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Old May 16, 2004, 10:50 AM   #1
Maggie Mae
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Default Hit Song Formulas?

Sorry if this has already been made into a thread -- I've been absent from the board for a little while now :

I read an article in Canada's National Post a few months ago about a company that can predict whether or not a particular song would be a hit or not. While perusing the boards earlier today I remembered the article and tried to find it again, with no luck. Unfortunately I can't remember the name of the company, but I did manage to find a company that may or may not be the one profiled in the article -- Hit Song Science -- and decided to have a look.

What I found out was a little bit discouraging. This company takes a new song and breaks it down into patterns, according to melody, tempo, rhythm and so on. Then they compare the patterns of the new song to their database of hit songs ("3.5 million songs" that include "almost everything that has been released by the music labels since the 1950's until the present time.") which they've mapped out in clusters according to those same patterns. If the new song falls into a certain "hit cluster" in the "music universe", the new song will likely be a hit -- the article I read in the National Post also profiled an artist who has relied on this technology to produce her hit songs, and she has had wild success with it, so I guess the technology works.

What's troubling for me, as a musician, is that this company has reduced music to mathematical equations, and that record labels are looking to companies like this to map out the success of the artists they've signed. To put it simply, instead of a band impressing their label with thoughtful lyrics or pure talent, the way the Beatles and countless other bands had to do, the wave of the future looks like it will be focused on whether or not you have the "right" kind of harmony or the "right" chord progression in the rhythm guitar. What happens when the artist stops hoping their song falls into one of those clusters and starts crafting their song to fit in the name of success? Because what record label is going to promote, or even sign, an artist who doesn't have a guaranteed hit in their repertoire? What happens to the music?

I can't help but wonder what the brilliant producers, the George Martins of the world, are thinking when they see the results of their hard work reduced to "hit clusters". To me, it seems like the a cop-out on the part of the record industry but maybe I'm misinterpreting the information. What are your thoughts?

~Mags
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Old May 17, 2004, 03:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

Hate this idea with the fire of a thousand burning suns. Sounds like it would totally stifle creativity in an effort to "fit the pattern". Ugh. LISTEN to it and see if it's good, don't program it into a computer to find out if it's good. Ugh.
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Old May 17, 2004, 07:25 PM   #3
DizzymissLizzy909
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

Seriously, that is discouraging. Music is no longer about expressing oneself, or a sign of one's imagination, it's just a series of notes and already-set patterns. Sad, really.
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Old May 23, 2004, 09:01 PM   #4
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

I think that freshness and creativity are like endangered species in music today, and most of the stuff that's "new" and on the airwaves is either lifeless, disgusting, evil, or repetetive. I am 18 and I really don't see and hear any new and creative life popping up in music. I get nothing out of %99 of it. It's like my generation was robbed. There are a few bands that I like that are modern, but they're lacking that special magic that died or dissapeared 14(?) years ago. I believe that the real stuff is hidden and not being aired. The stupid record companies are only interested in making money and not looking for true talent, and that really reflects on a lot of things today, not just the music industry.
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Old May 25, 2004, 08:46 AM   #5
Maggie Mae
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

PotatoBeatle said it -- it's like our generation was robbed. Everybody keeps talking about the "new Nirvana" (I suppose you could say that they were the last truly innovative band to grace the market) that hasn't arrived yet. Instead, we get the pre-fab bands like the Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys as our cultural legacy.

On the flip side, I've thought about how some people reacted when the Beatles first became a hot commodity, and there are definitely similarities in what we're saying about pop music today and what those people said about it in the 60s. We may all be wrong and 40 years from now there may be Spice Fests ( ) popping up all over England and North America -- who knows? But I think there are distinct differences, especially between the music of yesteryear and what will be playing on our radios tomorrow. I mean, there were no hit music machines to tell Paul McCartney how to write "Yesterday"... that just happened. It's discouraging, but there's not much we can do to get in the way of "progress". Just sit back and wait...

~Mags
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Old May 25, 2004, 08:11 PM   #6
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
Maggie Mae Posted:
We may all be wrong and 40 years from now there may be Spice Fests ( ) popping up all over England and North America -- who knows?

