Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


January 31, 2005

New Software Predicts Hit Song Potential

If you've ever considered promoting one of your songs to the masses, you've probably asked a couple of age-old questions: "Does this song sound like a hit?" and "What's the best way to promote this song?" Well, get ready for a brand-new question you may be hearing a lot more in the coming months and years: "Does this song have optimal mathematical patterns?"

That's right. The Spanish company Polyphonic HMI has developed a piece of software called Hit Song Science (HSS). A growing number of major record labels and even indie artists are using it to help predict whether new, untested songs have the potential to become pop hits. And it has a short but potent track record: HSS reportedly predicted the huge success of Norah Jones, Maroon 5 and other hot acts.

How does it work? According to an article in the Guardian, HSS "isolated and separated 20 aspects of song construction including melody, harmony, chord progression, beat, tempo and pitch and identifies and maps recurrent patterns in a song, before matching it against a database containing 30 years' worth of Billboard hit singles ... The program then accords the song a score, which registers the likelihood of it being a chart success."

Yes, that means it turns your song into a mathematical equation. Kinda makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn't it? Of course, there are detractors who deplore the cold analysis of music and point out that the score only reflects comparisons to music of the past and can't predict the breakthrough trends that only come from artistic experimentation.

But believe it or not, there is a possible upside for up-and-coming talent. For instance, an act's HSS score might actually show a record company that a baby band has more hit potential than the label's executives thought.

Plus, the software separates songs into clusters, showing which artists have similar mathematical qualities. That could help an act determine the best artists to cross-promote with. (See my Who Do You Sound Like? post for more info on why this is important.)

At least one radio station is using HSS to widen its playlist without losing listeners by "selecting songs with the correct mathematical rhythms."

Don't worry, I'm not encouraging the use of this new technology. Just wanted to make you aware of it, along with its uses and abuses. It still comes down to you creating the music you were meant to create, finding an audience and encouraging them to help you spread the buzz. In my book, that adds up to the best formula for success.

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