Are You Also Being Scammed By The Data Companies? 

Submitted by Peter Åstedt

I was recently approached by yet another company that thought that I would become a big success in the music industry if I would just read their data. Find the next big thing and book the right bands for my festival. This is the third company so far this year 2022. I’m skeptical as there are several problems with the data analysis.

Like I always do, I get in there and test the systems. I have several artists that I know very well and work closely with, so I know what the real numbers are, not what it looks like. I chose one and put them in this system and the numbers were really strange. Of course, they could report how many people liked the artist on Facebook and if that was going up and down. Like anyone today cares about how many followers you have on Facebook? Same with Instagram, and Twitter. The problem here is that the artist doesn’t even use Twitter and I know why but of course the system highlighted that their numbers on Twitter were low. Like an artist having so many followers would make me choose if they should be playing at my festival? Then of course I could see Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud streams. The problem here is that the artists are releasing new material in a month, so the numbers are going down since they are preparing for PR.

What makes me tick when it comes to booking my festival? Ticket sales of course. If you could give me the data of the latest ticket sales in my area that could be interesting. Of course, this system couldn’t even provide the ticket sales for the whole of Sweden, not for the whole of Europe either. COVID has made it that there is not much to access. It couldn’t provide the back numbers either. In fact, they couldn’t provide me with any ticket sales. There are systems that actually give this info, but only for big artists, I can see what Red Hot Chili Peppers sold in Seattle two years ago. In reality, I’m not interested in Red Hot Chili Peppers and these systems never contain any of the smaller artists that are on the rise. The funny part here is that ticket sales are still the best way to check their popularity. It’s still not implemented in most of these data companies. Why do you think? The numbers are there. Probably because you need also to understand ticket sales and the venues, and these sites really can’t do that yet.

The site was also claiming that they had most festivals in the system to look at. Yes, they had the obvious ones like The Great Escape, Wacken Metal, and so on. But all the cool new festivals that I care about like MMB,  FiraB, Waves Vienna, and so on were not in the system. Funny thing was that they listed MIDEM in June even though it was announced it has been permanently closed down a couple of weeks ago. The info was really not updated.

What next interests me is radio airplay. Why radio airplay? It’s are still done quite much by people that like music. Most playlist companies like Spotify, Deezer, Youtube are relying on algorithms and are still easily fooled and can’t really provide anything. Radio is still interesting in that way.

I checked out the numbers for this artist, but nothing made sense. The system gave away five small stations that I have never heard of and that their songs haven’t been played much on the radio. To the point for this artist, I was involved in their radio campaign, and we used a company that are experts to track radio so I know they are played. Not on small stations, they are played on big national radio stations and on TV shows because of placements. Then I looked at where this site gets its data from? And they get this data from some strange system that just monitored small online radio stations. The data was just useless.

If I was to go by this system, I would get everything wrong. I would just jump on trains that have already left and be last on the ball. Something I noticed that the major companies have had trouble with these past few years. Now they have left and are coming back.

The numbers for the test artist I used just showed that they were very inactive. The listening was going down. Nothing to put your money on.

The reality is totally different. The artist just signed a deal with one of the most successful A&R:s in the world. They got a big scholarship to record a new album. They got into ten different PR companies to promote their next single next month. They are booked to six really cool showcase festivals and invited to some of the biggest festivals newcomer stages (that is not official yet) The buzz inside the industry around them is really big.

The problem with these data companies is that the data they collect is outdated or totally wrong or doesn’t cover what is interesting. I just feel that we are going back as it was, where an artist buzz was made of expectations.

The data these companies provide might work as a check-up on a campaign you are doing to see the effect. If you should be successful in the music industry you have to be able to tap along in the buzz about what is going on. A career is usually built upon expectations.

Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. In 2021, he worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes Peter is a Managing Partner and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.