Algorithms influence our musical tastes

Spotify, Deezer or YouTube Music have become the main music consumption channel in Spain and much of the world. It’s been a while since we forgot about the CD and the downloads seem to be getting further and further away.

But how do the algorithms of these streaming platforms influence our musical tastes?

Based on data from 4,000 streaming music consumers, Orange sociologists Jean Samuel Beuscart, Samuel Coavoux and Sisley Maillard have studied how these platforms have changed the way the world listens to music and, above all, discovers new artists.

The paper with the conclusions, ‘Music recommendation algorithms and listener agency’, has been published in ‘CAIRN’.

The domain of streaming

Nearly one out of every two euros produced by the music industry worldwide comes from streaming music platforms. According to the latest report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), while revenues from physical sales and downloads continued to fall in 2018, those from online platforms grew by 34%.

In fact, streaming revenue ($8.9 billion), driven by improvements in connectivity and variety of offerings, doubled that of the physical sales segment last year. According to IFPI data, 2018 closed with 255 million pay-per-view users. In other words, 255 million people pay to access Spotify Premium or Amazon Music Unlimited, among others.

In Spain, almost three quarters of the music purchased is already purchased over the Internet and there are 2.3 million subscribers to paid services. Of the almost 237 million euros invoiced by the industry in our country, nearly half were entered through payment streaming platforms.

In addition, about one in four euros came through the digital purchase of records and songs and free streaming services financed by advertising.

Algorithms and musical tastes

Radar of new artists, music related to our tastes, custom radio stations and playlists and playlists designed for different moods. Customization of algorithms is part of the raison d’être of digital music platforms.

With tens of millions of songs available for playback anytime, anywhere, to what extent do users give their tastes to the decisions of streaming platforms?

Over five months, Orange sociologists and study authors analyzed more than 17 million reproductions of a total of one million songs. About half of the reproductions reached the end of the song, while 30% did not exceed 30 seconds.

The most popular songs represented only 5% of the total number of songs, but they accounted for a large part of the reproductions.

“The streaming platforms promise that, given their wide offer and their recommendation tools, the diversity of the music consumed should be greater than in the market for physical sales and downloads,” explains Samuel Coavoux, co-author of the study. A premise that was proven in the research, although it varied a lot among users.

According to the study, the most frequent users had a better understanding of how the platforms work and relied more on the recommendation tools and therefore listened to a greater variety of music. However, the more inexperienced users, and especially the younger ones, tended to listen to more famous and well-known artists on a recurring basis.

Even so, 90% of the analyzed reproductions belonged to 10% of the artists reflected in the studio. One in four users exclusively consumed music by famous artists.

“In fact, popular artists dominate both the libraries of infrequent users and the libraries of regular reproductions of active users,” adds Samuel Coavoux. So to what extent did the recommendation algorithms encourage diversity or uniformity of tastes?

In all the analyzed platforms, the algorithms propose songs and artists similar to those listened to, but somewhat less known. However, only a minority end up in the users’ library along with the rest of favorite songs.

In addition, this type of recommendation was consumed, above all, in contexts in which listening to music was not the main activity. For example, background songs for work or exercise.

According to the conclusions of the study, consumption based on algorithms is still a minority. The majority of reproductions are produced through an explicit choice of consumers and not automatically.

Users choose most of their songs and tend to use the recommendation tools only as search engines or to explore discographies of specific artists.

That is, today, personal musical tastes, influenced by other factors, still prevail over algorithmic recommendations in most contexts. However, they have gained weight in some environments where the priority is not to have to actively choose the songs we listen to.

Digital Transformation in the Media and Entertainment Industry

Content digitization has completely changed the way media companies think about the creation, production, marketing, distribution and monetization of content.

As their audiences find new ways to consume entertainment, whether through tablets, smartphones, connected TVs, PCs, games or combined reality devices, the competition for their attention has never been greater.

This evolution has disrupted traditional business models and directs organizations across the industry to identify new ways in which they can quickly and securely produce and deliver the right content, at the right time, on any device, all supported by business value information and projections, which can be used to drive future decision making.

