One of the things that is so interesting about music, video, and other media is how difficult it is to value, and how it’s completely bound to human opinion. In a sense, it behaves like a stock market driven almost totally on speculation. A new band comes out, their rough and lo-fi sound strikes some sort of nerve, and the next thing you know they’re selling out theaters and generating incredible amounts of money from cd’s to ringtones.
Currently, there is no sure-fire algorithm that will tell whether or not a certain song is good or not. Some may argue that Hit Song Science does this, but in actuality all it is doing is correlating the new songs to songs that have come before it, and determining if the new song is similar to a previously popular one. Besides discouraging novelty, this method is also completely proprietary, so in the end you’re relying on someone’s word that the computer produced the results… sort of a shady arrangement, and perhaps easily taken advantage of by unscrupulous labels.
So, in the end, even with correlation metrics like “Hit Song Science” people need to decide whether a song is good or not. Sometimes they have to decide as a group (listening to it when partying together), and sometimes they can decide it on their own (like I like to do with my huge headphones). Furthermore, it’s generally accepted that certain people are better at identifying good music than others.
This last point is interesting, because I know of about a dozen different ways of valuing artists (reach metrics, album sales, ticket sales, DVD’s, etc.), but there’s very little in the way of metrics for valuing individuals who find the good music early and often. I’ve taken to calling these individuals music mavens, which is the common term around myStrands, no doubt thanks to Malcolm Gladwell who used the term prolifically in “The Tipping Point”.
I’m putting together a version of a “Maven Metric” algorithm that well attempt to do this, and hopefully address the pitfalls of such a goal. Secretly, I hope that it can cause a “put up or shut up” movement in music review circles. All you would need to do to become an authority according to the “Maven Metric” is listen to good music early and often, and not pen long winded articles that are mostly self-righteous exercises of erudite prose.