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Decoding the Algorithm for Pop Music

CmdrTaco posted more than 10 years ago | from the where-math-money-and-music-mesh dept.

Music 353

fb4f writes "Over at Modplug, they have an article describing a mathematical algorithm to predict if a given song will become a hit or not. Paraphrasing the article, a Spanish company called Polyphonic HMI has made a business out of analyzing song submissions and predicting their "hitability". Here's their description of the algorithm and here's their FAQ. They claim to have predicted the commercial success of Norah Jones through this method. Here's my question (which is not fully answered in their FAQ): if they (music company executives) are currently using the algorithm to screen submissions for their "hitability", can we (people who listen to music) use the same algorithm to reject recycled tunes and encourage originality? I for one, still like the fresh talent and community feel of the tracking scene."

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pop... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542116)

...goes t3h frost pist!

THE ALGORITHM (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542118)

IS SUCKINESS!

Michael Jackson's rubba rubba game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542322)

Jacko used to play a "rubba rubba"-game [news.com.au] with his little boyfriend.

p0sty frist (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542119)

moo0

THE YODA DOLL SHOVED UP YOUR ASS HAS FAILED IT!!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542146)

I suggest you remove the Yoda doll, re-grease, and re-insert for maximum effectiveness. YOU FAIL IT!

Ummm (1, Insightful)

bossesjoe (675859) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542121)

Can anyone predict what pop-culture wants?

Re:Ummm (1)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542336)

Sure... back beats, lyrics about nothing, and lots of bass. Although categorizing Norah Jones as pop is a stretch...

I REALLY ENJOY MASTURBATING!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542122)

SQUIRT SQUIRT!!!

haha (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542123)

Hmmmm... So they check to see how gay the song sounds.... and then use that data to see if it will be a hit.

Karma Hit (5, Funny)

Aliencow (653119) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542129)

Someone should make an algo to calculate which Slashdot comments will be moderated up to 5. Should be pretty easy...as long as you bash SCO!

MOD PARENT UP, MAKES A POINT ABOUT LAME MODERATION (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542239)

Slashdot sucks.

Re:Karma Hit (3, Interesting)

bj8rn (583532) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542303)

Out of sheer boredom, I actually tried to do this sometime this summer. I took a bunch (something around 20) of SCO stories and read all the +4/+5 comments. Surprise surprise, the overall situation wasn't really as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, there were some patterns in what was said, but even if someone did get modded up for saying something that was obvious they always had some argumentation supporting what they said. Simple bashing might get you modded up for a moment, but you'll be modded down the moment someone posts an intelligent reply.

Re:Karma Hit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542361)

You need to analyize the non-SCO stories. With SCO stories, everyone can't be given a 5, so there will be many SCO bashers who don't get points. Look at the other stories, there is usually a +5 SCO comment hanging around

Re:Karma Hit (5, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542331)

Someone should make an algo to calculate which Slashdot comments will be moderated up to 5. Should be pretty easy...as long as you bash SCO!

It's tough to come up with an algorythm for slasdot moderations. SCO bashing will not guarrentee anything. In fact, I used some software similar to that mentioned in this article, and determined that this comment will be modded +5.

SCO RULES!
Bill Gates is your friend.
I enjoy RFID!
I can't get enough of that Jon Katz!
Linux is for little girls.
Look at my newest casemod! I put a flashlight in there!
Hilary Rosen is a super-fox!
I peed in your coffee.
The Simpsons/Matrix/Starwars/LordoftheRings totally sucks.
DRM is the answer to everything!
I just patented food!

These comments alone would not gain a +5, however, the self-referencial nature of this comment will.

Granted, this software is still in beta.

My Pop Music Algorithm (5, Funny)

anaphora (680342) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542131)

If Singer.Belly.isShown() then mod.singer.+1sexy
If Singer.Voice.isScreaming() then mod.singer.+1punkfav
If Singer.Gender.isMale() then mod.singer.+1prepubescentgirls
If Singer.Label.isRIAA() then mod.singer.+1popular
If Singer.Style.isOriginal() then mod.singer.-1original

Mod parent up (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542190)

Its strangely insightful. I hate bland manufacturised pop music. It's music for the sheeple. I prefer real music from real bands, like Limp Bizkit and Korn and shit like that. Music for us truely individual people who are outcast from society for daring to be different, for refusing to conform, for sticking a finger up to The Man.

Re:Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542206)

Good parody!