More and more organizations in the media and entertainment industry are turning to cloud providers to help manage their computing and storage needs and recognize the benefits of flexibility, security and scalability.

For those organizations, having the ability to scale up and down quickly, the processing capacity when required changes the cost curve for the content produced. Once content is ready, advanced search and intelligent content recommendations lead to increased consumption.

Advances in computational vision and natural language processing (NLP) will take these changes even further.

From working with NBC Sports to powering live broadcasts of the Rio Summer Olympics through devices such as TV Connected for the first time, to delivering content storage, media encoding, processing, advanced analytics and more.

Microsoft partners with companies across the media and entertainment industry to help enable digital transformation.

At the National Association of Broadcasters Show, we are excited to announce several new partners and customers who have chosen Microsoft’s cloud to drive their digital transformation:

Avid chooses Microsoft Azure as its preferred partner to drive its business: Avid is a leading technology and multimedia company that specializes in audio and video; specifically in digital nonlinear editing systems; and management and distribution services.

With this strategic alliance, Microsoft Azure will drive Avid and all of its content customers together, globally, and we will jointly develop cloud-based solutions and services for the media and entertainment industry, powered by Avid MediaCentral Platform, the industry’s most open, efficient and tightly integrated platform designed for media.

With a cloud-based offering built on Avid’s portfolio of the industry’s best media workflow solutions and the industry’s most creative end-to-end solutions, this partnership will enable media organizations and creative professionals to quickly and easily leverage the efficiencies, flexibility and agility that the cloud enables.

Verizon Digital Media Services Offers Integrated Microsoft Azure Storage: Recently, we also announced with Verizon Digital Media Services that we will make Microsoft Azure cloud-based storage available to all Verizon Digital Media Services Edgecasts Content Delivery Network (CDN) customers.

Azure Storage will now power Verizon STORE; the cloud-based source storage offering on Edgecast CDN, to provide an even more convenient option for infinite scale, resilient object storage that is ideal for media and metadata.

Crackle, a unit of Sony Pictures Television Networks, selects Microsoft Azure as its broadcast service partner: Crackle programs Hollywood movies, popular TV shows, original series and feature films for the worldwide connected audience.

Azure helps boost the broadcaster’s broadcast services and allows consumers to view content anytime, anywhere or on a connected device.

The next wave of digital transformation

With a diverse and growing set of ways in which audiences can consume media and entertainment, it is not only important to simplify content creation, it is also important to ensure that data provides intelligent and valuable information about the content that resonates among audiences. In 2016, global Internet advertising revenue surpassed global TV ad revenue for the first time.

As our world becomes more digital, advertisers, content creators and distributors will move beyond general demographic information and increasingly require more granular customer details for TV, just as they do for the Internet. Over-the-top (OTT) solutions will help in this, but it is also important that there are end-to-end monetization strategies that accompany them.

At NAB some of our customers and partners show how their businesses evolve to leverage intelligence to create more meaningful connections with their customers.

Ooyala, a Microsoft partner and leader in premium video, media logistics and advertising platforms, demonstrated how Ooyala Flex, the media logistics platform, integrates with Microsoft Cognitive Services to simplify metadata capture by extracting transcripts, detecting faces within videos and analyzing text to detect key topics.

Ooyala then uses those metadata to recommend relevant videos to viewers to deliver targeted advertising.

UFA GmbH (UFA), one of the oldest and most distinguished entertainment brands in Germany, is a very efficient creator of entertainment content. UFA was among the first to have a long-term vision for cloud-based workflow production. They have now brought their archive and content distribution to Microsoft Azure, with the help of Microsoft partner Interlake and nexx.tv.

With Microsoft’s Cognitive Services, UFA is able to make its video content actionable and accessible in new ways, such as automatic content translation and tagging, for viewing within the video. The vision is to take the entire production process to the cloud, from recording to playback.

Online Entertainment Industry

In recent years, the way we entertain ourselves has changed radically. The emergence of the Internet and its increasing popularity has made it our main source of entertainment.

Platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime provide us with thousands of movies and TV series, while services like Steam or the new Apple Arcade include video games for all tastes. Online casinos and roulette are also very popular.

The reasons that explain this success of online leisure are several. Logically, it has been possible thanks to improvements in technology, but no less important is the change of chip that society has made.

Now, we prioritize immediacy and the possibility of consuming entertainment when and where we want. It also helps that these online platforms are inexpensive, or even free.

In fact, this last factor is extremely important, especially if we take into account the socio-economic context that Spain has suffered over the last decade.

The harsh consequences of the financial crisis are well known, with thousands of people losing their jobs and/or their homes. The cost of living has risen, while salaries have not increased at the same pace.

Inevitably, the Spanish budget for leisure activities has narrowed, and that has benefited online entertainment.

The growth of online entertainment in Spain

In addition to the film industry, the gaming sector has benefited the most from this popularization of Internet entertainment. One of the reasons for this is the welcome received by the State, which has reduced the tax on online gambling.

This more favourable environment has made online operators grow and many already foresee that many English betting companies will move to Spanish soil after Brexit.

Figures collected by the General Directorate of the Ordination of the Game confirm this growth of the sector. Specifically, the Spanish as a whole spent a total of 178.35 million euros on online gaming during the second quarter of 2019, which is 6.69% more than in the same months of 2018. On the other hand, it is considered that there are 1.5 million online players in Spain.

What explains the growth of online entertainment?

If we now analyze the reasons that explain the boom that is experiencing the online leisure sector in recent years, there is no doubt that the support of the Spanish government has played a very prominent role.

But no matter how welcome online casinos and bookmakers may be, they would not be as successful among the Spanish population if they did not offer a unique and different experience compared to the physical establishments of a lifetime.

First of all, having the possibility to play from home, sitting on the sofa and at any time of the day is an advantage that gamblers don’t miss.

In addition, online platforms tend to have attractive graphics that will make the experience much more entertaining, and also have a much wider range of games than traditional casinos, somewhat more limited. You can also benefit from the bonuses and get money to bet for free.

The specific case of betting

One of the most popular segments of the gaming sector in Spain is betting. Specifically, it accounted for 48.47% of the total net gambling margin in the second quarter of 2019, corresponding to 86.45 million euros.

There are other reports that dare to predict an incredible increase in the money moved by betting operators. Specifically, they believe it will rise to 1.8 billion euros in 2024, 166% more than in 2017.

Spaniards have always liked to bet – for some reason card games like poker have a long history in Spain. Nor is it surprising that in a country like Spain, where football is the national sport, sports betting is so successful.

Recently, interest in betting on basketball or tennis games has also grown, although it is betting on equestrian sports that is experiencing the greatest growth.

The importance of online entertainment for the Spanish economy

Spain has left behind the financial instability that began in 2008. The debt that dragged the country into one of the worst crises in its history has been declining little by little for years and the risk premium has reached stability.

The International Monetary Fund has calculated a growth of 2.2% at the end of this year, and the unemployment rate is also decreasing. However, there is still a long way to go before our country will once again enjoy the economic boom it enjoyed before the crisis, so it cannot miss the opportunity offered by the online sector.

On the one hand, there is no doubt that the growth of one industry, whatever it is, brings with it an increase in jobs, which benefits everyone. In addition, the movement of money also translates into a higher amount of taxes collected by the state, which can be invested in improving public services. All this justifies why the government needs to support a sector with so much potential.

The future can only be hopeful. Expert forecasts indicate that the total number of online operators offering their services in Spain could grow. This will turn the sector into a more competitive market, and will bring an improved user experience and pages that offer greater security.

The good health of the online entertainment industry will benefit everyone, especially state coffers that need to be replenished.

What an artist can teach you about marketing

The launch of a new piece of content such as a blog, video, podcast, or infograph is very similar to a new artist who launches a new song and hopes to be on the radio. Like any artist, every day they carry out the promotion of their art.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a blogger of arbitrary words, think of yourself as a creator of promotion of your art and a seeker of exposure time. Whether you’re a freelance or a SME or a music artist, you’re creating something that you want to reach the people you want them to listen to, read, react to, see and share.

Music is promoted through marketing, advertising, tours, video clips, video marketing and merchandising all in order to keep a musical artist’s name in the public eye in the same way you’re trying to do with your content marketing strategy?

If you make the content known to the fans and they become your fans and become your customers then they buy your services or products. The more an artist sells, the greater his popularity, this helps the artist finance his later projects he pursues. Do you get to see the frame?

Musical artists knock on the door to the radios (less and less) promote their night shows, create events and hang out online, send links to their Spotify sites, the most applied even send LinkedIn requests, build Facebook audiences and twitter followers, anything to get more fans.

The point that both company and musicians need is exposure. You need the same whether you are a blog, a chain or a company that wants everyone to know. Your audience is out there.

We’ll make a comparison between two content creators like an artist and a blogger: The artist starts with some lyrics on a sheet of paper, which will become some songs, build a hook.

You listen to your audience, talk from experience, perfect your music, create a single, an album and promote it. And the blogger listens to the market, builds a theme for his content marketing strategy, writes his scheme, builds his blog and launches it onto the market.

But how to achieve exposure in a saturated, noisy market, with unlimited channels for collecting, consuming and exchanging information? In other words: How to create a content marketing strategy like a rock star?

Think like a musical artist, not a blogger.

Some questions to start with: How can I create my art, how can I share that, how can I know what matters? The biggest acts in music operate successfully and long term by thinking about the commercial part of music.

Change your perspective and consider blogs from the business side, not the entertainment side and remember that despite all the endless changes, social media gives you the opportunity to build your audience.

Don’t promote a bad song

It’s hard to recover after listening to a shitty song (or a post or whatever) that has been exaggerated in its qualities. It’s more than advisable to get feedback from respected people in the industry you’re addressing before releasing it.

Create a list of 20 or 30 colleagues from your network or community and use them as a test bed for your content. Then, if you see that your feedback is at least 60% positive go ahead…

Address your target audience

A Hip Hop artist would be wasting time trying to write music for opera fans or jazz enthusiasts (let’s be clear that this is a very conservative statement and that the future of the “species” is the mix, but I think you all understand the idea ;). The issue lies in the qualities and know-how about a particular discipline or style and that there are always great musicians, people from orchestras.

Possibly we see it clearer from the point of view that immediately someone finds interesting immediately begins to generate content as 10 things you should know about, how to take advantage of X, Be expert in nosequé in less than 10 days.

Stop trying to be an expert in digital marketing for everything, also given the growing complexity of social networks, their advertising systems, algorithms, etc. is complicated …

Some people may not distinguish Vine from YouTube and some see it all as digital marketing. Be clear about who your target audience is and know where they are on the web. Meet them, read their comments and adapt your message and channel to talk directly to them.

Don’t believe what they say.

Musical artists know how the press works (or should) and it is always interesting to pay attention to “competition” (I put it in quotation marks because there are still people who don’t know that we all compete for the leisure budgets of our target audience).

Artists know that “making it look easy” is an illusion. There are those who think that one of the biggest mistakes in marketing is catching up on all the marketing noise made by others.

When you’re in the bubble and pay attention to every ad from your closest competitors, it’s easy to get discouraged. When you see the achievements of the competition, appearances in magazines, interviews, travels, etc. could be discouraging.

It’s good to keep that in mind to take measures to your “competition” (the next time this term appears, I’ll put it without quotes ;P ) but don’t think it’s all glamour and ivory towers and magic mirrors.

Your competitors succeed through hard work, pushing and carrying it out every day so that “things that look so easy” when they are not. Be competitive and remember that what got you here, won’t get you there, remember that famous A.

Einstein said that if you want different results, act differently and if you’re in a place that doesn’t convince you, but everything changes over time so it’s not that simple either.

If you understand your audience, work hard to make them smarter, and serve as a resource for them, you will grow your audience. As musicians we have a duty to entertain, we are part of the world of leisure that is intrinsically linked to culture.