One of many gloomy predictions made in Orwell’s 1984 was that all popular music would be computer-generated without human input. Orwell might say we’re one step closer to proving that prediction true.
Polyphinic HMI‘s Hit Song Science (HSS) technology, in a nutshell, 1) analyzes the acoustic properties of a new song, 2) finds similar songs released in the past, 3) extrapoloates sales performance of those ‘similar’ songs to statistically predict the expected level of success for the new song, and 4) provides potential suggestions to improve statistical “ratings.”
Recently, Polyphonic HMI had predicted that Aslyn‘s song, Be The
Girl, would break the Top 30. In less than two
months, it did. Further, Polyphonic also predicted the success for albums by Norah Jones and Maroon 5 before they were released, , creating a ton of press for the company.
Impressive. And sad? Does HSS mark a woeful day in songwriting history? HSS seems to prove what we’ve all known and feared: consumers prefer music that is “familiar.” In an industry already criticized for recycling old sounds, a technology that predicts success based on old hits seems liable to entrap artists in a perpetual repeating expression loop. Loyal customers of HSS now include many major labels; as well as independent bands trying to garner label attention with high HSS song ratings.
Jo Tatchell presents a series of interesting arguments from both sides of the fence. Jo concludes that, basically, the technology should be used as a “tool” by A&R reps; however, no technology can completely replace the talent required to write and perform a good tune. HSS is best used as a device to “fine tune” the structure and sound of a song, much like an audio engineer will tweak the EQ to get a recording just right.
Still, with the industry having become more and more risk-averse in terms of music selection, and moving towards mathematical, algorythm-based means of artist selection, Independent labels and artists will be more crucial than ever for music to evolve as an art form.