I have always been fascinated by data. When I was a kid, I had an Apple IIe on which I had Apple Works. My two favorite programs on Apple Works were the spreadsheet and the database. The concept of putting data into a structured form and then being able to retrieve it easily was powerful to me, something that embodied what computers were inherently meant for. Not for games, writing or other systems, but for the distillation of randomness into something concrete. The reification of the chaos into something homogenous, organized, curated and tangible.
Like it or not, 20 years after my initial obsession with data, we are in a situation in which the externalization of our lives in the form of data quantification far exceeds our collective ability to process, even as its contextualization, analysis and manipulation tangibly effect our lives. We are subject to the recombination of the abstract and concrete daily: targeted advertising, TSA secondary screening, credit card offers. Our lives as abstract, chaotic humans is subjugated beneath our lives as distilled data points.
And while this applies to how we live our lives, it also applies to both the product of our living as well as the components that make us enjoy doing so. Data is everywhere: it streams into our lives through phones, computers, television, advertising. Everything we encounter is both the product of and the culmination of the representation of data. And every action we take in response further propagates the distillation of action into quantification.
And this applies to the music business as well.
We as an industry have had to make a commitment to being a Direct to Fan (or Direct to Consumer) business. A business that caters not to the industry that typically supported us (ie, radio, promoters), but first and foremost has to cater to the fan that makes the art which we help foster possible. As such, we as an industry have to play within the same ontological space that the audience lives and breaths in, and that space is constructed with and of data.
So for us, data is our new asset base. It is what makes our industry possible right now, and it is what we as an industry must respect in order to survive. For me personally this is extremely exciting. So exciting in fact that my team and I, as well as other developers have spent the last year creating a system that serves to act as a catch-all for all data produced by our web presence, as well as a method for us to act on the data.
Data collection is great, but data use is even better. The power of data is its ability to distill behavior down into concrete forms, and allow the use of mathematics to make sense of what has been distilled. The beauty of math is that without context, it is limitless, and the onus of use becomes representation rather than collection.
Our goal right now is to create a system where we not only can collect data, use this data and analyze this data, but also create an ecosystem in which data can be “black boxed” in order to be analyzed within context in situ without context. Data without context is often the best kind, as our desire to recontextualize it often serves as a method of illuminating things about it that often would go missed.
The music business is often talked about in ways that fragment the core of what our business is. To some it is A&R, to some it is New Media, touring, 360 deals.
In my view, the core of our business is the artists. And around the artists are the data which serves as the unifying element toward everything we do in the desire to get our artists art toward an audience.
Data: our asset base. Artists: our core. That is the new music business. It’s an exciting time indeed.
I’ll post more about the tools we’ve made at some point, but suffice to say, it is all based on Drupal.