People’s Insights Volume 1, Issue 8: MTV Music Meter

MTV Music Meter started off as a website in December 2010 that helped users discover music composed by upcoming artistes.

The objective was to help users find the artistes of tomorrow by letting them peruse an extensive database, listening to song samples, reading articles and biographies, and watching music videos. As Mashable writer, Todd Olmstead wrote:

The Music Meter wants to help surface emerging artists, you won’t see Kanye West and Adele — rather, a look at the top 5 today shows Gotye, Greyson Chance, Casper, Graffiti6, and Chelsea Grin.

The website listed the top 100 emerging artistes across the genres ‘Up and Coming’, ’Rock’, ‘Indie’, ‘Electronic’, ‘Hip Hop’ and ‘Mainstream’ based on the online buzz around them.

MTV worked with music intelligence company The Echo Nest to develop an algorithm that tracked the popularity of over a million artistes across the web across the six categories.

After combing through the database, the tool ranked the top 100 artistes as per their genre. It ignored the popular ones signed on by major record labels.

Three months after Music Meter’s launch, MTV decided to launch a free app for the iPad, iPhone and Android in March 2011. After more than a million downloads in less than a year, MTV decided to launch the second version of Music Meter with additional features such as classification by genres and a concert-tracking tool that helped users find concerts playing in their city on a given day. You could also buy tickets for the concerts through the app.

MTV felt that the app would be useful as music aficionados could track trends and discover artistes ‘on the go’. The app is also handy when you’re chatting with friends about music.
Blogger Nicole James said on the MTV Buzzworthy Blog:

Ugh, people are so busy these days. With things like “work,” “being debilitatingly single” and “‘Real Housewives’ reruns,” it’s like, jeez, how do we even find any time to do anything ever? Especially when it comes to keeping up with all the new bands you’re supposed to know about every three seconds. We obviously have no problem with that, but for those who might not run a music blog, we’ve got a solution for you: MTV Music Meter 2.0 app.

MTV focused on app development as senior director of product development, Mark Mezrich, felt the need for a solid mobile strategy.

MTV is entertainment-focused, which is why it centred mobile strategy around helping consumers find entertainment they might be interested in consuming. Dermot McCormack, executive vice-president at MTV Music and Logo Digital, explained the insight that led to the app:

With today’s music fan having immediate access to millions of artists and songs, there’s a strong need for curation, The meter helps solve this problem by cutting through the clutter and providing fans a easy-to-use discovery tool to connect artists and fans.

The app delivers 30-second song previews from music partner Rhapsody, as well as biographical information, news (aggregated from sources like Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, MTV itself or blogs), and photos.

The objective: create an ‘artiste snacking experience’ that offers just enough information to fan users’ curiosity and make them find out more about the artiste elsewhere. Users can, however, jump to iTunes from the app to purchase the song.

Of late, MTV has positioned itself as a platform for the youth, which is where finding the artistes of tomorrow fits in. Music enthusiasts take great pride in finding these artistes.

This discovery can be aided through audio samples, photos, tweets, news articles and bios or by searching through the database. Another way of discovering artistes is through the Pandora-like ‘similar artiste’ feature.

Through that feature, artistes can ensure that their music is reaching the right ears. Thus, artistes can connect with listeners and increase their fan base. As the 977 Music Blog explained:

With Music Meter, fans can easily see the latest acts that bring something new to offer. if the huge names in the music industry were included on the rank, they would probably steal the scene away from the newcomers. MTV wants to provide a platform to these fresh acts and to open up the stage for them.

Emerging artistes need more financial support than mainstream bigwigs. That’s why Music Meter created a revenue stream for them by selling their MP3s.

MTV drew flak as it changed from being the pioneer of the music video to focusing on entertainment, reality TV and lifestyle programming. MTV played a pivotal role in providing a platform to many artistes over the years, like Madonna, but slowly changed.

The advent of YouTube, Vevo and the web eventually killed the music video on TV. This led to MTV dropping the words ‘Music Television’ from its logo in early 2010, marking its change of focus.

Social media, meanwhile, gave new artistes several new opportunities. MTV spotted these opportunities and decided to continue playing an integral role in the discovery of new artistes, using the digital medium.

Through this, MTV showed that even though it has changed its offerings it will always have music deep-seeded in its personality.

Music Meter also provides revenue opportunities for MTV through sponsorships and ad deals. For instance, Wrigleys 5 Gum signed up as the first sponsor of Music Meter’s application and web properties.

