by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
music charts, niches


BBC And IBM Reinvent The Music Chart

from the and-it's-about-time-too dept

The idea of the "Top 40" music hit seems like a relic of a different age, and the Billboard best sellers list hasn't done much to really update with the times. However, reader Will North writes in to point us to a rather interesting experiment being done by the BBC and IBM to basically reinvent the concept of the music chart with a beta test of a new offering called Sound Index.

Rather than just checking on sales at certain shops which (as Will notes in his submission) can be easily gamed, Sound Index tries to look at a variety of online sources to find out what music people are really interested in:
"Crawls some of the biggest music sites on the Internet - Bebo, MySpace, Last.FM, iTunes, Google and YouTube - to find out what people are writing about, listening to, watching, downloading and logging on to. It then counts and analyses this data to make an instant list of the most popular 1000 artists and tracks on the web. The more blog mentions, comments, plays, downloads and profile views an artist or track has, the higher up the Sound Index they are."
In other words, they're reinventing the music charts, but making it much more accurate and relevant. But it doesn't stop there, either. Rather than assuming there's just one single chart to rule them all, the system lets you create custom lists for a better understanding of more niche-targeted music. So, say, if you wanted to know who's hot on YouTube and in the indie and punk worlds among US listeners between the ages of 20 and 30, you can create just that list. Or, as per Will's suggestion, you could find out what female Emo fans between the age of 15 and 20 are talking about on Bebo -- and get that list.

It does seem a little limited right now, but it's definitely a step up from the lists you normally see these days, and shows that niche appeal can actually be worth something these days. That's a big deal, because the believers in old time copyright insist that with more file sharing and such, only "mass market" music will survive. Instead, the opposite seems to be happening, as it's easier than ever (often by leveraging such tools) for more targeted niche music to create a modest success by being tremendously successful within its own niche. Tools like Sound Index should make it easier to get even more recognition of success in those niches.

Reader Comments

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Aug 2008 @ 3:37pm

    that is cool, I could play with that for a while. also good why to find new gifts for music loving friends...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BillDivX, 5 Aug 2008 @ 6:18pm


    Ok, so I'm an engineer. Think like an engineer. So I gotta ask...What happens when a song makes the top ten because everybody is talking about how BAD it is. i.e. "Stay the hell away from this song"

    Sure as hell bet they won't get their crawler to tell that difference. But, is that valid? I mean, top seller charts were always more a way to gauge who was the topic of the day, for the purpose of product tie-ins, etc. I suppose having the rankings call up BAD publicity as well could have a use...

    example, a company sees that a song is generating press, and they google it, discovering that it's BAD press, and then, instead of using the song as simple background for a commercial, they make fun of the song instead...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Alexander Williams, 5 Aug 2008 @ 10:24pm

      Re: Errr....

      Seems to me that it's obvious ... If everyone's talking about how bad it is, everyone's listening to and talking about it. The Index is a success! Your song has truly epic penetration and, frankly, you really don't care what they're saying since the fact that people talking with garner you ears and sales.

      People are perverse like that.

      Engineering: It Works.(tm)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Pundit, 6 Aug 2008 @ 3:32am

      Re: Errr....

      Check out the Semantic Super Computing technology. It actually does address differentiate how BAD something is (in a negative way) versus how bad it is (in a positive sentiment). Cool stuff.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Blaise Alleyne (profile), 6 Aug 2008 @ 10:40am

      Re: Errr....

      Good point. I would think this might be taken into account if the various areas being indexed are balanced in some way to produce the index?

      "to find out what people are writing about, listening to, watching, downloading and logging on to..."

      If it's really that bad that people are trashing it etc, it might get written about, but it probably won't be listened to or watched or downloaded nearly as much as something that people actually like.

      And if it is... well, then isn't it a success in some way if people are consuming it?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jhunter, 6 Aug 2008 @ 6:59am

    It's neat...

    except that it puts Elvis under indie rock?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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