Data & Music
By Mark Dexter
8th November 2013

So I'm a music geek, right?

I've had a sneaky feeling of this fact for years but now it's been confirmed. This feeling has now been reinforced by my interest in the live music stats site http://www.setlist.fm/.  But is this information about one of my hobbies of any value to anyone or any businesses?

I'm not saying I'm a music expert (my music knowledge is limited to a few core areas of reasonable expertise) but I'm afraid I spent a good hour trawling through the stats on this site, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself too.  In a nutshell the site lists all the songs played at live shows by a vast number of artists and bands.  You can search by song, for example Rebel Rebel was played 414 times by David Bowie, in 20 countries over 12 different years, first in 1974, last in 2004.  Or you can search by artist; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds have played 657 concerts in 20 countries between over 24 years between 1984 and 2003.  Kylie Minogue has played 454 shows in 20 countries over 19 different years, first in 1989, last in 2012. You can then slice and dice this information in a variety of different ways;  Kylie played 12 shows in 2012 just in Australia and the UK, whereas in 2010 her 4 shows were spread over 3 different continents!  You can also see what songs were played at each of these shows.

This also begs some questions around context. You may be wondering whether I am both a David Bowie fan and a Kylie Minogue fan? The answer is 'No', I am a huge Bowie fan but whereas I admire Kylie greatly I don't own any of her music. I am however a Nick Cave fan and my interest in Kylie was sparked by the fact that my teenage daughter pointed out that Kylie guested at a Nick Cave show this week.  So I've learned that my 17 year old daughter is a bit of a Kylie fan, something that would probably be of interest to any data analysts/marketers. So yes, context is everything but you can only learn so much by analysing stats!  Or can you? Would a data analyst have worked all of this out without me telling them?  I did however notice that you also need to delve deeper into the data sometimes to get a true answer.  You may have noticed that Kylie is listed as last playing in 2012 if you search under her name, but the site also states that she did play with Nick Cave in 2013.

But what does all this really tell us?  I'd be interested to know, because apart from satisfying the stats cravings of geeks like me (20 countries seems to be a bit of a theme for an established artist) does a site like this actually add any value in a business context?  I'll answer that question in part; the site is host to a number of banner adverts from a number of external sites. Some are music related (ticket buying sites being obvious ones), some are not; are music fans also interested in gambling sites as a rule? Not this music fan in case you were wondering!  However I've not registered as a user on the site so I doubt if they will be able to use my data to sell me tickets to Nick Cave concerts, or to alert me to new album releases by Bowie, though I guess I might see some relevant adverts on other sites I visit depending on how their tracking software works.

So, if I'm honest, this blog has more questions than answers, but that's really why I wanted to write it, to get some answers!  I'd love to hear some feedback on this.  What have I missed in this site?  Is there any inherent value other than as a source of click-through advertising revenue?

Anyone else admit to being a geek? What tempts you to get your anorak out?

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