“We are at a crossroads in the music business: with the rise of the internet, the world we live in has changed, and the past is not coming back. But I see the glass as half-full: the internet and social networking are new avenues for the next Bob Dylan to be born on,” said Jon Bon Jovi in an interview with the Guardian back in 2010. Six years later, Bon Jovi is still touring and releasing albums, while digital music downloads and streaming services are the new normal in the industry.
Large companies in the music business, streaming services, publishers, and researchers are integrating data and metadata to create increased interlinking and integrated services to engage audiences. They are using Linked Open Data to take advantage of the network effect of data integration. They are offering easier navigation and discovery, for users and systems alike. They enjoy the flexibility of data integration and easier model updates to gain efficiencies and reduce costs.
Let’s tour the music streaming business, app creators and publishers around the world to find out how they integrate data to enhance their music-related services.
MusicBrainz is a source of open music data that collects music metadata – information about artists and music identification – and makes it available to the public. An international community of users contributes, edits, and maintains information on the site. Companies using this collection of metadata include Google, the BBC, music industry heavyweights like Universal Music, streaming service provider Spotify, plus Amazon.com, last.fm, mobile apps and start-ups with public products.
The BBC music page, BBC Music, uses MusicBrainz for basic data around names and discographies. The BBC staff also contribute to the MusicBrainz data sets. BBC Music provides a comprehensive guide to the music content across the BBC and shows relevant links to profiles of artists, playlists, events, and tours. For example, if you search for ‘Iron Maiden’, you’ll get the basic info about the band, their last track played on BBC, their next gig, and the latest news featuring the band in BBC News. That’s information the users see without additional search or browsing. Iron Maiden are also part of the ‘The Shakespeare 400th Anniversary Playlist’ featuring ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Opus 61’ by Felix Mendelssohn, for instance. You guessed it right: clicking on the latter will return the page with info about the composer, with audio tracks played on BBC, and mentions of the composer in BBC articles. How does the BBC know not to return news pages containing any people by the name of Felix? That’s because of the Linked Data and semantic web principles, which use Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) to represent people, places, and things.
The BBC links the playlists to Spotify, among all other links. The Swedish streaming service also uses MusicBrainz. According to MusicBrainz founder Robert Kaye, Spotify uses MusicBrainz data to clean up the data it receives from labels.
Spotify said in September that it had reached 40 million paying subscribers, up by a third from six months ago. This affirms Spotify’s top spot in the music streaming business. Its main competitor Apple Music has around 17 million paying subscribers.
At a conference in London earlier this year, MusicBrainz’s Kaye said:
“Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and everyone else is a data silo. As a data nerd, I am kind of pissed off by that.”
But as we can see on our global tour, it’s not only ‘data nerds’ that have realized that there are benefits in breaking down the data silos and working toward data integration, content interlinking, and increasingly personalized app, album, and artist recommendations.
Another music service that uses MusicBrainz’s datasets is Last.fm: it recommends and connects people based on music preferences. It integrates data, including metadata from MusicBrainz, to show users the listening trends and habits of other Last.fm users.
It’s not only the likes of Amazon and Universal Music that use MusicBrainz data. Amazon uses MusicBrainz data in its music-related offerings, while Universal Music uses MusicBrainz data to boost their own metadata.
Australia-developed Whatslively app, one of MusicBrainz’s supporters, constantly scans the music that users listen to on their phones or their favorite streaming apps to alert them to concerts in their area from artists they have listened to, danced to, or headbanged to. The app integrates music and artist data with social media to allow friends with similar music tastes to exchange fast information about what gig they’d love to attend together.
And users, especially the huge millennial group of customers, appreciate the easy one-click apps to all favorite artist album releases or gigs info. This makes the providers of integrated data and services the preferred one-stop shop for music fans. The customers are ultimately rewarding those services with shares, tweets, and pins for a higher brand exposure, as well as with higher free streaming and higher paid streaming subscriptions.
To build upon Jon Bon Jovi’s words, today it is indeed the Internet, data integration, and tailored recommendations that stage the music scene for the new Bob Dylans.
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