We Can’t See The Forest For The Data!

Like it or not, we live in a world that is dominated by data, statistics and research. This information controls what we eat, drink, see, hear and use more than most of us probably realize. Companies that make and market just about any consumable item are paying people off the street to give them feedback about their products. Fair enough – that makes sense to a degree, but I have my own theory about soliciting comments for comment sake. My hope is that we can collectively go backwards a bit and relearn what listening to our instincts sounds like.

I guess you can say I market emotions. Sounds silly I know, but my chosen field of music is an art medium that is heard subjectively by those that hear it. The same song can magically create 1,000 different emotions in 1,000 different people.

Having participated in focus groups myself for various products, I noticed a pervasive attitude among the group participants as many acknowledged the power they felt they had in being asked to critique a product – be it a new sandwich or a cable TV marketing plan. While I can’t say with certainty that others did this, I sometimes responded just because I was asked. My comment was meant to sound valuable and thoughtful, but really the answer was due to being asked, even if I was ambivalent about the subject at hand.

Granted, I recognize the value of research in many fields; I just question it when it comes to evaluating art.

There have always been stories of recording artists rejecting a song only to have that same song become a big hit for someone else. I understand that. Not all great songs would be hits for just anyone that wanted to record them. A chemistry has to exist between the song and singer. But here’s an example from my own experience that helps support my theory of research and art.

As a music publisher, my job was to have songs written by staff songwriters that could be pitched to recording artists who would then record them. Sure, there was more to it than that, but that was the bottom line. When an album/CD release would yield maybe 3 singles, one particular artist had such great success with singles from one album that they decided to go 4 singles deep. Rare but not unheard of. In this case, that was a big deal, as many at the record label felt they had already sold just about as many records as they could, and promoting a 4th single would be cost ineffective. So, they released that 4th one and lo and behold, it went to #1 on the charts and came down the charts pretty quickly. That created a dilemma.

I, as publisher of one song on the record, had lobbied unsuccessfully for my song to be a single – all 4 times. As objective as I could be, I knew in my gut it warranted a release and was a hit. In addition to enduring one single release written by the producer, I was given reasons such as “…It’s too obscure lyrically…”, “…it isn’t fast enough…” or my favorite, “It didn’t test well”. But fortunately, the release schedule was such that they either went 5 singles deep and gamble on trying to squeeze out a few more sales (the only way in those days a record company made money from a record) or forget any holiday sales bump as the Christmas shopping season was approaching. The only likely candidate for a single that was left was the one my company owned.

One label executive who had always liked my song, but had previously been outvoted re: its release was willing to go to bat for this record. This time, we won. Long story short – they went with my song and to that date, it became the fastest rising single record this label had ever had. This is an iconic record label with a history of major artists. And, it was that song that pushed this album to platinum+ status.

This story only proves that data, focus groups and humans can be wrong. No surprise there, and I don’t mean to denigrate all research. However, it is only an illustration of an observation that we, as a society, are forgetting to listen and respect the most important focus group – our own inner voices – whether it comes to music, politics or any advertised item that has been targeted for us to hear about. With a deafening barrage of advertising, data collection, talking heads and research driven press releases, it is simply this scribe’s hope that we can remember how to listen to the most important reviewer and expert – ourselves. shhhhhh……..

- Randy Hart, Creative Services Director, Aircast Custom Music

About the author

Megatrax Megatrax Production Music is the leading independent music source. Megatrax is dedicated to creating, licensing and delivering the finest quality production and custom music and best customer service in the industry. At Megatrax, our philosophy has always been to stay ahead of technology and to create exceptional quality music. Our commitment to excellence is evident in both the music we produce and the carefully selected catalogs that we represent. Our staff is dedicated to serving you in every way possible and our service team is focused on your specific production requirements. We have a list of products and services that are unmatched in the production music industry and are constantly evolving with your changing needs.

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