The Production And Consumption Of Music In The Digital Age How Social Factors Influence Our Choice of Music

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How Social Factors Influence Our Choice of Music

The music industry has always been unpredictable and far from the old A&R maxim that the cream always rises to the top. For any band that makes a living from their music, there are thousands of bands that never make it, and the percentage of musicians who get rich from their work is still small. However, there is a general feeling (if not an actual consensus) that these musicians are there because they are somehow better than the artists who came after them.

This brings to mind Robert M. Pirsigs’ inquiry into quality – what makes something good, and are there really any real standards by which to measure such quality? Most people would say that a band is there because they can easily tell if it’s brilliant or a lot of untalented hacks, but that’s just a matter of personal taste and opinion. The music may dictate certain technical qualities, such as skill, structural complexity, and production value, but the music is more than the sum of its parts—and Sex Pistols can’t be dismissed as lacking Mozart’s technical genius. Stockhausen’s music is above or below Willie Nelson’s. When it comes to music, the unimaginable yet intangible philosophy Mercury seems to absorb. The only barometer we can judge by is likeability. Or is there something else?

Recent history is replete with examples of works and artists who are now considered classics (or have become wildly popular) who were initially rejected by talent scouts, agents or industry executives. Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Beatles all fall into this category, as do Pirsigs’ classics. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, it was rejected 121 times. If a phenomenon of this magnitude can be ignored, what chance do artists of mediocre talent ever get noticed? On the other hand, the entertainment industry is full of artists who can never be expected to be mediocre talent. So when predicted hits fail and unknown unknowns continue to top the charts, does the entertainment industry really know what it’s doing? Recent studies suggest not.

With Web 2.0 in full swing, social networks are changing the way we access and receive content. The age of digital music is upon us, and the easy availability of new music from unsigned bands has created a new economic model for distribution and promotion. Buzz itself is the latest buzz, and word-of-blog/IM/email has become a very powerful tool for aspiring artists. Once downloaded, combined with official track listings, the entire new music promotion and distribution cycle can be done online. But does this convenience make it easier to predict what’s going to be a hit?

A standard approach for major labels is to imitate something that is already successful. On the face of it, this seems like a very sound strategy – if you get a woman who looks like Shania Twain, give her an album that sounds exactly like her, a similar album cover design, and spend the same amount of money. If money will promote him, this new album will surely be a success. Often, though, that’s not the case—instead, another woman with all of these traits (with music of the same quality) will come out of nowhere and enjoy the magic of pop stardom.

This method is clearly flawed, but what’s the problem? This is the assumption that the millions of people who buy a particular album do so independently of each other. This is not how people (in the collective sense) consume music. Music is as much a social entity as the people who listen to it, it helps define social groups, creates a sense of belonging, identity and shared experience. Treating a group of this size as merely a compilation of discrete units completely removes the social factor. A single person free of social influence may choose to listen to artist A, but in real life, a person may meet artists locally or online through friends and listen to artist C instead. K, he may be of similar (or even lower) quality, but that’s not a real thing. Music can be about sound as well as images.

This raises further qualitative questions – is the universality of sound based on some sort of chaos theory, all else being equal? Promoting music obviously has a cumulative advantage at work – a song that’s already popular is more likely to become popular than a song that’s never been heard before. This is evident in social media like Digg and Reddit, where the popularity of an article grows steadily until it reaches a certain mass of votes, at which point readership suddenly explodes and goes viral. Such snowball effects have been known to bring quite powerful servers to their knees with incoming traffic.

Duncan J. Watts and colleagues recently conducted a fascinating study of the influence of social influences on people’s perception and use of music. This process is described in an article published in the NY Times. Using their Music Lab website, they studied the behavior of more than 14,000 participants and determined what factors influenced their choices.

participants were asked to listen to, rate, and download songs from bands they had never heard of. Some participants saw only the name of the song and band, while others saw how many times previous participants had downloaded the song. This second group, which we termed the social influence condition, was further divided into eight parallel worlds so that participants could only see the pre-attractions of people in their own worlds. We didn’t change any of these ranks – all artists in all worlds started out the same, with zero gravity – but different worlds were separate and then they evolved independently of each other.

Although the article does not provide detailed demographics of the sample audience, given the nature of the medium (an online music site that assesses user behavior on online music sites) and the sample size, it is reasonable to assume that the results would be similar. be reasonable. The research revealed some very interesting revelations.

In all social influence worlds, the most popular songs were significantly more popular than the independents (and the least popular songs were less popular). However, at the same time, hit songs differed in different worlds, as predicted by cumulative advantage theory. In other words, introducing social influence into people’s decision-making has not been more successful; it made them more unpredictable.

These results suggest that individual self-evaluations are less important than social influence factors in vocal success. Sound quality, if measurable, is overshadowed by cumulative merit, which means that a few key votes in the first round can change the entire selection process. This has important implications for musicians, producers and promoters. Basically, this means that any market research will allow you to accurately predict which songs will be successful. In the early stages of the process, the behavior of a few randomly selected individuals is itself arbitrary, and is eventually augmented by cumulative merits to determine whether a song moves to the next level. The randomness of such processes means that unpredictability is inherent

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