ONLY GAY HOMOSEXUAL FAGGOTS LISTEN TO LIMP BIZKIT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542211)

Fred Durst is a commie gaywank!

Re:Mod parent up (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542237)

one person's "real" band is another person's manufactured corporate rock. Excess ain't rebellion, you're drinking what they're sellin.

A quote: (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542320)

"Nu-metal is great for 12-year-olds who want to be individual together."

Re:A quote: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542338)

I think that was the point of the post you replied to. Read it again, but more closely this time.

Re:My Pop Music Algorithm (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542191)

Mmmm ... prepubescent girls.

what came first? (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542143)

Us deciding what is good or the music industry telling us what is good?

This company's stuff doesn't do much good when society is bombarded by what the industry wants us to hear.

It becomes a hit because we don't get much of a choice. ClearChannel plays no variety, the non conclomorate channels don't play variety but instead endlessly repeat that they are not owned by ClearChannel and Infinity...

The only way hits can be decided is through freedom of music.

Support those artists that support the free distribution, copying, and playing of their music. Start your searchs at Sharing the Groove [sharingthegroove.com] and FuthurNET [furthurnet.com]

Re:what came first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542176)

I get most of my music from soulseek [slsknet.org] . It's like someone got all the mp3 trading channels on IRC and put them neatly packaged in one program. I can find almost anything I want and it's mostly high quality. I usually use the chatrooms there and All music website [allmusic.com] to discover bands that I haven't heard of before.

In fact I only own about seven CDs!

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542147)

Well, I would have go the first post if I hadn't got this message:

Due to excessive bad posting from this IP or Subnet, comment posting has temporarily been disabled. If it's you, consider this a chance to sit in the timeout corner. If it's someone else, this is a chance to hunt them down. If you think this is unfair, please email moderation@slashdot.org with your MD5'd IPID and SubnetID, which are "7360ac3790d91f34b58622aae4417bd7" and "43c8a35fa700e42160c8d31ee1bae525".

What does that mean anyway?

Re:First Post! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542159)

Means you fucked up, niggro.

Tracking scene? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542149)

Come off it, most of the music there is 90s-style electronica ripoffs. You can hardly call some guy sitting in his bedroom on a PC with half-assed music software 'original' or 'quality'. Get real!

Re:Tracking scene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542247)

Why not? Why can't some guy with a tracker create an original tune?

I mean, sure, it won't be as "high-quality" as a tune coming out of an expensive studio, but it can still be original.

Or is original a bugbear word with little meaning? Think about it.

Re:Tracking scene? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542292)

I'm not talking about the theoretical possibility of them creating original music -- my point is that most of the music from that scene is very unoriginal and of particularly poor quality.

Re:Tracking scene? (1)

yerricde (125198) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542356)

Why can't some guy with a tracker create an original tune?

There are things that can easily be done with a live performance that can't readily be done with MID, MOD, S3M, XM, or even IT, such as vocals and electric guitar effects.

Re:Tracking scene? (0)

djdrew6k (526089) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542405)

You've obviously never been to a live show where people use tracker music as a part of it. I've been to them. It's possible. For instance: Impulse Tracker allows you to press a button to continue down the tracks of a song, line by line, at your own pace; I've had friends use that as a way to mix in tracker music with more live instrumentation...

For those of you looking for a more "classic" collection of Tracker Music (when there was a more cohesive tracker scene, hq'd on IRC in the channel #trax, and when the demo scene was all Amiga and DOS-based and was truly creative), check out The Hornet Archive [hornet.org] .

And I don't know about you guys, but tracker music has some of the MOST original music I've ever heard, much of it is so different from what I've heard elsewhere that unless the tracking scene really picks up and becomes more like it was 7-10 years ago, I doubt we'll ever get a chance to hear the variety of music like what was coming out of that scene again anytime soon. Just search for music by "Dizzy", for instance.

This is all well and good, but... (1)

musingmelpomene (703985) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542151)

When will they make an algorithm that tells me a singer's hitability, so I know which pages of Maxim to skip?

Hmmm... (1)

Briareos (21163) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542155)

I wonder if they've tested it against *other* music than crap as well...

If Autechre or Pan Sonic came out with extra hitability I guess there'd be a quite few people looking shocked and/or running for the hills... *eg*

np: Autechre - Gantz Graf (Gantz Graf EP)

Re:Hmmm... (2, Insightful)

The One KEA (707661) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542174)

The one thing I want to know if whether the music they used to build this algorithm also influenced its basic process and ultimately the algorithm's final result. Wouldn't it be amusing if the algorithm modded up music that was similar to the so-called Top 30 used to construct it and modded down music that was dissimilar to those songs?

