in the Master of Arts in Global Entertainment and Music Business program, respectively, to begin the Data Analytics on the Music Industry course, which started in spring 2017.
“Today when you push ‘play,’ you are not only listening to music, but you are also creating data, such as who is the listener, where is he or she located, how many times they listen to that song, or if they share it with friends,” says Perrin.
Working with Real Case Studies
In this course, students examine real-world examples of how analytics significantly improve management decisions, firm strategies, and artists’ success. The module is divided in three parts: how to obtain data, how to analyze it, and how to display it. To guide students in the process, Perrin provides them with tools such as Excel or Tableau. “I have included the major data analytics such as Next Big Sound, Soundcharts, and Chartmetric, but the most important thing is for students to develop their ability to do Excel magic and combine their critical thinking with their knowledge of the music landscape,” he says. Moyon adds, “We wanted this course to be very hands on, so we are partnering with the leaders in this field who give the students access to real artists’ data on social media and streaming platforms.”
Companies include Sony Music Germany and the Orchard, who share some of their data about marketing campaigns and give access to the analytics of some of their artists. Students are then asked to analyze a large amount of information, clean it, and provide statistical evidence—such as correlations—to give recommendations to these companies. “For example, you can identify some opportunities for touring in a specific country by looking at the demographics of your fans on Facebook or analyzing your streams on Spotify. I want my students to slip on the shoes of a data analyst working for a major label, a music publisher, or a booking agent,” adds Perrin.
“As I had some prior experience with data analysis but not applied to this industry, the most exciting aspect for me was having the opportunity to work on real consulting projects with Sony Music Entertainment,” says Flavio Mondaini M.A.’17. In those projects, he explains, students worked with streaming, airplay, or marketing data. “As part of the course, we also met many other music industry professionals within this field, including people from Spotify and Soundcharts, a market intelligence tool for the music industry that won a Midem Award in 2017,” he adds.
“The data analytics course taught me the basics and more advanced topics, but also about the tools to make the most out of them,” says Philippe Hurel M.A.’17, who currently works as a data analyst at Sony Publishing in London. “A big part of my job today consists of data visualisation, and this was an essential part of the course,” he adds.
During the module, students created a dashboard about a music industry–related topic of their choice and then submitted their work to the worldwide Student Viz Contest organized by Tableau Software. Mondaini’s visualization received an honorable mention. His entry gathered data about songwriter Max Martin, which included the artists who have performed his songs and information from his most successful lyrics. “Most of the data is clickable, so the rest will adapt depending on what you select. You can also listen to the top songs within the dashboard, thanks to an embedded Spotify player,” he says.
A Field Full of Professional Opportunities
Today, every music-related company requires data analytics specialists. “The reason is pretty simple: they have a digital presence that generates a large amount of data that needs to be treated,” says Perrin. “What really interests me about this field is that I finally see in detail where a big part of the money in the industry is and how it flows, what value is brought by each party and what they get for it,” adds Hurel.
Hurel’s job consists of analysing the income distributed by different European collecting societies, like Sociedad General de Autores y Editores in Spain, Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique in France, and Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori in Italy, for catalogues controlled by Sony Publishing. “These analyses are then used to assess how each local office of the company is performing, how well the catalogue is working, and where the money comes from. The management team can then make business decision but also suggestions so the local offices meet the objectives that were set,” says Hurel.
Mondaini has been doing market research for Sync Project, a company that develops music technology for therapeutic uses, analyzing data from structural properties of music as well as biometrics. “Then the music is fine tuned by an artificial intelligence system that adapts to the needs of each individual listener,” he says.
Data analysis is a transferable skill. For this reason, Hurel believes that everyone should learn at least the basics and be aware of its potential. “Even if you do not end up working in this field, it’s very likely that you will find a way of applying data to your activity and become even better at what you do,” he says.