New software predicts hit songs before release, MIT PhD grads believe they’ve cracked the code

“They know what songs you like, even before you like them. Record labels spend millions of dollars each year trying to predict what singles will top the charts and which ingredients make a hit single. Now, two Massachusetts Institute of Technology PhD grads believe they have cracked the code,” Grant Robertson reports for The Globe and Mail.

“After years of crunching data, Brian Whitman and Tristan Jehan have devised a computer program that listens to a song, then predicts how humans will react to it,” Robertson reports. “The response is so specific at times that it can forecast how a single will perform on the charts and spit out a review, guessing what words will be used to describe it, from ‘sexy to romantic to loud and upbeat,’ Mr. Whitman said.”

“The MIT method, developed at the school’s renowned Media Laboratory, also takes into account social responses to hit music that are fed into the algorithms,” Robertson reports. “The researchers pull data from weblogs, chat rooms and music reviews — anywhere a song is being discussed — and feed it into the computer, which allows the software to gauge the popularity of a certain sound. Once all the information is tabulated, the computer can listen to an entirely new album and predict how people will respond based on what it knows about the latest reactions to the music it has already heard.”

Robertson reports, “If it sounds far-fetched, consider this: the system has been predicting Billboard hits with surprising accuracy over the past several months. While people may think their musical tastes are unpredictable and whimsical, they are actually quite traceable, Mr. Whitman says. The researchers’ goal is to revolutionize the tracking techniques used by companies such as and Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes music store. Those companies compare similarities between songs, add in the buying history of consumers, then recommend albums that each person should buy. Mr. Whitman and Mr. Jehan, who are both musicians, scoff at those methods.”

Full article here.

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  1. Um, could these two MIT guys concentrate next on something of real value…. like predicting next Saturday’s winning lotto numbers or something? ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”tongue wink” style=”border:0;” />

  2. Maybe for the average person. The average person does not like music. Sure, they would reply, “I do SO like music! See, I’ve just bought the “Best of Bon Jovi” cd! that’s music, right?!”, but the fact is they don’t. Most people listen to and buy whatever crap is put on the top 40 charts and/or radio airwaves. These MIT guys can probably predict what they’ll like simply by asking the major labels which releases they plan to spend the most for advertising on in the near future. For those of us who love music and would rather die without it, there will be no program that can predict our tastes.

  3. I believe Mr. Whitman and Mr. Jehan, who are both musicians. After all they go to MIT, and isn’t Zenator Kennedy from around zat keneck of the voods, and who vouldn’t belief zuch a good svimmer?

  4. Cunning linguists need this done on a global scale. Some of my favorite artists aren’t very prolific, and I’ve more apetite for their sound. iTMS also needs to go global as I find little of interest in my domestic iTMS.

    And on that subject, how about trashing dvd regions? Say you read a recent article about the Korean “Break Through” on one of the popular weekly mags where there’s a reference to a hit movie [Taegukgi]. Can you ask a Korean friend to buy you the dvd if your drive is of another region? Can you get it locally? With al these barriers, industry greed and lack of vision [including SONY’s stupidity], no wonder p2p thrives.

    Porn and p2p are catalysts for change. Instead of seeing them as threats, more-vanilla-like industries need to read them as signs of a paradigm change, and look at them as opportunities to learn how to surf the wave of change rather than wallow in its wake splashing threats and epithets.

    Or you can just ask Steve Jobs. Do you understand, for example, the wide ramifications of tiered pricing? You could end up discounting your legacy titles and diverting new titles towards p2p — a lose-lose situation.

    MW: “feel” as in, “I feel your confusion.” C’mon, give Steve a call.

  5. MIT formula for top 40 hits:

    (radio repetitions) x (# of skanks in video) x (marketing cash outlay)
    (# of people who have decent musical taste)

  6. Good, now run that Rap shit they call music through this gizmo, and it will delivery the following result:


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