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Music Media

New Computer Program Determines "Hitability" 482

illuminatedwax writes "It looks like the process of homogenizing the mediocrity of Top 40 radio is going to be aided by a computer, according to an article from the Music Industry News Network. Polyphonic HMI has developed a new program called Hit Song Science (HSS) and compares "underlying mathematical patterns" in current hit songs and compares them to a new song to determine if it will become a hit or not. Looks like we can expect even more of the same old junk being recycled for us on the radio, although the article claims that it 'will allow new sounds and styles to flourish.'"
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New Computer Program Determines "Hitability"

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  • by abh ( 22332 ) <ahockley@gmail.com> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:10AM (#5393909) Homepage
    This works if you assume that a "new" or "different" song isn't likely to be a hit.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Isn't that a valid assumption? I can't think of any top 40 "hits" of any genre that are different and groundbreaking. That's why I use an MP3 player in my car instead of a radio.
    • So the Barenaked Ladies were right... It's All Been Done. Woo-hoo-hoo!

      One minute... (sticks finger down throat)...

      Bawaaaarrrff..
      • by whereiswaldo ( 459052 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:34AM (#5394041) Journal
        But seriously, if pattern matching was the holy grail to hit songs, why don't people just copy Elvis forever?
        Obviously there are more variables involved here, like maybe the current economic, geopolitical, El-Nino, fashion variables and countless others?

        They should just repackage their software and make an MP3-deduper for everyone's large collections.
        • by buswolley ( 591500 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:38AM (#5394256) Journal
          breast size. but also how well the breasts create pleasing cleavage. Jeans low on hip... lips puckered for..

          music? silly you, we dont sell music we sell sex icons.

          they sing so they have an excuse to dance. They dance so they can move their body sexual rthym and imitation.

          • by Jayson ( 2343 ) <jnordwick@gm a i l .com> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @05:20AM (#5394386) Homepage
            Who was the big winner? Was it some teen sex idol? No. It was the daughter of a sitar player.
            • by Gonarat ( 177568 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @09:43AM (#5395167)

              Exactly. This makes 2 years in a row that an album that was not pushed by the machine made it to number one. Last year's winner was Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, which was good ol' Bluegrass, and this year it was Nora Jones. CNN [cnn.com] has an interesting article (considering they are Time/Warner) about the fact that these 2 albums were made hits by word of mouth instead of by radio play.


              The commercial music industry is broken. Music is being discovered through word-of-mouth instead of through industry channels. I know that is true for me, I have investigated more music through slashdot posts in the last year than from radio and this means more business for indy (non RIAA) labels. I fact I listen to NPR talk radio on the way to work, and to an '80s stationn if the wife is in the car (she hates talk radio). The RIAA isn't going to sell anything to me this way -- I already have most of the music that the '80s station plays.

              • It also helps that the Grammys are not based upon sales. You win an award at the Grammys byb eing voted on by "other music professionals" not everyone who watches MTV. So what it really says is that the music professionsals love what they do so much that the vote for other people.

                In short, Britney may be well marketed but she really isn't a hit with her peers.
            • You can bet, though, that there will be some Norah Jones soundalikes being pushed through the great Music Industry machine in the next few months, if they aren't already. And they probably will be teen sex idols to boot.
            • No.

              Though I find it really spooky that they'd be anyone's yardstick for a music's goodness.

              It's just a meta-effect of herd mentality, means nothing.

              Tune out. Be yourself.

    • by JasonStiletto ( 653819 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @05:23AM (#5394395)
      if you had access to the program, and you fed it the songs that were your own personal hits, maybe rated them, it would be better than just about anything else at telling you what else you'd like. Finding you bands you'd never heard of that were actually pretty good. It could allow you to expand your musical horizons rather than forcing you into the narrow spam mold of the cold musical marketing machine. It could easily evolve into a simple web based tool to sell more and a broader variety of music, but they'd never even think of it.
      • Launch.com currently allows you to vote on a scale how much you like/dislike a song - then based on that it recommends other songs to you.
        But it doesn't analyze anything in the acutal music.

        For that, I would recommend FFT and backprop Neural Nets being added to the existing ranking methods that they have - but in the end, your own brain is likely better at it.
      • Yes, so long as "what I will like" = "what I like now".

        Personally, while there may be some relationship between the two, I'll happily use my own brain, listen to stuff and DECIDE if I like it. It's actually pretty effortless.
        • Considering the proportion of garbage on the air, it would be a fair trade. Still, a better use would be as a "Junk Filter", to decide ahead of time what I *wouldn't* like. (And remember, you need to check the junk filter every once in awhile to make sure the settings haven't gotten bollixed up.)

  • by Anonymous Coward
    increases "hitability" in elementary school.
  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Golias ( 176380 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:12AM (#5393925)
    The media is already telling you what songs you will be listening to. Why would they need a computer to tell them what they already know?
    • Re:Why? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You mean: why would they need to *spend money* on a computer to tell them what record companies are *giving them money* to know?
    • by thundercatzlair ( 539698 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:59AM (#5394131)
      Rivers uses a mathematical formula when writing his songs based on songs by several bands including Nirvana. As a huge Weezer fan, I'd have to say he's on to something. He's talked candidly about it in interviews. I'm at least fairly interested in what comes of this.

      As far as the media telling you what you'll be listening to...
      You've got a point, but it's slowly eroding away. Payolla (sp) is now illegal. With all the attention companies like Clear Channel have gotten for owning such a high percentage of the nation's radio stations could soon result in regulation. Then we've got those nasty little P2P file sharing networks lurking around with mp3z to download. *wink*

      You've got to face the fact that these record companies and radio stations only care about the money. If they can run a program that will reliably tell them if song A is more likely to be a hit than song B... maybe they can spend less money on promoting song A and get the same results as if they had released song B with extra money for promotion. That's just common sense, man.

      thundercatzlair
      • Payolla (sp) is now illegal.

