We love computers, we love what they can do, but they’re not human.
There’s a lot of press about meta-tagging, metadata, information and enriched search. And again we are advocates of them all.
However, a bit like the way that online news could replace the news broadcast but has not, computers and information can in no way fully replace the tone, subjectivity, choice and subtlety that can be conveyed through manually curating and presenting music.
We feel that a lot of the music-tech media coverage tends to focus on technology being the panacea of the music industry, the saviour and the future. There is some truth in this as it will enhance and protect margins, improve efficiency and, theoretically at least, reduce costs. However we believe that technology is an enabler rather than a saviour. It is a tool to be effectively deployed by people in order to enhance both consumer and licensor/curator experiences. It is about evolution rather than revolution.
For us the principal benefit of technology is that it can provide a common-core search capability and enriched information to enable music curation. We are here, unashamedly, coming from the Business to Business enterprise side of the music industry (rather than Direct to Consumer) in our argument.
Common core – refers to a common core of terms and tags under which all tracks in a catalogue are classified. They may not be perfect (though are often pretty much spot-on) but they provide a common standard under which all tracks are treated and categorised equally by a single entity – a computer. This common core allows a consistent search based upon a set of criteria – transformational when applied to any size of catalogue but particularly noticeable when a catalogue extends beyond the capacity of one individual to manage the entire catalogue (let’s say 250 tracks per person). However, this is just the beginning of any optimised search. It is still beholden on an individual to either populate the search criteria with subjective data that is uncommon across a catalogue (e.g. fit purpose for a track – Summer, Christmas, history of a track – past usage and track suitability to name but a few) but also to apply the human ear to exercise judgment against a brief. The common core enables the search, the human ear completes it.
Enriched information – data in itself is just that, data. What is required is that the data becomes structured and curated to ensure relevance – Relevant to the ultimate audience. The typical consumer has interest in data, but not in every bit of data that has ever existed about anything, from any time. Relevancy is paramount. In our view, only a human can really interpret this (e.g. relevance to one advertising agency is undoubtedly different to relevance to the next). Again, data enriches music creation but is irrelevant without human input.
So what are we saying? Basically that we are huge huge huge advocates of data, information and automation. However, as a business you need to know the limits. Technology for us is about enablement and enhancement of existing processes – inevitably human processes. For us the best technologies are enhancers rather than replacers. Catalysts rather than solutions.