They claim that the algorithm is impartial, but we'll have to wait and see if it really is.

Mod Parent Down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542243)

Autechre where trendy amongst the beard-strokers last year, you serial rapist. Keep up or fuck off!

Not new (2, Interesting)

DrMorris (156226) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542162)

There has been something similiar about 2 or 3 years ago. However: I didn't believe it's success back then, and I don't believe it today.

Re:Not new (1)

cybersaga (451046) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542300)

I don't think it will succeed, 'cause think of it... if every music label used this, they'd keep feeding us the same music over and over... it will be rejected after a while...
I'm hoping anyways... y'never know... people will buy whatever they're told...

Dupe. (5, Informative)

Bootsy Collins (549938) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542164)


Well, I don't know how to tell what songs will be popular. But, obviously, this topic is popular [slashdot.org] .

Re:Dupe. (1)

KoolDude (614134) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542383)


Ah, I was planning to suggest a filtering program based on similar idea for Slashdot. Then I saw your post and, heck, they haven't even figured out how to filter dupes, sigh!

Invalid algo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542166)

So ask them why a single song can be hated and loved by different people? Which guy falls into the "right" answer? In fact, this algo is just BS

Who? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542169)

They claim to have predicted the commercial success of Norah Jones through this method.

Who?

Re:Who? (1)

Dr Reducto (665121) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542281)

She is a Jazz pianist who actualy has some pretty good songs. She is quite talented, and is not really a mainstream-style artist. And here you guys are, talking like shes a Brittney clone. Google is your friend.

Sounds like the formula for movie success (5, Funny)

Lupulack (3988) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542172)

40% Action
30% Comedy
30% Romance
0% Madonna

( with credit to Jay Leno )

yeah, this is easy (1)

cybin (141668) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542175)

it's easy to do fourier analysis and find commonalities between a bunch of songs that all sound the SAME.

and i agree with the person who posted above... the "tracking scene" ? techno is great and all, but somebody needs to give the trackers a copy of digital performer and a microphone.

Star success? (3, Funny)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542181)

They claim to have predicted the commercial success of Norah Jones through this method.

Am I the only one wondering who the hell Norah Jones is?

You damn kids and your pop music. I think I'm going to have to dodder out on the porch and yell at the neighbors' kids for playing on my lawn.

--saint

Re:Star success? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542241)

Norah Jones is the real name of "Britney Spears", as referenced here [google.com] and here [google.com] . Funny eh?

Re:Star success? (1)

I8TheWorm (645702) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542367)

The funny thing is Norah Jones is really a jazz singer, but got tossed onto pop stations, I suppose for lack of any other decent music.

Re:Star success? (1)

Rick.C (626083) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542386)

Am I the only one wondering who the hell Norah Jones is?

Think Billie Holliday with a smoother voice recorded on modern equipment. Think soft jazz/blues.

I bought the CD for my wife and was surprised that it was very listenable for me, a non-jazz type.

And my question ... (4, Interesting)

rastakid (648791) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542189)

"Here's my question (which is not fully answered in their FAQ): if they (music company executives) are currently using the algorithm to screen submissions for their "hitability", can we (people who listen to music) use the same algorithm to reject recycled tunes and encourage originality?"

And here's my question: can we use this algorithm to create the hit, instead of determining wether or not it's gonna be a hit?

Re:And my question ... (2, Interesting)

shufler (262955) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542236)

I don't see why not -- put a song through the program, and based on it's results, make your changes. The FAQ states many times that their software doesn't create music, it simply analyses it. No doubt the record execs are sitting around looking at the analysis, asking, "What needs to be tweaked so more 13 year olds will get their parents to buy this?" (The answer being nothing, as that job is left to the marketing department)

Re:And my question ... (1)

John_Sauter (595980) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542296)

Alternatively, run a lot of random noise through their analysis, and publish whatever gets high scores. That's pretty much what record companies do now, and that may be why they find this product valuable. Think how much money the record publishing companies could save if they could eliminate artists entirely!
John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.Net)

Re:And my question ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542291)

it may just work and break the cycle in the process. i mean i had a system of predicting stock price changes and it worked well untill i started using it to strade, then it broke because of the way i was trying to interject my own speculation. my system basically just gave a hint weather or not the price was going to move up or down. it didn't tough on by how much but was acurate enough to know when and wich direction.