        Forgive me if I'm wrong, but while it's illegal, I was under the impression it's still the de facto standard.

        If they can run a program that will reliably tell them if song A is more likely to be a hit than song B...

        That's a pretty big if. You have to make the assumption that in general, music tastes don't change, and that all hit music sounds the same. You also have to make the assumption that music tastes are not affected by the geopolitical situation or the economy. New genres never become popular and every generation likes the same thing.

        If it turns out that the program actually works, what does that say about music? Are we as listeners *really* that predictable? Is music really *that* formulaic? I'm not sure you could even call it art after this realization - there would be nothing to stop another program being written that uses the hit calculation formula to spit out cookie-cutter hit music.

        I really hope I don't have to mourn creativity's death at the hands of the knuckle-dragging masses and the "bottom-line."
      • by darnok ( 650458 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @06:02AM (#5394473)
        > Rivers uses a mathematical formula when writing
        > his songs based on songs by several bands
        > including Nirvana. As a huge Weezer fan, I'd have
        > to say he's on to something.

        Most popular music is almost totally based on formulas e.g.:
        - 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, repeat till end
        - verse/chorus/verse/chorus/mid 8/chorus
        - use I, IV, V, IIm, VIm chords
        - sad verses, upbeat choruses (Bruce Springsteen loves this one!)
        - something around 120 beats per minute is what gets people tapping their feet in time with the music, even if they're not actually consciously listening to it
        - various instruments have their frequency ranges compressed in certain ways; this is what frequently separates the good/big-selling producers from the bad/not-so-big. Listen to multiple albums from the one producer, even across several different artists or styles of music, and you'll pick up the "brand" of specific producers in how they mix specific instruments in the audio spectrum. ...and on and on

        Although I'm nowhere near up with state of the art, I'd be surprised if current sound analysis software couldn't detect most/all of the above and spit out some sort of number saying how well a song fits the above "rules".

        Finally, if there's any doubt that these formulas exist, check the early 80s bubblegum Brit Pop stuff produced by Stock Aitken Waterman. You could remove the vocals, and what's left of the songs are almost interchangeable.
        • by Entropy_ah ( 19070 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @07:38AM (#5394693) Homepage Journal
          - use I, IV, V, IIm, VIm chords

          bah! real men use EMacs chords.
        • by MartinB ( 51897 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @08:09AM (#5394772) Homepage

          They weren't called The Hit Factory [amazon.co.uk] for nothing...

          OTOH, Pete Waterman is *still* churning out acts that are hits (and has been a judge on two major UK Popstars talent shows along with his old mate Simon Cowell). And still happily copying classical structures [bbc.co.uk].

          And if you think this is a phenomenon of the last 2|5|10|20 years, bear in mind such formulae as the 12 bar blues and the 4 chord trick (I, VI, IV, V, repeat).

          But much of the gloss of pop music is (as suggested by parent post) in the arrangements, not the composition. Look at the number of covers in that compilation. Covers from the 50s, the 60s, the 70s. I would guess that much of the software we're talking about analyses arrangements and applies collaborative filtering based on what's selling at the moment.

          In the end though, it doesn't matter. Pop music is primarily entertainment, defined by commercial success. Don't mistake it for Art.

        • You've got western music on the nose there.

          3-chord rock came out of jazz in the mid 20th century. It's easy to play, and easy to listen to. There are sounds that are naturally pleasing to the western ear.

          120 bpm is a longtime holdover from military marches. A healthy person without ambulatory difficulties can walk comfortably to music set at 120 bpm, just ask any Sousa fanatic. (british marches are slightly faster, at 144bpm. don't know why that is)

          Actually, a lot of the structure of modern music is an amalgamation of military march styling and jazz. You can't march to music in 5/4 (or dance - check PDQ Bach for some of that silliness). Most marches also have a similar set up of refrains and bridges in their lyrical makeup.

          We've dropped the epic storytelling style of classical composition in favor or more portable, more approachable music, which was where the jazz bits came in. Sadly, the rise of pop music has devalued the art to the point where most of it is complete whiny crap. But that's why it's pop music. The listener really has nothing to lose or gain by having a different level of musical appreciation, since it's not musically complex and can therefore be comodified for john q. consumer.

          so, yeah.
          --mandi

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:13AM (#5393928)
    having Britney Spears rerecord the same song over, and over, and over and . . .Arrrrgh! Just shoot me now.

    KFG
    • by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:51AM (#5394290) Homepage
      Take a peak at who wrote her songs... and then take a peak at which other acts he has produced...

      It doesn't take some dumb machine to sell tons of CDs to the masses, it takes a few guys with insight into what would appeal to the masses, and then you find people who look right.

      I seriously don't think that the machine would fix me up with music I like, because the parameters would be all skewed towards the drooling idiots that are the masses. No wonder I don't buy CDs anymore, I rather put my money elsewhere thank you very much.
      • Is a perfect example of this. That show turns my stomach - what ever happened to musicians? They used to have bands on Star Search (I used to work with the keyboard player of Limited Warranty, we all gave him endless crap :) - there is nothing like that now. It's all pre-fab 'take a boobie girl or winsome lad, add 'hit' producer, sprinkle with lip syching, Protools, and liberal amount of Auto-Tune, add a dash of faceless backup band^W tracks and bake at 350 plays a day'. Ugh.

        Sounds like a recipe for food poisoning.

  • All I see this doing is allowing the RIAA to determine which songs should be invested in and which shouldn't be. Doesn't add to diversity because all it does is identify hits. If anything, it'll further homogenize corporate radio.

    What'll be scary is when they use a modification of this to write top 40 hits, thereby taking people out of the mix entirely. I wonder, could the RIAA support such "musicians" when there is no real "artist" (I don't see them calling the people who wrote the code the artists, for some reason)?

