Why Music Companies Should Stop Using Vague Statistics

The following MBW columnist comes from Eamonn Forde (pictured), a longtime music journalist and author of The Last Days of EMI: Selling Pigs. His new book, Leaving the building: The energetic afterlife of the music zonesNow available through Omnibus Press.


Vic Reeves have said many great things over the years, but I am often taken back Shooting stars since the 1990s has been created in a true or false loop in the program.

“88.2% of statistics are done on the spot,” he saylet the text undulate in the air, enjoying watching every penny drop by the audience members.

The accuracy and depth of the joke is amazing. It also promotes the larger and bolder truth that we, as human beings, will sometimes no doubt accept numbers as truth. If there is a percentage attached, even better. Because numbers are real and real things can’t lie.

Except, well, they can.

We are firmly in a post-truth world and the living graves we find as we go around the circles keep getting deeper.

In 2017, Kellyanne Conway (then, unbelievably, serving as Advisor to the President) was asked about something Sean Spicer (then, equally incredible, served as Secretary of State). White House Press Secretary) spoke about the number of people in attendance at President Trump. inauguration ceremony, claiming it was a much larger event than it actually was.

Conway was challenged by NBC’s Chuck Todd that her colleague was, frankly, say the balls completely. She replied, “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, provided alternative facts for that.”

Todd, taken aback, replied, “Wait a minute! Alternative truth? Look, alternative facts are not facts – they are lies. “

But it’s already too late. Damage has been done. Things died down a bit that day.

It added to a disinformation arms race that had really begun in earnest the previous year in the UK when Michael Gove (then, amazingly, considered a viable Prime Minister) was uttered the words “people in this country already have enough professionalsas if expertise in anything were a form of duplication.

When not-so-great thinkers like Conway and Gove were allowed the freedom to transform public discourse into grotesque and gruesome new forms, the truth found itself dry-mouthed and rushed. Go at fast speed towards the guillotine.

It goes a long way to say that such a “jazz” interpretation of events is said to have been perfected for the first time in the music business. I’m not talking about “creative accounting” in royalty claims for artists because that’s a whole different argument. It involves numbers that businesses are willing to put out in press releases and carefully rehearsed interviews intended to be so passively publicized that it becomes a reality. real.

In the old days when physical formats were the whole of business, we’ve seen it many times when an album of a major play – usually the label hopes to sell but knows in its heart it’s a big deal. bargain – launch and emphasis is on shipment rather than sale.

“Look!” they cried. “Look how many CDs we pressed. This has been a success. “Except they never report on how many shipped discs were actually sold, how many ended up being brutally dropped in the cutout bin, or how many were sold by the tape stores.” Export disc back with request for refund or credit.

Normalizing overproduction is often associated with bonus plans, so some executives will happily overdrive, collect their bonuses for the year, and switch to another studio before they have to. take into account the waves of profits crashing down on their distribution of hubs.

The saying “ship platinum and return gold” is a popular joke that conceals an economic act of butchering.

As with everything in the digital world, this has simply accelerated over the past few years. Now we’re diving into the music business of “vaguestats” – the numbers sound impressive on a quick first read but when it comes to light, we’re not exactly what.

“We’re now diving into the music business of ‘vaguestats’ – the numbers sound impressive on a quick first read but when it comes to light, we’re not exactly what.”

It involves increased turns in streams after a televised performance, festival appearance, or (in a darker sense) the death of an artist. We heard that the number of live streams has increased by 350% in the past week. That sound impressive, but its only triumph is deception. 350% increase from What? No one said because, by pinning an exact number on it, the whole ranking would collapse in their ears.

If it’s a 350% increase in streams, like an average of 300 million a week, then that’s a hit and anyone would happily make those exact numbers public. When the number of live streams increases by 350%, such as which part? less than over 300 million a week, the two-part question that should follow is: what is the base number you’re working with and why don’t you tell us what it is?

You can also watch it when referring to online radio and podcast streams, where there is no counter as attached to the broadcasts on SoundCloud, YouTube and Spotify. Vaguestats are the common currency here, where companies will say “millions” have listened to an online show or podcast – with each word here becoming a dream ball-collecting speed rolling down a mountain. hazy after a storm.

What do you mean by “heard”? One second of accidental listening due to autoplay interference? One minute? The whole show or the episode?

There is an often quoted phrase about this escalating dynamic that was popularized by Mark Twain. It was not originated by him and he attributes it to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (although Disraeli as the man behind it is disputed, adding a salty irony to the whole thing).

“Numbers often amuse me, especially when I arrange them myself; in that case, the comment attributed to Disraeli generally applies to justice and force: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

As Vic Reeves can tell, 88.2% of people who have heard that quote think Mark Twain coined it.

Again and again, however, a huge barrage of non-contextual statistics from the music business is pumped out like a lot of smoke from a burst exhaust.

These vagabonds say nothing about the stats themselves, and instead say everything about a company’s cunning strategy is intentionally misdirected, misguided, and disruptive.

100% mortality for vaguestats.Worldwide music business Why Music Companies Should Stop Using Vague Statistics

Fry Electronics Team

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