Can't be done (4, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542199)

Mapping the higher order functions (if there are any) of the teenage and prepubescent female brain is nigh impossible.

On the other hand, predicting what will be popular might be very easy.
Next big pop hit = whatever the record companies tell them it will be.

Witness the last American Idol. Who did the sheeple choose? The large black guy, Rueben. Months later, who do you hear the most about? The Howdy Doody lookalike who came in second place, Clay.

"you vill like vhat ve vant, not what you vant!"

Re:Can't be done (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542360)

Which just goes to show how racist America still is. You just don't get black pop stars if they're not singing hip hop or jazz or some of that other Africian style music.

Classical (4, Interesting)

J_Omega (709711) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542204)

AFAIK, this isn't new. This technique has been in use for years, at least theoretically.

IIRC, this was first tested on random samplings of classical music. Beethoven and Mozart scored significantly better that others.

Re:Classical (1, Offtopic)

Silh (70926) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542382)

Among classical listeners you are more likely to find greater discernment though, especially among people who play instruments... they're likely to enjoy music for which they get a good part. I know some people who really don't like Beethoven too much since the orchestral part they play in his pieces is utterly boring (a commonly seen thing from the classical period forward for supporting parts).

Some people prefer music from the romantic period, some like more modern fare, and some like myself prefer baroque (Beethoven I find boring, Mozart... so-so; Handel would be my composer of choice). It's somewhat misleading to lump everything into just 'classical' just because it involves the traditional classical instruments. There are too many varied styles. And most 'classical' listeners I know listen for different things... technique, difficulty of the part... lots of variety.

The other thing about classical music is you'll get many varying interpretations depending on who's conducting/performing. Regardless of who composed it, there'll be performances I disagree with and performances I'll love just because of the tempo, the dynamics, and of course, the quality of the performers.

As popular music ... probably 99% I just can't stand listening to. Most of the time it's a simple a thing as their doing nothing but singing the same note over and over, or the same phrase of 3 or 4 notes repeated ad nauseum. It's very hard to appreciate it musically when there is very little or no melody... and usually it just ends up grating on my nerves. Often the only part I can really appreciate is the drummer if they do something more interesting than the standard rock beat, or maybe the bass if they're doing some embellishing and not just the same 3-note loop as well. And the vocalists ... well, compared to a trained classical voice, you can't really compare. I tend to pay more attention to the composition than how well the performance is done, but that all goes to heck if the singer doesn't manage to stay in tune...

Reliability (quote from link) ? (3, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542207)

Quote : " What do big hits typically score? As stated above we tend to use 7.00 and higher as a score for a hit song because that's where they tend to score. There have been hits that score a little lower but the promotion has tended to be more aggressive. Some big hits score very low on the HSS scale but more than make up for that low score in other aspects of analyses that a label can do on your music with us if you happen to be negotiating a deal. ".


It sound like "we found some correlation, but there is data outside the correlation, and sometimes downright anti-correlation between reality and prediction". I think without looking at the data and the real corelation coeficient between "predicting it will be a hit" and "it was a hit" it is difficult to say anything. And even then, correlation between data does not mean there is causal relation, although *pleasing* to the ear is certainly why we hear at music. I think this kleave other factor out. For example the signification of the lyrics. You ear Mozart uniquely for the pure sound pleasantness, but you do not ear some of the rock/pop for its sound only (try it, many of the greatest hit sound "bland" without their lyric).


Plus even if they try to "reassure" customer in their FAQ, if you comapre things to the past and try to reproduce what has the best functionned in the past, then you will never innovate. Which is IMO the biggest problem now (and it feels that new bands/singer are solely choosen on their look, given prefabricated lyric and tune, and marketed as prima dona, instead of having bands/singer raise on their own by the sheer beauty of their music).

People don't want origionality (2, Insightful)

nuggz (69912) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542210)

People don't want origionality, they don't want something new.
Occassionally there is a blip and people get excited about something. But mostly they are content to wander through life with a catchy tune in their hollow little heads.

Circular logic (3, Insightful)

An'Desha Danin (666568) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542212)

So wait a minute.

The algorithm uses the top 30 songs of the last five years as its base of comparison. It then analyzes thousands of songs and determines which ones are most likely to be hits, and those that score best are selectively fed into the market. These songs by necessity become the next set of top 30 hits, and are again used as the algorithm's base of comparison.

So basically, the basis of the system is "these songs will be hits because I say they'll be hits, and I say they'll be hits because they sound like songs that I said would be hits." Isn't this a really, really bad (read: dangerous) case of circular logic?