    By the way, this was posted over 24 hours ago on Fark. You'd think Slashdot would be a little faster on the updating.
  • by sllim ( 95682 ) <achance.earthlink@net> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:15AM (#5393934)
    I am the reason the music industry is dying.
    It couldn't possibly be the crap quotient that has gone up enormously over the last decade.

    It seems like more then ever the music industry just sticks with whatever sells, experimenting with new sounds, who wants to take that risk?

    Wow this thing will generate more of the same.

    Quantifying tastes in music.
    Evil.

    Oh yeah, the problem with the music industry.
    My bad.
    • This seems appropriate:
      "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
      Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
    • Amen... This is an industry which doesn't care about its fans. The Grammys were held a few days after the Rhode Island fire where 97 real music fans (say what you want about who they were there to see, these are the real fans - people who go see shows) died in a inferno.

      And what did the best and brightest of the industry have to say about this tragedy during the show? A moment of silence? Condolences to the families? Nope. Nothing. Worse than nothing, Nelly was up hopping around the flames singing "Hot in Here".

      Need any more proof that the music industry couldn't care less about its fans?

  • No step 3 (Score:3, Informative)

    by jamienk ( 62492 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:15AM (#5393935)
    1) Make song exactly like current hit
    2) PROFIT!!!
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:15AM (#5393938) Journal
    Do they give it all the songs ever, and it says "not a hit" for all of them, and it's 90% correct, because 90% of songs are worthless?

    Hell, I could write that.

    #!/bin/sh
    echo "not a hit"
  • by burgburgburg ( 574866 ) <splisken06 AT email DOT com> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:18AM (#5393952)
    1) Bohemian Rhapsody
    2) Smells Like Teen Spirit
    3) London Calling
    • You're right. Perhaps a better approach would be to take obscure artists, add them to the database:

      1) Richard D. James
      2) Gary Numan
      3) Botch

      Although these artists aren't well known now, I would bet that most electronic/industrial/punk (respectively) music in 5-10 years would be based on their work, if not already so.
      • Gary Numan as a forefather of future industrial music? I think not. KMFDM, Ministry, Front 242, etc. did Industrial before Gary Numan (he just did angsty synth-pop for a long time, e.g., "Cars.") That's not to say Numan wasn't very influential, but the industrial music 5 to 10 years from now will likely be more directly influenced by the acts mentioned above, and probably a lot of others. Apoptygma Berzerk and VNV Nation come to mind. Anyway. Yeah, the RIAA needs to add excellent acts like RDJ et al. to their database. Then they might be on to something. But that won't happen.
    • Not to mention anything by Tom Waits. Oh. Wait. He doesn't have hits. He's just a genius. We're agin those.

      Let's see. Warren Zevon, Lyle Lovett? Nope, not as out there as Tom, but not really "marketable." Maybe we'll let 'em write a few "B" side songs and do session work.

      Manhatten Transfer. Are you *crazy?* That's jazz. Everyone knows jazz is dead.

      Brian Setzer wants to record *what?* Swing? Man, that's just nuts. Swing is deader than jazz.And so is he. Last year's news.

      Rickie Lee Jones. Yeah, now we're talkin'. Have her make 12 new versions of "Chuck E's in Love."

      Bobby McFerrin. Ok, that's it. You've gone too far now. Get the hell out of my office and don't come back!

      KFG
    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <{gro.hsikcah} {ta} {todhsals-muiriled}> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:52AM (#5394293)
      You'd have to know more about how the system works to tell. It's very well possible that those songs share some mathematical similarities with other less original hit songs. Statistical methods can find rather deep hidden similarities even in superficially dissimilar things.
  • Algorithm (Score:5, Funny)

    by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:19AM (#5393953)

    if ((singer.pants == tight || singer.tits == big) && singer.works_cheap) score++;
  • by jvarsoke ( 80870 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:19AM (#5393955)
    An NPR article a few years ago reported how music companies decide which Country Music songs will be played on the radio. They cold call people and have them listen to 5 seconds of the song. This tortured person is then asked to rate the song 1-5. The music industry then takes all the songs that get 1s and 5s and discards them. It turns out that often when one group rates a song a 5 another will really hate the song and rate it a 1. So what the industry is really looking for is songs that score 3s.

    The reasoning behind all this is that if you hear a song that you'd rate a 1 (hate) you're likely to turn the radio dial. But if you hear a 3 you're not likely to have any particular response at all -- thus you'll stay tuned in for more comercials.

    Pop is probably done the exact same way. I guess that's why when you listen to "Classic hits of the [6-9]0s" you hear the same tripe over and again.
    • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:30AM (#5394020)


      > An NPR article a few years ago reported how music companies decide which Country Music songs will be played on the radio.

      Curiously, most of the "country" music that I hear on the radio these days sounds just like the second rate rock music of the 1970s, except for the addition of a handful of specific vocal mannerisms and an optional violin or steel guitar.

      > Pop is probably done the exact same way. I guess that's why when you listen to "Classic hits of the [6-9]0s" you hear the same tripe over and again.

      I think the "classic rock" format farted its brain out when they started having those "500 best of all time" weekends, where everyone could send in their votes for best song. They apparently used the results of those votes to prune their play lists to the sure winners. When the format first started they played a lot of interesting B-sides, album tracks, and other stuff that never made the top 40, but after a few years it got to where you could set your watch by which Pink Floyd or Bob Seeger tune they were playing.

      About half my CDs are "classic rock", but I haven't listened to one of those stations in years. The damn "oldies" stations play a better selection of 60s music than the "classic rock" stations do.

    • They cold call people and have them listen to 5 seconds of the song. This tortured person is then asked to rate the song 1-5. The music industry then takes all the songs that get 1s and 5s and discards them. It turns out that often when one group rates a song a 5 another will really hate the song and rate it a 1. So what the industry is really looking for is songs that score 3s.

