How MP3.com used to identify local-hero bands

· The Power of Many

By the time you’ve heard of a popular band they often represent a kind of supergroup built out of the hottest bands from some microscene you’ve generally never heard of. Via Andy Baio’s Waxy Links I stumbled upon an interesting article detailing how MP3.com, the now-defunct online music site, used to mine their data to identify bands that were not yet showing up on the national charts.
Here’s an interesting look at the common characteristics of bands that were making an impression on their local scenes without major-label support:

  1. These bands were generally pre-Soundscan (they didn’t show up on local retail sales figures because they only sold their CDs at shows.)
  2. They were organized online using a combination of IM, blogs, and street team tools to get the word out.
  3. A majority of them were playing all-ages venues which didn’t normally pop up on the radar of club goers. (Who wants to hang out with 15 year olds? ;-) )
  4. The genres of music were genres that weren’t typically represented by MTV, radio and retail and were clustered around emo/pop punk and grindcore.
  5. These bands generally played around 50-100 shows a year.

(Emphasis added.)
Derrick Oien, the author of the blog entry, makes this additional interesting observation:

Most content businesses are driven by people with a subjective understanding of content whose taste can discern whether or not something can be a hit. My hypothesis was that when you have a large number of people, quantitative data can be used as a proxy for subjective or qualitative measures that typically come from A&R etc.

Paging James Surowiecki….