Re:Circular logic (1)

SharpNose (132636) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542282)

Yeah, pretty much! But, it's no different than what record execs do with their own ears.

I would LOVE to run Emerson Lake and Palmer's "Tarkus" through this algorithm. I'm a big fan of ELP, but not even *I* listen to the studio version other than as an exercise. By contrast, the 1973-74 live version practically jumps out of your speakers.

And, you can say what you want about 80s pop music but that was a decade in which people were going out of their way to give songs uniqueness - not so this decade!

This is ass-covering for executives.... (3, Insightful)

xedd (75960) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542213)

It's designed to be a tool for them to protect themselves from mistakes.

"Well, it bombed in the market, but the software algorithm said it had a chance. I did what the software said was right."

It's your run-of-the-mill corporate bullshit. No creativity, and no real courage to try something different and take a risk.

How do you think we got Milli Vanilli? ...And the endless variations of the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block?

The music industry as it is, is little more than a middle-man. Cut them out of the picture, and the consumers benefit, and the REAL artists do too!

One small question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542214)

They claim to have predicted the commercial success of Norah Jones through this method.

Who the fuck is Norah Jones? Commercial success and I've never heard the name before today.

Re:One small question (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542229)

It's Britney Spears' real name [google.com] , amusingly enough.

Re:Next question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542248)

Why are you so gay?

Re:Next question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542305)

Stop flirting with me, please.

Oh come on, this is easy (2, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542218)


Popularity = k . MarketingBudget

The more they hype it, the more the buying public (increasingly younger teenagers, I wait for the day they get to "pocket-money" kids who simply can't afford it - the industry will implode) will cough up....

Simon the cynic.

+11 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542220)

(x>11)->sexist

I already have this on my Ti-83+ (0)

mfivis (592345) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542222)

ClrHome
Menu("Pop Machine","Hybrid Genre + Classical Soundtrack",1,"CopyCat Band",2)
Lbl 1
Disp "Genre 1"
Prompt A
Disp "Genre 2"
Prompt B
Output "New artist is," A+B ",with a flair of Beethoven."
Lbl 2
Disp "Current Hotties"
Prompt H
Disp "Number of artists in your group"
Prompt N
If H = bandname.acronym
Then
Output N("th")("nd")("rd") + Random.Constellation.Name
Else
Output first.letters
End

Hit Song Science program (1)

iocc (238550) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542228)

Someone that have the program, send me a email. I want to run my favorite mp3s through it and see what it thinks about them :)

Recipe music (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542230)

Early on in their FAQ they claim:

Historically, what is pleasing to the human ear has not changed since man began writing music. What has changed are styles, performances, the instruments used and the way music is produced and recorded, but a compelling melody is still compelling ...

Okay, so far, so good; it sounds like they're saying "good music is good music, and here's a tool for telling whether something is good or not." I'm still skeptical at this point, but it's certainly an interesting idea, and one worthy of study.

But then they completely lose me with this one:

A high score means that a song is mathematically similar to recent hit songs and a low score means it is dissimilar. These scores have meaning when it comes to success potential in today's market but is not meant to mean a song is good or bad. For example, when tested for today's market some really great classic hits from the 60's 70's and 80's score very low and would most likely not become hits today with their original production or chord progression. That does not mean that they are not good songs and it is quite possible that if produced more in line with today's sounds they could score much higher.
IOW, our algorithm says music is good if it sounds like everything else people think is good right now, and if it's different from current Top 40, it's crap.

They make a high-flown reference to the 36 Plots and other serious attempts at artistic analysis, but that's not what they're actually doing. I do believe that good music is good music, good stories are good stories, etc. I can at least consider seriously the hypothesis that all good art has certain qualities in common, and that by analyzing those qualities we can evaluate a new work's chance of lasting success. But the idea that musicians (or writers, or whatever) can keep pumping out stuff exactly like What's Hot Now and be guaranteed a blockbuster is just stupid.

Re:Recipe music (1)

reboot246 (623534) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542288)

Exactly. I've always called it "cookie cutter music" because they go by a set recipe. So all the boy bands sound just alike and all dance bands sounds just alike. The reason that the practice is so hard to end is because the generations change every few years. You get a whole new batch of musically ignorant 14-year olds who think the crap is the newest, best thing.

If I hear a song on the radio and I can't tell who it is, I change the station. Real talent stands out from the rest. If only the recording execs would see it that way...

