new media: March 2004 Archives

Hit Song Science

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I just picked up Steven Johnson's Mind Wide Open, and started it last night, so maybe I'm just sensitive to these sorts of stories. There's a company called Polyphonic HMI, which claims to be able to determine the hit-ness of a song:

Well, much of what attracts us to a particular song is found in the basic structure of the music. Particular rhythms, changes in key and certain melodic patterns define the psychological and very human response we all have to music.

Polyphonic HMI has developed proprietary music analysis technologies capable of identifying music preferences of a user or the whole current recorded music market and intelligently selecting music to recommend to the user or to release as a single.

If this idea sounds familiar, then maybe you've read Melissa Scott's 2000 book The Jazz, although the "science" in her book was proprietary software owned by a Hollywood studio, used to edit movies for success. Even so, the deja vu here is a little creepy. And I have to admit, I'm curious to hear Anastacia's "Left Outside Alone," which is allegedly the first song to be released after having gone through the HSS process ("Allegedly" bc, if there were others, and they weren't hits, how would we really know? Tree, forest, no one to hear it...). Mike McCready, Polyphonic HMI's CEO, sounds appropriately modest:

"Hit Song Science does not take the place of golden ears and gut instinct. Much like the x-ray machine is a tool that gives doctors objective and scientific information about the body, HSS is a tool that allows artists, producers and music industry executives the ability to see their music and their markets in ways that were previously impossible."

Much like a mixed metaphor, this faulty analogy is wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to start counting. But if you think pop music is generic now, just you wait. Just. You. Wait.

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This page is a archive of entries in the new media category from March 2004.

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