By John Kohl, Leader and Founder of music discovery platform TuneGO.
Recent discussions around automation are centered on making sense of the mass of data that lives online. After all, there’s no reason any market shouldn’t take advantage of the wealth of information users leave behind on the Internet like golden breadcrumbs. A broad spectrum of industries, from entertainment to fitness to home décor, is using that information to help automate previously manual actions by making high volumes of content and information digestible and available for more informed decision-making.
Admittedly, it sounds sterile – the term “data scientist” feels inaccessible to the everyday user, much less to the artistically-inclined who are naturally skeptical that science can ever replace art. Even to top industry executives – Amy Doyle, senior executive at MTV, was recently quoted saying she’d “leave the industry if it came to a place where talent is chosen by math and algorithms.” However, automation isn’t necessarily out to replace human services, especially in emotionally driven, subjective industries like arts and entertainment. In fact, in the music industry, where there is nothing short of an abundance of aspiring artists with exponential content to share – and, in turn, for users to consume – automation has become a central tool for filtering data from numerous platforms to identify talent across the world. But, the key to successfully applying automation across countless services and industries lies in the details around maintaining critical human behavior and preference to enhance content discovery.
In the last few years, several platforms have emerged with the intent of effectively streamlining the numerous ways consumers engage with rising talent, as well as the ways artists share work with additional audiences and seasoned industry executives. Previously, launching a career in entertainment hinged in large part on who you knew, and who they knew. And although there are now a variety of tools to create and showcase their talents, artists still have the challenge of being heard or seen in a highly saturated digital market. With new platforms combining automated technology with human curation, it can be possible for seemingly anyone with talent to make the right connections.
Seeing a need in the film industry for greater transparency and accessibility to new screenwriting talent, a service called SpecScout was born. At its core, the platform aims to level the playing field for aspiring writers by showcasing the highest-scoring unrepped scripts right alongside the pros' with a unique automated scoring system decided by three qualified readers and automated algorithms for easy discovery.
This type of discovery works with the visual arts as well. Talenthouse has built a platform connecting big brands and entities with up and coming new artistic talent by creating a social community that produces captured data. Unknown artists have a unique opportunity to work with big bands, musicians, designers, and other established talents on projects through an open call for submissions, all based in the foundation of social engagement. In this way, brands and artists are able to create a symbiotic relationship, one elevating the other.
No industry has been more impacted by digital fragmentation and connectivity than music. Musicians have numerous ways to create and expose their music, but few means to gain visibility among industry executives. But now there are burgeoning services, created with the goal of redefining how new artists are discovered, and how connections are facilitated between aspiring musicians and top producers. The platforms that will succeed, though run on a data driven algorithm that analyzes everything from fan reviews to downloads, will always include human touch points that can make sense of the noise and facilitate the connections once the crème rises to the top.
Why Art + Science Can Work Online
These automated-based platforms have developed in response to a steadily growing need for more refined discovery. For the past ten years, content giants and startups like MySpace, YouTube, SoundCloud, and Vimeo have established active hubs for artists to showcase and share their talent but – with millions of users uploading new content daily – it’s a saturated place where discovery can leave anyone searching for hours without making a dent. This leaves both industry professionals and consumers alike frustrated in their ability to efficiently find the metaphorical needle in the online haystack.
The goal is to solve for these issues, finding a way to cut through the noise by using automation to facilitate the discovery process for both industry members and every day consumers, while marrying that science with the art of human curation. The gut reaction for identifying and nurturing talent is still necessary, but these new services are making more data available to consider when searching for today’s top talent. However, an industry shift of this proportion can’t be met without roadblocks.
As with any new platform, adoption is a hurdle for automation and the crux for making it work. Introducing a new way to do anything takes time, but widespread adoption is make or break. Hand in hand with adoption is an artist’s success once they’ve committed to the platform. When artists can see that this is a proven path to obtain the guidance, opportunities, and development that they crave, they’re more likely to join.
Of course, introducing such a scientific method to a creative field could be met with resistance and skepticism of technology replicating human emotion and preference. An algorithm can filter all the data available, and it still might not find the brilliant abstract artist without an online presence, who only shows at a few local galleries. It might not be able to produce the feeling of stumbling into a bar only to discover the next Bob Dylan. And, it really can’t pass off a new original script your friend’s co-worker spent a whole year’s worth of nights and weekends writing.
Path to Success
Despite valid challenges posed, it’s definitely possible to see success with this model. As already mentioned, adoption is key, and contingent on producing notable stories of achievement and high profile connections to the project. Also important is getting the right people on your team. Having renowned industry professionals and influencers who can identify the nuances and the “it” factor of top talent attracts artists who are eager to work with them.
Are human-powered, automated algorithms the future for art and entertainment? It certainly has a place, serving a need to easily connect a high volume of untapped talent with professionals across multiple entertainment industries. There might never be a perfect substitute for organic discovery, but these platforms are aiming to get as close as possible in the digital space. I'm confident they will become a new standard across the industry; it’s only a matter of when. Artists have successfully used these automation platforms to make this data work for them, taking advantage of the platforms’ connections with industry professionals and opportunities for additional exposure. The next few years will only lead to more precise data and results, as well as a rise in user adoption. Emerging artists will continue to inspire the industry to evolve, only now there’s undeniable data to help push new limits.
John Kohl is the Founder of TuneGO, the music discovery platform that helps elevate new artists and their music.