Re:Recipe music (2, Insightful)

Ed Avis (5917) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542301)

They make no claim to assess whether music is 'good' or 'crap'. All they try to predict is whether it will sell.

If 'what's hot now' stops selling in large numbers then the algorithm will be adjusted - presumably they keep feeding in the latest songs and their sales volumes.

Re:Recipe music (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542355)

But they're still chasing their own tail, IMO. They may be able to predict the next Hit That Sounds Like All The Other Current Hits, but they'll completely miss the hits that are successful because they remind people of something they liked a long time ago, or even -- gasp! -- because they're actually original.

Like I said, I can believe that there's a common thread running through all great music. I just can't believe that the majority of currently successful pop music (not a slam on current pop music per se -- most Top 40 has always been disposable crap) embodies it.

You bring up an interesting point, about caring about sales vs. quality. The thing is -- and this an issue for book publishers as well as music publishers -- that it's worth thinking in the long term. Flash-in-the-pan teenybopper pop can make lots of money, true. But the artists whose stuff keeps selling, year after year, who are the true greats, can make the publishers more money in the long run. The calculated death of the midlist is IMO one of the major reasons for a lot of publishers' current financial woes, and they Just Don't Get It.*

---
* Disposable pop culture reference 101

Re:Recipe music (1)

The One KEA (707661) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542402)

I agree with you. So much of the stuff currently being released by pop artists is rubbish that I wouldn't give a second thought to. It's all about image and reputation and MONEY, and not about writing new songs that truly appeal to people.

I find myself liking music from real musicians, people like Celine Dion and Faith Hill. I think pop music is utter crap. Hopefully this algorithm won't be used to stifle the new, fresh, original stuff and pump out the same old crap just to try to make short-term money.

Re:Recipe music (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542370)

The "music hasn't changed" claim is also absolute horseshit. The music of Asia and India and aboriginal Australia is vastly, vastly different from contemporary Western music. Different tonal scales, different ideas about what makes a harmonious chord, etc.

A reasonable assumption based on recent popular hits that people like lots of beat, or lots of vocals, or songs with high young feminine soprano voices, or gravelly low-sing male voices, etc. seems completely reasonable. But concepts of musical quality change vastly over time and among cultures: it's hardly an absolute.

The Manual (3, Interesting)

phaxkolumbo (572192) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542234)

The Manual [instrumentality.com] - how to have a number one - the easy way.

Written by the Timelords (the KLF)

(i know, this is a bit offtopic, but hey!, why not?)

tracking scene? (1)

jeffehobbs (419930) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542235)


"I for one, still like the fresh talent and community feel of the tracking scene."

And I, for one, long for the return to the simplicity and elegance of railway travel.

~jeff

Re:tracking scene? (1)

YU Nicks NE Way (129084) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542289)

And I, for one, welcome our new tracking overlords.

Re:tracking scene? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542380)

And I, for one, welcome our new welcoming our new overlords overlords

Here is MY question... (0)

nado (101599) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542238)

Who is Norah Jones? What kind of a hitter is that singer if noone ever heard of him/her?

Does it include T&A factor? (1)

I-R-Baboon (140733) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542245)

There should be a constant for that, I mean this is pop music. How many guys in the bar when chilling after a long day of slinging code comment on how nice Britney's voice is and her complete understanding of music and musical theory...and how many talk about her nice tits and fine ass as well as how hot she is.

Sexual appeal is a huge cornerstone for Pop, and a major factor in it's success.

it's the other way around (4, Interesting)

newsdee (629448) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542260)

A few years ago I saw an interview of a "composer" (forgot his name). They're guys who are somewhat famous because their name is in a lot of albums, but in very small print: they compose the actual music that the band plays. This is standard practice, apparently.

Anyway the point is that the guy pointed out that most pop tunes were rehashes of older pop hits. Maybe you create a different style with different instruments or beat, but the underlying melody is the same. He then showed some examples, in how some modern R&B titles were lifted off some older Rock titles. It's not that hard to believe though, look at how Puff Daddy makes a living out of talking fast over music of old hits.

So in short, one way to predict if a music will be a hit is by creating a database of previous hits and test the correlation...

[and then of course, there's those who say that Classical music tried every combination possible, so nothing can be new afterwards - but that's maybe a little extreme].

Re:it's the other way around (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542362)

This is pretty much how a lot of songs are written.

