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The Music Industry’s Big Data Problem

Big DataOne of the hopes that digital music brought was for a faster and more accurate way for everyone in the food chain to get paid. That sounds good on paper, but unfortunately hasn’t quite panned out the way anyone in the industry expected. While it’s true that it’s easy to count online sales and downloads in the digital realm as well as streams and views, digital accounting lags far behind the expectations of artist, label or publisher alike. But now, music’s big data problem is beginning to be changed thanks to the efforts of companies like Kobalt Music and DistroKid, a trend that hopefully will be adopted by the rest of the industry at some point.

One of the major problems in the current world of music big data has been that although the streaming services could provide accurate info to labels and publishers, it came in a format that was incompatible with their accounting systems. That meant that all those reams of data (more than ever, thanks to the services ability to granularly collect everything)  was delivered in stacks of hard copy, which then had to be manually input into the label or publisher’s system. And of course, the problem was that the person doing the inputting was often an intern or a low-on-the-totem pole employee who was not equipped to deal with some of the more complex decisions that would come up in the course of inputing, which lead to inaccurate statements for artists and songwriters. And let’s not forget the inevitable human error that goes along with manual data entry that didn’t help matters.

This is a problem that continues to plague the majority of the industry every quarter, and in some cases, every month. In fact, many publishers secretly complain that the cost of the manual labor involved exceeds their revenue in many cases. Still, it’s their fiduciary duty to carry on despite these difficulties.

Now to be fair, accounting software systems are expensive, usually custom designed, and take a very long time to both implement and overcome their inevitable growing pains. While changing to something that’s more digitally compatible is in everyone’s best interest, it’s still a painful process, both financially and morale-wise. It’s not a remodel, it’s almost a full tear-down and rebuild.

However there is a light at the end of the tunnel. A few years ago Kobalt Music, lead by Swedish entrepreneur Willard Ahdritz, launched the Kobalt Portal, the first online dashboard that Kobalt artists and songwriters could use to discover their earnings in a timely fashion. In fact, the portal has now been turbocharged so it can even report in real-time, an innovation that has attracted over 8,000 artists and songwriters to the service, including such heavyweights as Paul McCartney, Prince, Gwen Stefani, Bob Dylan, Tiesto and Kelly Clarkson, among many others. [Read more on Forbes…]

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