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Tech News (more headlines) 02-25-2003

Major Music Labels Use Artificial Intelligence To Help Determine "Hitability" Of Music

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February 24, 2003 (Barcelona, Spain)— Have you ever wondered why some songs burn up and down the charts in record time while others have a slower climb, tend to linger and then slowly fall? Have you ever wondered why some songs that seem to have "hit" written all over them do not perform as expected while others seem to come out of nowhere and become monster successes? Science would say the reasons can be found in the mathematical properties of the music and which mathematical patterns produce certain feelings and reactions to what we hear.

Polyphonic HMI, based in Barcelona, Spain has developed an artificial intelligence application that helps music labels determine the hit potential of music prior to its release.  The new application is to music what x-rays are to medicine, allowing labels to see mathematical patterns and structures in music that until now have been hidden. Not being able to see these patterns in the past has meant that a lot of money gets spent on promoting singles and albums that do not have what it takes.

The company is working with major labels in both the US and the UK and expects to play a major role in reversing the downward music sales trend.

The application is called Hit Song Science (HSS) and independent and major labels alike began experimenting with the service in the third and forth quarters of 2002 to learn how to best apply the technology and new information to their respective artists and businesses.  Now the company is working at various levels within all five major label groups. Some of the labels already using or exploring the service include Universal UK, Sony, RCA, J,(of the BMG group) Innocent,(of the EMI group) and Liquid 8 (independent). The company expects most labels to begin using the service this year.

"Because the technology is so new and potentially revolutionary, at first we were greeted with natural skepticism but as label presidents have gotten personally involved in using the reports we generate on their music that skepticism has gone away. We're helping labels increase productivity by selling more music to more people and augment the efficiency of their marketing spend." says Polyphonic HMI's CEO Mike McCready.

Muff Winwood of Sony UK adds, "The kind of information Polyphonic HMI provides in their pre-release reports helps reduce uncertainty before releasing a given song."

Polyphonic also has begun to experiment with the technology at the production level of music creation. By teaming up with veteran artists and producers the application adds to the creative process by isolating the important attributes of the music which will allow new sounds and styles to flourish. One of these producers is Peter Swartling. Peter headed the local BMG A&R department in Sweden for 7 years and is now a consultant to Sony Music. His artists and projects have garnered over 20 Grammy awards.

Peter, now based in New York City says, "We, as producers have an ability to "hear" what sounds right and what doesn't. Making hit songs is what we do. However I think we can always become more precise and that is what we're doing with Hit Song Science".

Polyphonic's HSS analyzes the underlying mathematical patterns in unreleased music and compares them to the patterns in recent hit songs.  The new technology can isolate individual patterns in key aspects of the music that humans detect and that help determine whether or not they like a given song. For example, the dictionary describes melody as a series of notes strung together in a meaningful pattern. But determining what is "meaningful" is a very human and very subjective experience. This technology is able to detect what those melody patterns are as well as decipher patterns in other aspects of the music such as beat, harmony, pitch, octave, fullness of sound, brilliance and chord progression. 

The application can recognize hidden market trends and consumer taste patterns as they evolve over time as well as complex intricacies of recorded music only understood at very deep levels of the human consciousness. Most people can't explain why they like a certain song beyond saying they like blues, or a good beat and a strong melody. This technology can actually pinpoint what complex patterns are most attractive to a given listener or audience. Music labels are using the technology to better allocate promotion spending, accurately predict sales and anticipate the market.

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