There are a few other constraints to lots of pop music:

It must be from 3-4 minutes long. This one is almost completely rigid, completely artificial, and one of my most hated constraints. From my understanding, it had to do with several factors including radio revenue, attention spans, number of songs per album (i.e., LPs). I hate this constraint because lots of songs need time to develop for the artists' intended effect.

The song format is very similar, sometimes marketed to producers entirely around a single hook phrase. There's the obligatory bridge and sometimes a solo to (har har) showcase a singer's or performer's (har har) virtuosity.

Market a song around a hook? Oh yeah. Silly me -- I used to think that you needed a complete song, lyrics, vocals, my amazing guitar work (Spanish, Satriani, Ry Cooder influenced) and cool lyrics (product of a hard life, liberal education, and a mathematics degree). Nope, just a phrase is all you need. Really. Six words is about right. You can quickly build a song around it. Or have them build a song for you to perform...

Re:it's the other way around (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542433)

Perhaps they're right... to my ear, punk owes a lot to the heavier classical stuff, in terms of how the music hangs together structurally. This probably explains stuff like Mike Batt, that can't decide if it wants to be classical or hard rock [g]

(PS. I'm a big fan of Mike Batt. :)

How'd Jacko score on this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542267)

Not that I'm surprised by what anyone wearing one glove and singing "Beat It" would do...

Snake oil? (5, Interesting)

Xzzy (111297) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542272)

The article states:

"This software will compare the song to a database that contains the "top-30" hit songs of the past five years in order to search for mathematical similarities. The algorithm then assigns each song a score between one and 10. Any song rated more than seven is likely to become a hit."

Now think about this.. use musical eras like the 80's and early 90's as an example because it's reasonably safe to assume this technology didn't exist at that point.

Look at the charts in 5 year chunks, it all sounds the same. In the 80's, everyone either used a synthesizer or had a raging, face-melting solo at some point in the song. Or the early 90's, "grunge" was being pounded into our head incessantly.

It was like that because it was popular. Band X makes it big, and suddenly Bands X1 through X255 appear on the charts mimicing this sound. This seems to happen in, amazingly enough, cycles of 5 years.

Seems to me this software does nothing to show the "hitability" of a song, but rather telling you whether or not it sounds just like what's currently popular, and has been for the past couple years.

Seems about as magical to me as as an algrorythm claiming it can detect boys that like looking at porn.

Um... (4, Funny)

cjpez (148000) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542277)

They claim to have predicted the commercial success of Norah Jones through this method.
Who?

Re:Um... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542389)

The dude who built the ark and saved all those animals.

Nothing new here (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542279)

It's not so much that the algorithim can determine that the song will be a hit, it's that the algorithim picks a song apart and lumps it with similar songs - whether the similar songs were or are hits is what determines whether a given specimen will make it onto the Billboard charts.

Using Algorithms for Music (1)

dollar70 (598384) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542284)

Here's my question (which is not fully answered in their FAQ): if they (music company executives) are currently using the algorithm to screen submissions for their "hitability", can we (people who listen to music) use the same algorithm to reject recycled tunes and encourage originality?

I really hate to even remotely sound like I'm going to defend the music industry, but: Why don't you decide for YOURSELF without any help from your peers or technology as to the merits of the music? All music is just noise unless it is appreciated by a human being. Think for yourself, and don't let the media industry, your friends, your government, or anyone tell you who you are ever again.

I admit that using an algorithm to determine whether a song gets air time or not is a pretty sucky way to do business, but no one is forcing you to listen to a "Clear Channel" type station in the first place.

Well.. (1)

HawkingMattress (588824) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542299)

Aren't the mainstream pop music composers already using algorithms to make each song ? It surely sounds like they do !
I bet one could make a program that takes say 20 samples , indicate which one is supposed to be the drums, etc, and and have the program compose the song.
Maybe it could compose the chant melody by recognizing actual chords in the samples, and applying known hamonic rules to end up with a melody to put on top of it...
In fact I suppose some midi softs are already capable of doing scuh things.

All this mainstream crap is sooo predictible it makes me sick (I mean one could write down the totality of one of those songs just by listening to the first 20 seconds... Which is not the case with real music)

Re:Well.. (1)

lederen (718084) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542404)

Maybe it could compose the chant melody by recognizing actual chords in the samples, and applying known hamonic rules to end up with a melody to put on top of it...

Yes. Much like if I were to tell you that the sum of 10 numbers was 100, you'd be able to accurately determine which 10 numbers I added together.

Yeah, that could work...