[/ QUOTE ]

Now that's a scary thought!
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Old May 27, 2004, 09:17 AM   #7
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
Maggie Mae Posted:
We may all be wrong and 40 years from now there may be Spice Fests ( ) popping up all over England and North America -- who knows?

[/ QUOTE ]

Scary thoughts apart...

The big difference between the Beatle phenomenon and the other "pop wondergroups" we have nowdays, I think, is that the Beatles were first and foremost musicians. People like The Spice Girls or other boybands are primarely good-looking faces and somewhat nice voices (and even THAT can be arranged at studio - e.g Britney Spears...). No machine can beat true talent, and our Lads had and have LOADS of it...

Still, I agree, we've been robbed, alright...
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Old May 30, 2004, 02:37 PM   #8
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
I think that freshness and creativity are like endangered species in music today.

[/ QUOTE ]

You guys give me a break people in the 70's thought the "Great" music was gone. Like in the 70's there is good music you just need to find it. If you want good music start listening to Wilco, early Fountains of Wayne, even the strokes are ok.
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Old May 31, 2004, 07:30 PM   #9
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
//o-o\\ Posted:
[ QUOTE ]
I think that freshness and creativity are like endangered species in music today.

[/ QUOTE ]

You guys give me a break people in the 70's thought the "Great" music was gone. Like in the 70's there is good music you just need to find it. If you want good music start listening to Wilco, early Fountains of Wayne, even the strokes are ok.

[/ QUOTE ]




Well, what I am also trying to say is that the masses aren't able to get easy access to it. I could find it maybe, yes, I said IT'S SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, but how about the masses? It's both amusing and sad to think that groups can be lead a certain way, especially today when my cohorts in my age group think that the likes of Britney Spears, 50 Cent and Blink 182 are the finest and most brilliant sounds ever to grace the ears of humanity. No offense, but I can try and search for the good NEW sounds, but even the bands you mentioned I don't think are the best of what is out there, or much different than any other. But that's just my opinion.

Companies have more of a grip on the media nowadays than the 1970s. Until that changes, the majority of what I am still going to listen to is music older or as old as I. For a new band to catch my ear, aired all over the radio or so far underground and unknown, will be a rare occurence. It just has to be a new sound. There are plenty of new bands that have sounds that aren't dramatically new or different. My summary is #1: Things that should be played aren't because of corporate bulls!*%, and #2 Things that could be worthy may not be dramatically different enough to revive the golden days of Western music. All MY OPINION though.
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Old May 31, 2004, 08:17 PM   #10
Maggie Mae
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
//o-o\\ Posted:
[ QUOTE ]
I think that freshness and creativity are like endangered species in music today.

[/ QUOTE ]

You guys give me a break people in the 70's thought the "Great" music was gone. Like in the 70's there is good music you just need to find it. If you want good music start listening to Wilco, early Fountains of Wayne, even the strokes are ok.

[/ QUOTE ]

I agree with you. There are great musicians out there right now -- but most of that stuff won't get played on mainstream radio, their videos won't be on Much Music and their photos won't grace the cover of Teen Beat magazine, so they won't get the exposure they deserve. Which may be a good thing because all fame does is make those bands rely on hit song machines to craft their next hit, anyway... but I digress. I happen to think that David Grey or Bob James are wicked awesome as artists, but how many of their songs do we hear on the mainstream radio stations? Not many. It's sad, but it's a fact of life -- the innovative music is buried by the stuff that falls into the "hit clusters", you know? What Potato Beatle might have been saying is that everything "good" gets trampled by the Britney's and 50 Cent's of the world.

I also agree with you aboud Wilco and The Strokes (I love them!) but they're hardly comprable to the Beatles, and that's really sad because they may be the closest thing we have to a Beatles for this generation. In my opinion, the last time there was wave of truly sensational new music out there was the advent of grunge in the early 90s. After Kurt Cobain's death, that wave died too and there hasn't been anything truly groundbreaking in music since (at least not in the way that grunge was). I mean, there was that brief moment in time when boy/girl bands were the rage, but that wasn't anything new -- look at the New Kids, or the Monkees even.