Some critics said that Music Meter competes with the likes of Google Music and streaming players like Last.fm and Spotify, but it may actually be indirect competition. These players focus on consumption of content, while Music Meter focuses on its discovery.

‘We Are Hunted’ and Billboard’s ‘Social 50 Chart’ can be considered direct competition.

We Are Hunted tracks social mentions, showcasing the most talked about artistes online. It was developed before Music Meter, so it is the real innovator in the music discovery space. However, it failed to make as much of an impact as Music Meter because of the influence and reach of MTV. A Mashable reader  said:

Well, think of the Music Meter’s audience — it’s a bit wider than werearehunted’s base. It could be an interesting way for MTV audiences to be exposed to some less mainstream content.

The Social 50 Chart gauges the popularity of bands and artistes based on fan activity on social networking sites, but doesn’t focus on upcoming artistes, which works against it, said Mashable reader Steven Moore :

Klout for Popstars- I am more interested in the new artists on the rise..so I can find them and then promote the heck out of them.. I go back a long way.. When Boy from U2 came out had friend send me an UK copy and then I taped it on a cassette and made copies for my buddies about 10 or so..and that is how I launched U2 in America (;-) Now it is unreal how really great music can just rip across the world…

So the heck with the top folks we know them- it the unknown… Anyone have a site or tool for that???

This is where Music Meter comes in.

Music Meter was also criticised for not being engaging enough as it did not keep people on it for too long. After discovering artistes that users like, the next step should be engagement through conversations online or through consumption of content pegs like full-length songs, live events and behind the scenes footage.

However, the engagement levels aren’t anywhere near where they could be, leaving the discovery process incomplete and forcing users to go to other platforms like YouTube and Spotify.

If Music Meter were less rigid about focusing only on discovery, it could open new avenues for itself.  Mashable writer Brenna Ehrlich wrote in ‘MTV Music Meter comes to iPhone & iPad’ :

Sadly, one can only listen to 30-second previews of tracks, courtesy of Rhapsody. This seems to be the case even if one is a Rhapsody subscriber, which seems a little silly — especially since MTV and the subscription services are currently offering a 60-day free trial. This seems like a missed opportunity

In its current state, Music Meter is somewhat limited. There is limited social integration, which means that there is no sharing and that users aren’t up-to-date with what their friends are listening to. A Facebook Timeline app would solve the problem.

Music Meter is working on these limitations.

A recent BBC study showed that 53% of surfers actively looked for music on social networking sites. A further 30% said they went on to buy or download music that they had discovered on a social networking site.

The MTVs and Billboards of this world know of this trend change and how people don’t rely on album sales or plays on TV channels or radio stations to discover music. As Brenna Ehlrich said in her post on Mashable:

The fact that such established music information sources as MTV and Billboard are now gauging artists’ popularity by their social media cache really highlights how important a strong online presence has become for an artist’s success.

The trend on social media seems to be the ‘Discover, Consume and Engage’. Music lovers will use We Are Hunted, Music Meter and the Social 50 Chart to stay up to speed with trends to discover new music.

The next step of the cycle will be consumption of content and engagement through YouTube, Last.fm, Spotify and Rdio by streaming music and creating conversations through push-button curation.

Once the cycle for an artiste is complete, it will be repeated for a new one. This trend promises to last for a while.

(MSLGROUP’s People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform and approach helps organizations tap into people’s insights for innovation, storytelling and change. The People’s Lab crowdsourcing platform also enables our distinctive insights and foresight approach, which consists of four elements: organic conversation analysis, MSLGROUP’s own insight communities, client-specific insights communities, and ethnographic deep dives into these communities.

As an example, 50+ thinkers and planners within MSLGROUP share and discuss inspiring projects on corporate citizenship, crowdsourcing and storytelling on the MSLGROUP Insights Network. Every week, we pick up one project and do a deep dive into conversations around it — on the MSLGROUP Insights Network itself but also on the broader social web — to distill insights and foresights. We share these insights and foresights with you on our People’s Insights blog and compile the best insights from the network and the blog in the iPad-friendly People’s Lab Quarterly Magazine, as a showcase of our capabilities.

As you can imagine, we can bring the same innovative approach to help you distill insights and foresights from conversations and communities. To start a conversation on how we can help you win with insights and foresights, write to Pascal Beucler at pascal.beucler@mslgroup.com.)

Rooshabh Doshi

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