      I don't know about country music, because, thankfully, I've never worked in that format. Most other music stations do something like this, but in different forms. Sometimes it's calling people and asking what they think of the songs currently in rotation, i.e. "Will you vomit if you hear this Nickleback record again?" Other times they pick a panel of listeners, and have them listen to snippets of about 100 songs (normally 20-30sec of each), and rate them. The ones that rate badly among everyone are thrown out. When you're focusing on your listeners, you can be less concerned about the positive extreme.

      The reasoning behind all this is that if you hear a song that you'd rate a 1 (hate) you're likely to turn the radio dial. But if you hear a 3 you're not likely to have any particular response at all -- thus you'll stay tuned in for more comercials.

      Well, my friend, if you listen to stations that don't beg for money every five minutes (in addition to the millions of dollars they get in tax money every year), that's kind of the name of the game: hold the audience long enough so that they'll listen to some commercials. You do it by having good programming and good talent.

      I guess that's why when you listen to "Classic hits of the [6-9]0s" you hear the same tripe over and again.

      Ummm....not quite. Classics stations are safe. There is a certain segment of the population that has been under the influence of illicit substances since 1968. They'll dig Iron Butterfly until they die in about 30 years.
  • by JohnZed ( 20191 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:19AM (#5393957)
    #!/bin/bash

    grep -i "britney" song_titles.txt
    • hey, how long till i can have it automaticly D/L the songs that i will [Mathematically] like?
      • You can do it now. Or you could at least.
        I dont remember the name of the company, but there was a streeming media .com that when you set up an account, you selected how much you like genres of music, and it shot down random songs at you. For each song played you could select how much you like it, to black list the [song|artist]. The system would thus learn what you like. Sory I dont have a url to prove that Im right :P
        But there are lots of online retailers who have "people who bought this also bought..." boxes on all there pages.
    • Her original audience is getting a little older, probably finds Britney kind of embarrassing, and has moved on to somebody a bit more "real" like Avril Lavigne (of course, "The Matrix" songwriting group, previously responsible for Christina Aguilera, writes Avril's stuff, but that's by the by). Spears can't write her own stuff (George Michael, say), has a mediocre voice, is going to look less and less like jailbait as she gets older, and isn't nearly as adept at reinvention as, say, Madonna.

      Still, even given the rapaciousness of her management and record company, Britney will have made enough money to live like a princess for the rest of her life, so at this point I wouldn't really be caring terribly much if I were her.

      • (of course, "The Matrix" songwriting group, previously responsible for Christina Aguilera, writes Avril's stuff, but that's by the by)

        Actually, as far as I am aware, Avril writes her own songs. At least the lyrics, you may be talking about the "music" part - but I don't think her stuff is so much about the music as the lyrics.

        • Actually, as far as I am aware, Avril writes her own songs. At least the lyrics, you may be talking about the "music" part - but I don't think her stuff is so much about the music as the lyrics.

          She's not, like, very smart [news.com.au].

          I would say that based on the interview above, she would have a hard time writing anything more complex than a small grocery list. At very least she's not a friend of the big words [expage.com].

          I confess that I have only heard one of her songs, in passing, on Saturday Night live, so I can't speak to the body of work spanning her entire career. The one song I heard, however, was less than remarkable. I didn't even know who she was until everyone was going on about that virus named after her. And I'm out of her demographic; I'm almost exactly twice her age. Perhaps I'm just not as receptive to the message of teen angst as I once was.

          My hunch says she has very good handlers who are actively trying to use her to separate disaffected teens from their parents' money.

          -B

          • Don't take this as me sticking up for a pop star. She's cute in an odd sort of way, but I definitely don't like the music. I'm more of a Blue Oyster Cult/Led Zeppelin kind of guy, crossing over to power/progressive metal as of late. Actually now that I think about it, the current batch of pop girls (Avril, Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton) are the most attractive group I can remember.

            But I have to stick up for her on a few points. Having heard two songs I think I could say that the lyrics don't seem to fit the genre of music. I read a slightly better interview of her in Newsweek a few months back, and I seem to recall she said something similar to what the previous poster had mentioned, that she focused on the lyrics and the label had used a lot of influence over the music on the first album. You can't really fault someone for saying "um" or "like" a lot in an interview because it is on the fly and most of us aren't practiced in rhetoric, don't take our time, and stutter all over the language in that situation. Also, when you're in a multiplatinum position, you probably don't want to talk about what the next album is going to be like if you don't know yet. I could forgive a lot saying she just came out of a huge album and tour, I don't blame her for being a bit exhausted and not really wanting to think about the next album right away. Particularly when you get asked it a lot and are going through the harrowing new star thing.

            That said, my interpretation of the whole Avril thing is this: she was on the path to being one of their born 'n' bred country pop sensations. She for whatever reason came out differently than they expected. At 15, her "rebellion" probably didn't consist of walked into the CEO's office and terminating the contract over musical differences. Did anyone notice how mention of her parents is curiously missing from these interviews? My guess is that she told her parents she wasn't going to do it anymore. They went in and told the label, who came up with a "compromise." She could do "whatever she wanted"--as long as she followed along with what they wanted in the areas that didn't have to do with the music. Since she really didn't know a damn thing about music other than pop, it's what her first album sounds like. It's what she knew. Of course the rebellion didn't have anything to do with musical differences, she just didn't want to become a primped and preened mass media sex object.

            Predictably, the label saw this as an excellent chance to make her a mass media sex object, only aiming her for the so-called angst-filled teenager market rather than the popular pop market. The uproar over this now seems really no different than the uproar that followed the release of American Pie or Something About Mary, except it's music and it's several orders of magnitude more benign. In actual fact, every teenager has angst, so her demographic is huge. Britney can't exactly convey the angst message, plus she suffered from over exposure. (I'd argue that pop is an inherently limited media that prevents more complex messages than simple teenage love/angst from being transmitted in the first place, but that's another rant.)