There may only be a limited number of "good plots" (1)

occamboy (583175) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542317)

My (somewhat vague) recollection is that Kurt Vonnegut's (originally rejected) PhD thesis looked at the plot lines of many books, using the X axis as time and the Y axis as good fortume or bad fortune for the principle character. It turned out that there were only a few graphs that led to best-sellers; any books that tried a different tack were not popular. (Except possibly for Shakespeare; Vonnegut mentioned that he could never figure out what was good- or bad-fortune in a Shakespeare play).

It may simply be that certain things are hard-wired into us, and these criteria must be met for a majority of us to enjoy a literary, musical, or other creative work.

This does not rule out creativity. For example, most everyone inherently loves a 12-bar blues tune, so basing a new song on this is not a bad idea. But the Beatles could do much different things within this "limitation" than could Robert Johnson or The Clash. All were very creative, but many of there songs had commonality.

and my question is - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7542328)

If you want to reject empty, valueless music, why not listen with a critical ear and pay attention. Why do you need a computer to tell you what you like?

Algorithm and blues (4, Insightful)

wytcld (179112) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542334)

Those of us who were listening to pop music during the 60s enjoyed continuous creativity from many different directions, all going directly into widely popular stuff. Then the music marketing business got its formulas - its algorithms - together in the early 70s and there hasn't been a similar sustained wave of pop culture creativity since. The difference in the 60s, in large part, was that the record companies had seen their old formulas largely stop working about when the 60s began, and so were left to their resourcefulness in finding good stuff beyond their former formulaic sensibilities. By the time the 70s came, a younger generation of music executives had come in who could distill formulas from the prior decade of experience and render rock-based pop largely morbid, as swing-based pop tunes had become by the 50s.

Those of us who live by algorithms should recognize that there are some sorts of human creative intelligence which cannot be captured by formulas, or replaced by them (see physicist Roger Penrose's books on this). If something like this firm's algorithm is really accurate, it should be possible to evolve a neural net to compose pop songs simply by having the success of its efforts defined by feedback from the formula. Would you find living in that world inspiring?

Much of the best of 60s pop music was haunted and quirky. That's what happens when the creative is in the lead, rather than the formulaic. Compare the Elizabethan stage. Human expression triumphs when the formulas, while still there for reference, cease to have a stranglehold over production.

So it's true... (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542366)

I've long thought that the reason that I disliked most of what passed as ``popular'' music was that it was too formulaic. I used to think it was just ``herd think'' by music industry executives but now it turns out that they've just been following a recipe and these guys just reverse engineered it.

How long before I can get a box that I can connect to the stereo that displays the level of adherence to The Formula so I can get a visual indication of why I dislike a certain song and can change the station. Oops! Bad idea. The indicator would pretty much peg whenever I had a commercial radio station selected.

computers are here to stay (1)

perbu (624267) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542373)

.. can we use the same algorithm to reject recycled tunes and encourage originality? I for one, still like the fresh talent and community feel of the tracking scene.

Why are you alienated by the fact that your brain works in a predictable manner? This is nothing new - the formulae for "beautiful women" has been known for years. This is just one more step in the process of understanding how we work. I guess we will see more and more of this - in a few years we will probably see computers improving food recipies, making whisky and designing clothes.

Corruptability Factor (0)

dontbgay (682790) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542393)

From the article. [polyphonichmi.com]

In a retail environment, both the "more like this" and the "music taste test" can be efficiently presented on in-store terminals, or on a retail website. The same technique could be applied to many other situations, such as automatically recommending songs from a personal collection as a playlist, or anywhere that commonalities between pieces of music can be useful.

Now, call me a cynic but i see a very high possibility for corruption in the retail market. When the public gets a taste for their product, the recording industry can just use it for more marketing. All they have to do is insert what they want the public to think is going to be "the next big thing" and someone will bite, causing a trend. Maybe I should find my tinfoil hat?

Hit Song "Science" (1)

lonedfx (80583) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542419)

So they have predicted the success of Norah Jones (whoever she is), but how many false positives have they identified too ? How many hits have they missed ?

If you only report your successes, but not your failures, your "science" is gonna look much better than it really is, until someone comes along and check all your results. Of course, if you can patent your "science" and make it unavailable for scrutiny, then you may continue with the BS.

The real question IMO is why there is the word "science" in there. Can anybody say "cargo cult" ?

lone, dfx.

Generate music (1)

bumby (589283) | more than 10 years ago | (#7542444)

No longer are the artists needed, it's just to generate some random noice, check it with the algorythm and see if it will be a hit or not.

Perfect! :)
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