The digital world has done more than change the way music is delivered to fans. It has revolutionized how labels find new acts and position existing ones.
While the days of scouts stumbling across the next big artist in a darkened bar are not completely gone, they're quickly being replaced by deep data mining. And agents and labels are increasingly leaning on social media to help guide a performer's career.
"We're seeing a bit of a revolution in terms of the music industry jumping on the bandwagon," said Liv Buli, data journalist at Next Big Sound, a specialty service that mines social media sites and digital music services for metrics to help guide labels, artists and managers. "Traditionally, it's always been reviews and sales figures that dictate every movement. More and more, people are coming on board and [realizing] you can see how fans interact with artists via social means."
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Next Big Sound counts all the major labels among its customers, said Buli. The company provides a platform compiling the data from an array of social sites—including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud— which lets music industry insiders learn more about up and coming artists and make smarter decisions with those in their catalog. On a daily basis, it ingests nearly 10 gigabytes of data and has accumulated over 100 billion data points to date for its clients.
The company also monitors the online popularity of musicians like Justin Bieber, who is a perennial member of the top 10, as well as compiles a list of the fastest accelerating artists across the Internet. This list, called the Next Big Sound chart, provides visibility for acts that may not be big but are seeing their growth rate exploding exponentially (indicating an amassed fan base).