            I bet they gave her all the freedom she could think of, and then just shuffled her off to do their photo shoots and various other PR without making a big deal about it. Being completely unworldly, she doesn't know 1) what she's rebelling against, or 2) what is intrinsic to the music business that she should be rebelling against, and isn't.

            If my theory is correct, here's what I would expect to happen in the upcoming years:

            1. Each successive album she creates is more of a departure from the first album until she finds her style (probably 2 albums from now).

            2. Her fanbase grows smaller but more dedicated until she is taken seriously as a "real artist" in some circles. Along with that, it will be acknowledged that she has her own style, even if it's representative of some genre, but that genre will not be pop.

            3. The label eventually drops her, inspite of which she continues to release albums on a smaller label and fill medium-sized venues well into her old age.

            Is it likely? No. But the fact that her bass player left because he was tired of being a "marketing tool" might merely mean he is too talented to be wasted playing second fiddle for a clueless teenage girl who gets all the time in the spotlight. (It's not real likely he's talented either, but this is the music industry not the software industry). But here's what I expect would happen if she is nothing more than a marketing trick:

            1. There are 2 additional albums from her, neither showing any marked improvement in skill in terms of songwriting or lyrics (or even any additional maturity or increase in vocabulary).

            2. Each successive album cover shows her revealing more skin (in the other scenario, album covers are less likely to feature her prominently).

            3. After the third album is a complete failure, the label drops her and she is never heard from again in any capacity. 20 years later, on VH1, we learn that she spent half her money moving to India where she teaches English and Computer Science in a middle school and is a devout Hindu. Or, alternately, she becomes an MTV anchorwench, which I think is at the same level of general interest and importance.

            Of course, I could be wrong. :)

            --
            Daniel
  • No, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idiotnot ( 302133 ) <sean@757.org> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:19AM (#5393958) Homepage Journal
    The songs that will be hits are the ones that get the most spins, whether it's because a local program director/music director got sweet-talked by a distribution rep (aka legal payola), or because Clear Channel says it'll be a hit. IAADJ.

    Furthermore, MTV has a big part to play, still, because how many fat, bald guys do you see with hit records? Take hot chick, add dance background, have hit. For variety substitute a few decent-looking boys for the hot chick.

    As for this program, remember, the nutrimat in the Heart of Gold also determined Arthur Dent would like the Advanced Tea Substitute. See what happens if he drinks it too much.....
  • Doesn't really matter...All the "hit" songs playing on the radio all follow the same basic formula. The suits already understand what makes a hit song and crank that garbage out ad nauseum. Is it Bratney? Christina Ugularia? Mandy Whore? Who cares, they all sound the same!
    The only stations I listen to now are the classic rock and oldies stations (except it kind of depresses me to listen the oldies stations...Some of my favorite songs from the 80's are starting to get playtime on them)
  • Imagine if these "mathematical patterns and structures in music that until now have been hidden" can be extracted and then applied to existing recordings which haven't done as well as the labels hoped or to new recordings in order to enhance their success subliminally. As an example, what if these secret signals were applied to remaster William Shatner's old recordings?
  • If Only... (Score:5, Funny)

    by robbyjo ( 315601 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:26AM (#5393997) Homepage

    If only they can make a program to predict "slashdotability", their server wouldn't have to suffer like this.

  • if you need a computer to tell you that a song is good...

    well...i can tell you right now the song isnt going to be a hit
  • If this program works like they say it does, then this could be the final nail in the coffin for the radio. If they made popular music MORE cut and paste, it'd just be some time before more people just quit listening.

    Most new music is already cut and paste, and it's bad enough as it is.

    If something like this had been in place for the past 30 years, there'd have been no innovation in music, and the music industry would be consolidated into one terrible company emitting pure crap, instead of the 5 or so major labels which emit mostly crap...
  • Sad (Score:2, Funny)

    by mudcrutch ( 627798 )
    "...and there goes the last DJ..."
  • The secret ingredient to all hit songs is.....

    Love?!?

    Who's been tampering with the machine!

  • Jokes Aside... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PepperedApple ( 645980 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:32AM (#5394032) Homepage
    Music and Math are closely related, as anyone who's read Godel Escher Bach [forum2.org] knows. Musical scores have themes that appear in many different variations such as canons (when a melody is offset in time) and fugues (more complicated than a fugue, read the book if you want to know).

    I'm not acoustically talented, and I'm sure I couldn't recognize a fugue or a canon if I heard one, but I know that there is some music that I really like, and that sounds better made and more complete than others. I wouldn't find it hard to believe those songs have properties that a computer could pick out.

    For example, have you ever listened to a song for the first time, and been able to anticipate what the next notes would be? I think on some level our brain recognizes patterns that we can't see conciously. With statistical analysis, a program could determine if more hit songs always follow a pattern or a specific pattern (easy to hum songs that get stuck in your head), or if more hit songs would break the melody and hit a note you weren't expecting (like those really mind-blowing high notes).

    As a music lover, I would be thrilled if this application worked. It would really enhance websites that try to suggest other songs that you might like based on your favorite songs. In a lot of the music I like, the singer's voice gets deep and gravelly in parts. There could be bands that I hadn't considered listening to who match that profile, and a program like HSS coudl find them.
  • by PissingInTheWind ( 573929 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:33AM (#5394036)
    for me, ``hitability'' doesn't mean the same at all.

    Reading the title made me wonder if a computer was able to do some kind of ``Hot or Not'' evaluation of a picture.
  • ...that movie [imdb.com], especially the moment they read a chapter in their poetry book in which they compare the beauty of a poem to some mathematical representation...