But we all have to remember that at the same time the Beatles were making strides with this new music called "Rock n' Roll", there were terrible bands out there too... and if there was such a thing as Much Music, or MTV or VH1, then those bands would be featured on TRL and would be in all the Top 10 countdown shows... the only difference is that while the innovative music of the 60s was on top of the charts, the innovative music of today isn't anywhere near them.

~Mags
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Old May 31, 2004, 08:28 PM   #11
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
Maggie Mae Posted:
[ QUOTE ]
//o-o\\ Posted:
[ QUOTE ]
I think that freshness and creativity are like endangered species in music today.

[/ QUOTE ]

You guys give me a break people in the 70's thought the "Great" music was gone. Like in the 70's there is good music you just need to find it. If you want good music start listening to Wilco, early Fountains of Wayne, even the strokes are ok.

[/ QUOTE ]

I agree with you. There are great musicians out there right now -- but most of that stuff won't get played on mainstream radio, their videos won't be on Much Music and their photos won't grace the cover of Teen Beat magazine, so they won't get the exposure they deserve. Which may be a good thing because all fame does is make those bands rely on hit song machines to craft their next hit, anyway... but I digress. I happen to think that David Grey or Bob James are wicked awesome as artists, but how many of their songs do we hear on the mainstream radio stations? Not many. It's sad, but it's a fact of life -- the innovative music is buried by the stuff that falls into the "hit clusters", you know? What Potato Beatle might have been saying is that everything "good" gets trampled by the Britney's and 50 Cent's of the world.

I also agree with you aboud Wilco and The Strokes (I love them!) but they're hardly comprable to the Beatles, and that's really sad because they may be the closest thing we have to a Beatles for this generation. In my opinion, the last time there was wave of truly sensational new music out there was the advent of grunge in the early 90s. After Kurt Cobain's death, that wave died too and there hasn't been anything truly groundbreaking in music since (at least not in the way that grunge was). I mean, there was that brief moment in time when boy/girl bands were the rage, but that wasn't anything new -- look at the New Kids, or the Monkees even.

But we all have to remember that at the same time the Beatles were making strides with this new music called "Rock n' Roll", there were terrible bands out there too... and if there was such a thing as Much Music, or MTV or VH1, then those bands would be featured on TRL and would be in all the Top 10 countdown shows... the only difference is that while the innovative music of the 60s was on top of the charts, the innovative music of today isn't anywhere near them.

~Mags

[/ QUOTE ]


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Old May 31, 2004, 08:42 PM   #12
Maggie Mae
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

I take it you agree with me? lol

~Mags
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Old Jul 04, 2004, 09:22 PM   #13
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

So many things to react to here . . .

I don't think this music formula is so worrisome. As long as there is corporate pop, there will be people who hate it and oppose it and search elsewhere for goos music. There will always be new record labels and covertly rebellious A and R men willing to bring new music to the masses. Ultimately, while this music machine has the potential to churn out hit after vacuous hit, they will be ephemeral and after a few years you won't ever have to hear them again. So it's like it doesn't even matter.

And while I agree that (in general) the masses today are anaesthetized by the likes of 50 Cent, Blink-182, and AFI ( ), there is also some really good music out there. The Strokes have been mentioned, but also The Vines, Switchfoot, The Hives, and most recently Jet are all high-caliber bands. And at least there's only one person I know who doesn't hate Britney Spears, so that's good.

Yes, it's true that my generation doesn't have any Beatles, but only one generation *did* have the Beatles anyway. There has been nothing like The Beatles, before or since, and I doubt there ever will be again. Also I don't think we've been stuck with the worst musicians ever; I think that distinction belongs to the 80s, the cesspool of synthesized plastic pop noise and ugly, depthless metal hair bands. Or possibly the unforunate souls of the mid-to-late nineties, who got stuck with Britney and Limp Bizkit. Actually, I think The Beatles took rock music out as far as it could go. I listen to some of their songs, A Day In The Life, Hey Jude, Good Day Sunshine, the Abbey Road Medley, so many songs, and not only do they sound modern, they sound advanced. No one has ever been able to surpass them in any respect. That's why I don't think originality is key to good rock and roll, although it's a wonderful ingredient: I believe rock and roll and music in general is made "great" through a special, indescribable magic, a cosmic energy, if I may be so bold, in the songs themselves. All The Beatles' songs were magical and original, but a good example I can think of is Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl". It's a complete rip-off of many things, even lifting the riff directly from Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life", yet the song is so enjoyable and exciting I call it good rock and roll.

Third, I agree that there was an amazing renaissance of great music in the 60s. However, as some people have already said, there was also a lot of dreck. But we don't remember the dreck because history has already cast it away. In time we will look back on the 2000s era and remember only the good stuff, and it won't look so bleak after all.

As always, all this is only my two cents . . .
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Old Jul 05, 2004, 11:30 AM   #14
Maggie Mae
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

What troubles me is the fact that these new computer programs that chart and map out what makes music a hit could someday become the norm. So instead of music having a soul, it will be reduced to whatever makes it a hit, be that a phat bass line or wicked beat or whatever the kids are saying these days . The same musical stuff that made Britney a hit, or Limp Bizkit (unless it's sex appeal, which is highly possible and can't really be charted by these Hit Song makers, but that's a different topic altogether!) will determine what makes hits in the future. It won't be because of a "cosmic energy" or any kind of magic, which is disappointing because that is what makes a hit from twenty or thirty or forty years ago unforgettable. Why do we still listen to U2 or the Police and not Modern English? I doubt it has anything to do with how similar sounding their hits were to the hits before. I feel that if this formulaic trend continues there will be nothing to remember in ten years because everything will have sounded the same. That's what's most troublesome about it, and that's the point I think I was trying to make earlier.

I agree that people will still search for non-formulaic music, but to do that there has to be an increase in indie labels and people willing to take a risk and market a no-name band that probably won't create a hit, which may or may not happen because who honestly wants to sponser someone who won't make them any money? But what's sad is that those indie bands are the ones that take the musical risks, the same kind the Beatles took forty years ago, and the same kind that could be remembered as revolutionary in the future. If they don't get any air-time, or any promotion even... well, I'll let you finish that thought.

~Mags
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Old Jul 06, 2004, 06:40 PM   #15
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
a phat bass line or wicked beat or whatever the kids are saying these days .

[/ QUOTE ]


[ QUOTE ]
I agree that people will still search for non-formulaic music, but to do that there has to be an increase in indie labels and people willing to take a risk and market a no-name band that probably won't create a hit, which may or may not happen because who honestly wants to sponser someone who won't make them any money? But what's sad is that those indie bands are the ones that take the musical risks, the same kind the Beatles took forty years ago, and the same kind that could be remembered as revolutionary in the future. If they don't get any air-time, or any promotion even... well, I'll let you finish that thought.


[/ QUOTE ]

Hmm, well, I can only react to this by saying that there are good bands out there who're getting quite a bit of promotion from major record labels. Like the Strokes, which people have mentioned. Maybe they weren't at number one (I don't actually know chart positions), but their last two records certainly charted better than expected. They're extrememly popular and have a devoted following. Now, they're nowhere near as good or revolutionary as the Beatles, but then again, in my opinion no one is. So they can hardly be blamed for that. Another good band is the Vines; while their album didn't do well in the US, their single "Ride With Me" did do well and was also quite popular. Jet's (heavily Beatle-influenced) "Get Free" LP was recently certified platinum. It's the same story with The Darkness, The Hives, and Switchfoot: all these are good, original bands who make good music, and I hear their songs on the radio and see their videos on TV all the time. Sure, I see Linkin Park and Story Of The Year too, and they're terrible, but at least the good stuff is getting represented too.

Also, I don't think that just being original makes a song good. In fact, most of the innovation is taking place in the hip-hop genre, which is slowly developing back into Stax Motown, interestingly enough. But I still don't like hip-hop, and I like rock.

But my point was that good artists *are* getting promotion, and so, even if this hit-machine were to work, I don't think the fact that companies promote this kind of music would necessarily preclude them promoting good, honest music, because they'd want to do both.

Maybe I'm an optimist, though.
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Old Jul 06, 2004, 09:18 PM   #16
Maggie Mae
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Default Re: Hit Song Formulas?

[ QUOTE ]
I don't think the fact that companies promote this kind of music would necessarily preclude them promoting good, honest music, because they'd want to do both.

[/ QUOTE ]

I hope you're right!!

~Mags
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