Predicting Effect

A few weeks back I read an article on the sudden disappearance of much of the ice in Greenland.  I wondered what could be the cause. I’m sure there are teams of scientists investigating this right now.  The nice thing about investigating a cause is that the effect is known. With good research, a cause can probably be accurately determined.  It is much more difficult to predict the effect of a cause unless it has happened before.

With every new musical release we create a ’cause.’  We don’t really know what the effect will be.  Record labels use focus groups to grapple with this problem.  They will get a representative group or groups of people together and let them listen to the music that is up for release.  The companies running these sessions have prepared questionnaires and guidelines that help determine what demographic the record company should aim for in marketing the music.  These kinds of groups are valuable in that they help reduce the marketing costs involved in promoting a recording, and help target a potential fanbase for the artist.

Until now, that kind of research has been prohibitively expensive for the independent artist.

Sure, there are places you can get your music reviewed by a professional critic, and for the people who frequent those blogs or online magazines, this can be a source of validation.  But that is a professional reviewer, not the average unbiased listener.

There are social outlets and contests you can join to have your song rated highly.  This usually involves contacting your network of friends and requesting that they vote repeatedly for your song.  The only ones benefitting in the end from this is the hosting website, who gets all of those extra eyeballs for their advertising purposes.

One of my clients recently sent me a review of one of his songs that cost him around $40. It was a comprehensive report that was broken down by sex (male/female) and also into three age groups (16-24, 25-34, 35-44)  weighted toward the younger demographic.

It began with an overall market potential for a single overall market, in this case ‘rock.’  Following that was the ‘track rating’ and ‘passion rating.’  Then for comparison, three songs by established artists with similar ratings were listed along with a ‘play’ button to audition the tracks.

The ratings were then illustrated by pie and stack charts, showing the breakdown of the sample group by age and gender, and a 1-10 scale of how well the track was liked which was distributed by the number of people who voted that way.  It also showed a scatter graph of how the track would fare against 1,000 other tracks in that genre of music.

Next it did a breakdown of the language used in the reviews of the track, listing the most talked about elements of the track and a sound cloud with the most often used words shown in the largest fonts.

After that, selected individual reviews (over 40 of them) were listed, identified only by the age group of the reviewer. These ranged from very knowledgeable and articulate opinions to ‘not the style of music I normally listen to, but…’

What an awesome tool!  In his case, I believe he got the picture that the ‘rock’ track he presented was perceived as more of a ‘country’ track by this sampling of the public as of this date, and that his target demo was age 35-44 with a surprisingly strong following by the younger demo as well. This sure beats just going with your gut, taking years to understand who is going to be affected by your music.

So there is now an affordable tool for anyone who is serious about releasing their music to the public, building a fan base, and being closer to the target with their marketing.  I almost forgot.. the name of this company is SoundOut.  Be sure to check out what they have to offer.  I think it’s a real deal.


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