    So, tomorrow's hits will be the same ole shite because of a lunatic narrow-minded nerd ?
  • Flaws could arise (Score:2, Insightful)

    by questamor ( 653018 )
    I think this kind of system, while it may very well do good for promoting songs that have similar qualities to existing 'popular' ones, would eventually bring up flaws if relied on too heavily, from the feedback loop it would have to generate. A few wildly popular songs would define what's released/promoted in the future. Those promotions, themselves only selected due to the use of an artificial construct, would then define what follows. I think some pretty icky patterns could start to reveal themselves.

    2005: a little known new zealand band is suddenly promoted beyond belief. In most respects they're identical to the spice girls, they just happen to sound like New Kids On The Block, and their lead singer is named "Michael Jackson"

    I'm running scared already.
  • This could be useful (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:36AM (#5394049)
    Can I run the program on music I might consider listening to and rule out anything it approves?

    Actually, this is useful on a person by person basis. I can tell it which songs I like, and it can pre-scan new music and decide what I'm more likely to enjoy.

    Jason
    ProfQuotes [profquotes.com]
  • by CHUD-Wretch ( 578617 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:36AM (#5394050) Journal
    From the way progressions resolve to the overused arrangement of "Intro Verse Chorus Bridge Verse Chorus Bridge Verse Breakdown Verse Chorus Outro", most popular music has the same basic structure. Why is it that 95% of rock songs have the same 4 chord major progression? IT WORKS! Yes, there are exceptions where real song writing ability carries the song on to success (Queen, anyone?) but the general templates are there...and record companies KNOW (and bank) on it. (considering that most pop buyers can only hear the singing, I'll understand if no one gets this)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Sometimes interesting things come out of Broadway. For example Broadway songster Jermone Kern did some interesting things with the chord progression used in his song Look for the Silver Lining from his Broadway show Sally.
  • so... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cabra771 ( 197990 )
    This is going to tell my finally why Bjork hasn't had a big hit since the early 90's or why Res and Esthero haven't even been heard of yet even though we have to put up with NSync and Brittney Spears???? Tell me when someone has finally been able to get realistic AI tech moving, then I'll be ready to listen to this garbage (damn, they're good too). And for some reason this reminds me of some story a heard a few years back of how the movie studios had some program that spit out crap rehashed story lines to be made into summer blockbusters...
  • Or at least something similar... Didn't The KLF do something along the same pattern about 15 years ago... "How to write a hit song" or something like that? Yeah... some poster or something.

    Coolest was when they applied the formula, and wrote What Time Is Love and 3a.m. Eternal, which hit HUGE in the UK but really just served the Rave crowd out here....
  • by Quaoar ( 614366 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:41AM (#5394068)
    It listens to female pop singers and prints out "I'd hit it" if it thinks the woman is hot...
  • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <robert.merkelNO@SPAMbenambra.org> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:45AM (#5394087) Homepage
    that they need a computer program to tell them what's likely to be a hit and what isn't?

    Call me naive, but aren't they supposed to be experts in picking hit songs already, and if a computer program can do the job what the hell are they being paid to do?

  • Not the song (Score:2, Informative)

    by Rutje ( 606635 )
    It's not (only) the song that detemines the hit-factor. It's the looks of the 'artist' and the promotion...
  • Input Breast size:
    34C
    Hit!
  • Only one step away from inverting this technology and having "hit" songs autogenerated on the fly. Imagine it! Hearing a new and unique, totally cool pop song every time you press the "new song" button on your "song player" machine...

    Finally that last pesky seal to the gates of hell can be breached.
  • Sounds familiar... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slamb ( 119285 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:55AM (#5394120) Homepage
    ...this is pretty similar to the computer program described in The Jazz [nesfa.org] by Melissa Scott. A kid stumbles onto a program that can tell him how similar something is to existing works. It goes slightly further - making suggestions also - but the idea is the same. In the book, a major studio uses it for movies.
  • In other news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:57AM (#5394128)
    Today, Kenwood announced a new model in their line of automotive head units that incorporates the fruits of their recent alliance with the Chinese software group SinOn.

    SinOn is providing the AI side of the new MoDI car stereo that can be trained to recognize the owner's favorite style of music, and subsequently anticipate which streams, with permission, will be selected for play. The user simply puts the unit in training mode for approximately 10 hours, after which it is then set for autoplay. When set for autoplay, the software will prescreen all incoming audio streams and compare "underlying mathematical patterns" to determine if they match the listener's preference in music.

    We tested the unit against the North Atlantic music satellite weave, giving it the suggested 10 hours of training. Once switched to autoplay, we travelled along the coast for two days, allowing MoDI to select music for us. We were happily surprised with the serendipity of track selection, and pleased with the seamless performance of the unit at all times.

    We can report a positive experience with Kenwood's latest, and a recommendation for anyone looking for the newest in mobile audio while avoiding the pap of modern programmed listening.
  • by MoThugz ( 560556 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @03:59AM (#5394133) Homepage
    it's about the artistes... Why the hell else stupid shows like American Idol and Popstars (Bardot who?) become so popular?
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi@yah o o . com> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:12AM (#5394170) Journal
    The radio in my shit-van is already battered from the number of hits I've given it when the newest Clear Channel pap comes on.

    This may be the excuse to buy a CD/MP3 player. Then I can listen to the hits my mom picks out for me.

  • by You're All Wrong ( 573825 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:19AM (#5394196)
    A third of the way down (Jan 23 in fact) http://www.bangedup.com/archives/
    Is a link titled "Any idiot can rap"
    and it leads to
    http://www.bangedup.com/archives/MicroRBHitWiz ard. jpg

    [ ] Yes
    [ ] Yes

    YAW
  • 1984, anyone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by doubleyewdee ( 633486 ) <wd&telekinesis,org> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:36AM (#5394248) Homepage
    I'm surprised I didn't see this mentioned anywhere. I remember one of the particularly depressing things from 1984 was the music generating machine used to create music for the proles.

