Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Finding good music in noisy online markets

Date:
May 31, 2012
Source:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Summary:
Researchers have analyzed data on 14,000 users of a music-sharing site and have concluded that, while social-media marketing -- getting lots of "likes" on Facebook, for instance -- can drive users to listen to excerpts from new songs, it has a negligible effect on their purchases.

In 2004, a trio of researchers at Columbia University began an online experiment in social-media marketing, creating nine versions of a music-download site that presented the same group of unknown songs in different ways. The goal of the experiment was to gauge the effect of early peer recommendations on the songs' success; the researchers found that different songs became hits on the different sites and that the variation was unpredictable.

Related Articles


"It's natural to believe that successful songs, movies, books and artists are somehow 'better,'" one of the researchers wrote in The New York Times in 2007. "What our results suggest, however, is that because what people like depends on what they think other people like, what the market 'wants' at any point in time can depend very sensitively on its own history."

But for music fans who would like to think that talent is ultimately rewarded, the situation may not be as dire as the Columbia study makes it seem. In a paper published in the online journal PLoS ONE, researchers from the MIT Media Laboratory's Human Dynamics Lab revisit data from the original experiment and suggest that it contains a clear quantitative indicator of quality that's consistent across all the sites; moreover, they find that the unpredictability of the experimental results may have as much to do with the way the test sites were organized as with social influence.

Numbers game

In their analysis, Alex "Sandy" Pentland, the Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Science, his graduate students Coco Krumme -- first author on the new paper -- and Galen Pickard, and Manuel Cebrian, a former postdoc at the Media Lab, developed a mathematical model that, while simple, predicts the experimental results with high accuracy. They divide the decision to download a song into two stages: first, the decision to play a sample of the song, and second, the ensuing decision to download it or not. They found that, in fact, the percentage of customers who would download a given song after sampling it was consistent across sites. The difference in download totals was due entirely to the first stage, the decision to sample a song in the first place.

And that decision, the researchers concluded, had only an indirect relationship to the songs' popularity. In the original experiment, one of the sites was a control, while the other eight gave viewers information about the popularity of the songs, measured by total number of downloads. But on those eight sites, the number of downloads also determined the order in which the songs were displayed. The MIT researchers' analysis suggests that song ordering may have had as much to do with the unpredictability across sites as the popularity information.

"We've known forever that people are lazy, and they'll pick the songs on the top," Pentland says. "There's all this hype about new-age marketing and social-media marketing. Actually, it comes down to just the stuff that they did in 1904 in a country store: They put certain things up front so you'd see them."

Quality, not quantity

In their work, the MIT researchers interpret the likelihood that sampling a song will result in its being downloaded as a measure of quality. Since that measure was consistent across sites, using it, rather than volume of downloads, to order song listings would probably mitigate some of the unpredictability that the Columbia researchers found.

Even on sites where the number of downloads determines song ordering, high-quality songs will gradually creep up the rankings, because, by definition, they net more downloads per sample than low-quality songs do. But "it does take a long time for the market to fully equilibrate," Krumme says. "Precisely how long it would take for the highest-quality songs to rise to the top depends on the specifics of a particular market."

"The model that they propose does a good job of providing insight into what's happening in the experiment," says Matthew Sagalnik, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University, who as a graduate student at Columbia was lead author on the original paper. "I think it's neat that such a simple model is able to reproduce the results of the experiment with pretty high fidelity."

"I think that their predictions about the long-run dynamics are interesting," Sagalnik adds, "and I hope that they would be tested with additional experiments."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The original article was written by Larry Hardesty. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Finding good music in noisy online markets." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531135752.htm>.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (2012, May 31). Finding good music in noisy online markets. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531135752.htm
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Finding good music in noisy online markets." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120531135752.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins