Students Alán Hensley and Laura Shand from the global entertainment and music business master’s program reflect upon the seventh of the Music Business Seminars, where they were able to listen to Chris Carey during his talk ‘Big Data’.

Last week we had the distinct pleasure of hosting Chris Carey, an acclaimed economist and insight specialist, for our Global Entertainment and Music Business Seminar to give a lecture on big data analytics. Initially, one may find it odd for a music school to ask an economist to give a lecture on statistics and analytics, but soon into the lecture it becomes easy to discern the useful application for such knowledge. It would be safe to say that most of us Berklee students wouldn’t list math or statistics as our favorite academic areas of study, in fact, the two subjects wouldn’t make most of our top 5 lists. The thought of even doing a regression analysis pushes most of us students to instead devote time honing our musical craft with our instruments or fortifying our techniques in the studio. The rationale is that if we perfect our artistry, statistics and complex math may never have to be part of our career. While a quantitative analysis of music preferences in Europe may not be in the foreseeable future for most Berklee students, Chris Carey quickly opened our eyes as to why we should consider learning about one of the increasingly influential areas of the music industry. Chris’s lecture illustrated that data analytics is a growing sector in the music industry that is rapidly shaping the business environment and how organizations react to the market.

The beginning of the lecture began with Chris divulging his backstory telling us how he graduated from Kent University in 2006 with a degree in Economics. After working in banking for two years he attained the position of Senior Economist at PRS for Music where he analyzed industry trends and applied them to the music industry. In October 2011 he moved to EMI Music where he was the Global Insight Director. Soon after, Universal Music Group bought EMI which retained Chris and all the work he had done. As Global Insight Director he worked alongside the Global Consumer Insight team to deliver partner and country insight. Partner insight is the analysis of how people interact with an organizations music and artists while company insight analyzes the market in the music and technology industry. Boasting a resume that includes his recent feature in Music Week’s 30 under 30 list for 2014, Chris’s credentials quickly captivated the attention of the lecture audience. Despite his impressive background, it was his insight on the use of data and statistics that really opened our eyes to the endless applications data analysis can yield.

Having helped embed the consumer insight team at Universal, Chris left to create his own company, Media Insight Company, where he could have the freedom and control of whatever he wanted to pursue. Media Insight Company is a consulting company used by large and small organizations to address the growing need for data analysis and expertise. Big data can vastly attribute to a company’s growth or regression. Data gives you the ability to make predictions about a company’s future using quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the market. According to Chris, “The funny thing about predicting the future is that you can influence the future.” This statement is very telling of the influence data analysis can have for a company. Information gathered to forecast years ahead of a company’s operations utilizes behavioral data of current and past operations. When companies see their projected routes, they gain the ability to harness this data and reroute the course of their organization through changes of their business operations. Data itself is valuable, but knowing what to do with it is even more important. Many companies already have a lot of the data that they need, but they just don’t know how to use it. This is where Chris’s company comes in to help. Chris believes that big data is beginning to “fill the gaps” of the entertainment industry. For example, if a Spanish music label wants to begin selling their music outside of Spain they can utilize a consulting service, like Media Insight Consulting, to help them analyze the sales breakdown of a country or region. This paints a clear picture of the market state the Spanish label is trying to enter by displaying consumer preferences such as physical album sales compared to digital, or a market’s music consumption trends (whether they own vs. stream records). This then allows for strategic marketing tactics to be put in place by the Spanish label to help attain the best strategy to capture a new market. Ultimately we see how big data can pilot decisions within music business.

Big data analytics is beginning to manifest itself as a main driver of business decisions. Before we had the technology to capture all these metrics and ratios, the industry utilized know-­‐how and narrow KPI’s to fuel their decisions. Now the floodgates have opened and we know more information than ever before about customers in the entertainment industry. With the advent of social media, there has never been more information about consumers and their behaviors. Many companies partner with Facebook (i.e. “Log in using Facebook”) which gives them access to even more personal information. Today this information is often overlooked by many music companies, when in fact it is the most important data they have at their disposal. With the forecast Chris Carey’s lecture conveyed, we learned that big data is going to be the future of the entertainment industry. Many companies are intimidated by the price of harnessing a service like Chris’s company because it looks quite expensive at first as one study can cost up to £70,000. Chris tells us that this can actually be quite affordable, £5,000 per month, when spread over the course of a year.

As the word gets out on the tantalizing usage of data analysis and metric literacy, we can see a future where music company’s devote more resources to employing services like Insight Media Consulting. It is not absurd to imagine a future where companies within the music industry have insight and data analysis as just a prominent aspect of their business as a sales department. Top industry decision makers will be empowered with the best tools to make executive decisions and mobilize the most appropriate strategic actions. This use of data analysis could lead to organizations refining their companies to operate more efficiently and offer better services tailored to the exact needs of consumers. Chris Carey’s lecture showed us the influence harnessing the power of data can have on businesses. While only a handful of companies currently embrace the value of analytics within music, it is just the beginning of a growing data movement soon to influence the whole music industry.