    A machine that checks to see if a song is going to be a hit with the masses based on mathematics is not far behind a machine that will be able to generate a hit for the masses.

    Creepy.
  • by Jace of Fuse! ( 72042 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:49AM (#5394280) Homepage
    "underlying mathematical patterns"

    I wouldn't have a problem with that, if they were judging each song independently. Like it or not, music DOES revolve around math. Beat, Harmony, Melody, Rhythm, and Tone are all by definition the elements that make something into music instead of just a bunch of noise.

    Today MANY musicians make what is by definition closer to noise than music, because it only has some of these elements. A dripping faucet can have a beat and rhythmn, but it doesn't have a melody.

    A lot of top-40 crap is manufactured garbage that is hollow and uninspired, but on the other hand it follows all of the rules of music and thus isn't exactly horrible to listen to (share and enjoy.)

    On the other hand, a lot of VERY POPULAR singers completely disregard some of the most basic rules of music. (Did beat go out of style while I was off on another planet or is the entire population of the world go retarded while I was gone?)

    A simple test for the quality of music is to compare it to all of the basic elements and see how much of each it has, and how well each one has done.

    You can take a lot of music and quickly notice that the singer can not in tune, is off beat, isn't in harmony with the music, the music behind the singer's voice has no real melody (it's just a baseline - a common violation these days), or (very often) it's several of these things.

    Again, much top 40 follows the rules. I'd rather hear that than some indi band that doesn't. Much of the top 40 doesn't, and I can do without those. Essentially I'll listen to anything well done, regardless of the type of music or whether or not it's "popular". I can even enjoy classical.

    So if someone were to write a program that could simply screen out the "noise" and keep it from getting put on the charts, I don't think that would be a bad thing. Top 40 might not instantly stop being shit, but at least it would be musical shit, and not just a bunch of noise.

    You're either going to agree with me on this, or flame me to death. What the hell, I have Karma to burn.
  • RFH (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dolly_Llama ( 267016 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:55AM (#5394307) Homepage
    Radio Free Hawaii, may it rest in peace, had a neat way of creating playlists. At lots of places around town, they left voting boxes. You could fill out a form with the 10 artists or songs you liked and drop it in the box. Every saturday, they'd have a top 40 and that would determine the playlist for that week. There was even a method of 'sledgehammering' songs off of the station permanently, but sadly i don't remember how it worked.

    The result was the coolest station I had ever or since heard. Dont know exactly what killed them, but i yearn for something half that cool among all the clearchannel stations i have to fight with.

  • Two things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgreuter ( 82182 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @04:57AM (#5394314)
    Here's my take on this:

    1. I'm pretty sure that the program is some variety of snake oil. Whether it's an interesting AI project that might sometimes work or a pure fraud remains to be seen.

    2. This won't change anything, even if it works. The major labels already use focus groups and mixing factories to make sure every piece of music they release is bland. (Why? Because recording has gotten too expensive, so they need to make every release a "sure thing", so they spend millions on focus groups and big-name mixers.) This program, even if it works, can't possibly make things worse.

  • by pdjohe ( 575876 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @05:32AM (#5394415)
    Sure music is mathematical, but you get completely different music from a computer or machine making the music (player piano, etc.) and somebody actually performing it. The person is able to put expression and feelings in the their work. Often the actual words sung are important to give the right expression and emotion.

    Can a computer program really translate the meaning of the words sung and see if they are able to capture people emotionally?

    Furthermore, when recording a song, there might be a lot of 'takes' to get a good song. Some are obviously better than others to the human ear, but I would be curious if this computer program rates these fairly or the same.

    Live recording CDs change songs quite a bit also. When I play song, I try and change it a little each time, because it is a whole new experience. It keeps the audience interested because even if they have heard it before, they have not heard it quite the way I play it that time. The point is, little variations give a song the cutting edge to make it better. I know I have an album by the same band, but two different producers (Sponge - one by Chaos, the other by Work). One version is definately better than the other even though they are the same songs.

    It is sort of the same for a song that was orginally lots of electric guitars and they re-did it all acoustic. Sometimes I even didn't like the electric and loved the acoustic. Can a computer program handle these extreme differences? I wouldn't think so.
  • by radja ( 58949 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @05:40AM (#5394426) Homepage
    I want one. Running every song on the radio through this algorithm would be good. Just so I can automagically switch channels if the software says it's "hit-material" mind you..

    it's the music equivalent of spamfiltering.
  • by jafo ( 11982 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @05:46AM (#5394439) Homepage
    If you can get ahold of the algorithms that are used to rate the music, you can then compose music that will make the record execs pee their pants with excitement. "Whoa, your song went up to eleven!"

    We've already seen this happen -- build a spam filter and the spammers will then engineer their spam to get around it...

    If I were a record exec, I'd be particularly dubious of this.

    Sean
  • by torpor ( 458 ) <ibisum.gmail@com> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @06:00AM (#5394468) Homepage Journal
    ... and as a hobbyist musician [ampfea.org] I love articles like this.

    When the general public get sick of all the pop and 'reality' stars made for them, they turn to the underground, and this is where you'll find people [ampfea.org] who truly [ampfea.org] allow new [access-music.de] styles [ampfea.org] to flourish. [ampfea.org]

    All this Hollywood stuff is for chumps. If you want real music, and real musicians, just look for the underground.

    It's out there.
  • by inkswamp ( 233692 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @06:21AM (#5394510)
    If music industry execs really do decide to rely on this kind of software to guide their judgment, then we can surely expect more homogenized and bland music in the future. This will further propel popular music away from the realm of art and closer to the realm of product and entertainment. They may be able to determine hits and weed out non-hits with this software, but that will never take the place of a real artist and in fact, reliance on this kind of thing may widen the gulf between artists and entertainers to an extent that the two are finally, properly viewed as different things entirely.

