With A Little Help From My Friends (and the Google algorithm)

“Have you heard that new awesome track by The xx? Everybody’s playing it all the time! It’s SICK!”

What is really true? What music is awesome and what tracks sucks peed-on-lollipops? And most importantly who decides?

With the easy access to new and old music through platforms such as Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Last.Fm etc., we acctually no longer need people telling us what to listen to. But with the amount of content growing so fast, people still tend to listen to the gurus occasionally, in order to sort out the crispy stuff. But who are they really, these enlightened souls that tell us what and what not to consume? Have they studied “Critical Music Analysis” at NYU, or are they just people that spend their entire day listening to everything that is ever uploaded? The Oxford Companion to Music defines music criticism as ‘the intellectual activity of formulating judgments on the value and degree of excellence of individual works of music, or whole groups or genres. In other words anyone can do it.

And ‘anyone’ is doing it.

There are many online newspapers with formal frameworks and serious approaches who focus on staying objective in their music reports, informative news about what artist earned what money, what new single is being released and what tour is being cancelled; Village VoiceMTV NewsroomRolling Stone and Culture Bully being examples of these. But the information that really affects our listening is coming at us virally. Through following friends listening habits on Spotify, reading comments on tracks on SoundCloud, watching that music video on YouTube that our secret crush shared on Facebook, going on that awesome blog that only posts about great music. This is how we really open our eyes to new music today. In some cases the first preview of a song might be exclusively played at a concert. No worries, somebody films it with their iPhone and posts it, or writes about it on Twitter. This is a great example of how collective intelligence is a growing aspect of how we judge and process information.

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Viral marketing may seem as simple as getting all your friends to share and like your stuff. Well, it’s not, I’ve tried. As pointed out and highlighted by B.J. Mendelson in The Wall Street Journal, viral information comes at us not only by word of mouth, but also by search engine algorithms that puts videos and posts on index pages and high up on the result lists. This too plays a significant role in the so called viral spread of content because it adds the technical aspect to a concept otherwise widely known as social phenomena.

So if everyone else is doing it, I might as well do it as well; You want to hear a great album, have Caravan Palace – Caravan Palace.

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One response to “With A Little Help From My Friends (and the Google algorithm)

  1. Pingback: Looking back, over my shoulder | media t0m0rr0w·

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