    There is a great saying that I love that I've heard credited to David Cronenberg (never been able to verify it). The saying goes, "An entertainer gives you what you want. An artist gives you what you didn't realize you wanted."

    This kind of hit-finding software will give music execs the abillity to perfect their entertainment while pushing them almost entirely away from art. For real artists out there, this could be a good thing, in the long-run.

  • This might be good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by _Spirit ( 23983 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @06:24AM (#5394520) Journal
    If you think of this in a positive way: Maybe the record companies will be more willing to give new artists that try something new a chance if this tells them it might be a hit. Ofcourse this is all dependant on how well this works, and the music alone is not always enough to make hit.

    Maybe there's another application: I have been playing the same old cds for years, and prolly will do so for years to come, maybe they can make a version that can be trained to predict whether I will like it and recommend new songs/artists to me.
  • Problems... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by locarecords.com ( 601843 ) <david AT locarecords DOT com> on Thursday February 27, 2003 @07:51AM (#5394726) Homepage Journal

    One of the problems is that everyone moans about the homogeneity and lack of good music and then instead of going out and buying it they download MP3s fromthe web. Now that is fine *providing* you give something back to the artists and the musicians writing the stuff... sadly this is often not the way...

    The majority of buyers of music are in the young teeny market or the older back catalogue and new music is squeezed between these two camps. And hey guess what, most people into new music don't buy, my record label (LOCA [locarecords.com] sells very small amounts of CDs and Vinyl *even though* we get emails and good press telling us how good the music is.

    And we have had a donate to artists for their MP3s available for twelve months and ONLY ONE PERSON HAS DONE SO... even though we have had thousands of downloads.

    Now, perhaps everyone hates the music - fair enough - but I think much more likely people can't get their head around paying for something they have already got on their walkman. That is certainly one of the main reasons I do not copy albums off people, the moment I do, no matter how good my intentions, I do not go and buy the CD. Sure if I grab an MP3 off the web I will as then the quality is poor (for instance I recently went out and got the Electric6 single Danger! High Voltage! after a download).

    So what do we the tiny independent labels do about this? Well I'm truly not sure.. The market is sewn up by the majors to extents you would not believe. Generally people *do not like* buying unknown bands, and certainly not if they are not stocked in the major record stores, and lastly if they get the MP3 they seem mostly happy with that...

    I would love for an alternative business model to start to emerge on the web but it seems that for all the talk its the same everywhere, the majors can advertise and buy their way into the web review sites by blitzing them with promos, they plug like crazy and they already control the external print market. Goodby heterogeneity, hello homogeneity.

    This new 'scientific' method of calculating music singles is the result of laziness and shallowness by the buying public and quite frankly history will judge us that way...

    But not too get too depressing, will that stop us writing music and running the label? Nah.. we love music too much..

    ;-)

  • by Craig Maloney ( 1104 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @08:13AM (#5394781) Homepage
    (with apologies to Negativland)

    This announcement from the producers of this record contains important information for radio program directors, and is not for broadcast.

    The first cut on this record has been cross-format-focused for airplay success. As you well know, a record must break on radio in order to actually provide a living for the artists involved. Up until now, you've had to make these record-breaking decisions on your own, relying only on perplexing intangibilities like taste and intuition.

    But now, there's a better way.

    The cut that follows is the product of newly-developed compositional techniques, based on state-of-the-art marketing analysis technology. This cut has been analytically designed to break on radio. And it will, sooner or later.

    For the station that breaks it first, the benefits are obvious. You lead the pack. Yes, no matter what share of this crazy market you do business in, no other release is going to satisfy your corporation's current idea of good radio like this one. On this cut, we're working together, on the same wavelength, in scientific harmony.

    But remember, this cut is constructed for multi-market-breaking NOW. Don't waste valuable research with needless delay. We've done the hard work of insuring your success; the final step is up to you.

    SPECIAL DESIGNER SONG FOLLOWS IN 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...(click)

  • by izora ( 412014 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @09:06AM (#5394940) Homepage
    This is just more evidence of the growing irrelevance of record companies. As technology moves forward, the record companies seem determined to find ways to decrease creativity and thwart musicians, not promote artistry. This will prove a fatal approach, in my opinion.

    Musicians can now create and engineer music in their own homes with a relatively modest investment. They can advertise and distribute on the web. By charging a modest sum to download the music, they could quickly out-earn the average 35 cents a cd they now make. When someone (Napster?) comes up with the appropriate delivery vehicle for this scheme, the music-as-big-business era will have come to an end.

    Record companies ought to recognize this now and stop treating their talent as noisome middlemen. It seems like they start with packaging and marketing, and add in the music as an afterthought.

    But all is not lost --- great musicians want to create great music, and people will want to hear it. You can't keep the two apart.
  • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @09:48AM (#5395189) Journal
    Maybe they should rank songs in the Top 40 by how many times it is downloaded on Kazaa. I mean, the idea is to rank how POPULAR the song is, what better method than to measure how many people are getting using the most popular method for getting new music?

    Yea, I know, its illegal, but at least it would be more accurate. Then again the purpose of the Top 40 is to SELL CDs, not to inform you on what is really most popular.
  • Zappa Said It (Score:3, Interesting)

    by handy_vandal ( 606174 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @10:08AM (#5395312) Homepage Journal
    The way to write a hit song is to imitate what you here on the radio. So said Frank Zappa, in an interview shortly before his death. Listen to the current hits, and imitate them: nothing more, nothing less.
  • by tregoweth ( 13591 ) on Thursday February 27, 2003 @12:39PM (#5396711)
    I assumed computers were already responsible for top 40 music.

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