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The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

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The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby I'd Rather Play » Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:09 am

What a waste of licence fee -payers money. They set up a premise, acknowledge it's crap, and then have the gall to waste money by making a programme about it!
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Martin Walker » Sun Mar 05, 2017 6:53 pm

Oh dear - recorded this for later consumption, but perhaps I won't bother to view it now :beamup:


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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Mar 05, 2017 7:15 pm

I got about 20 mins into it before I decided the guy hadn't got a clue. Poor old Trevor Horn spent his share of that first few minutes looking bemused and disbelieving too. I even deleted it so I wouldn't be tempted to go back and pick holes in it......... Complete rubbish :headbang:
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Dr Huge Longjohns » Sun Mar 05, 2017 8:14 pm

Yes, I was looking forward to it and it was nonsense. Particularly infuriating was the fact that they didn't explain the criteria the system used to evaluate the music.
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:39 am

Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:Yes, I was looking forward to it and it was nonsense. Particularly infuriating was the fact that they didn't explain the criteria the system used to evaluate the music.

I did end up watching it all the way through, and as everyone has said it was rather a train crash. However, Dr Huge really did hit the nail on the head - although the presenter mentioned tempo variation and rhymthic changes as being considered, it would have been far more interesting if the statistical analysis was explained in more detail.

As it was, the presenter readily admitted at the start that he knew little about music and music history, so it seemed mad to then analyse such a huge amount of chart-based music without getting informed advice from musical experts on the parameters to be considered, rather than seemingly relying on statisticians to come up with suitable analytic methodds :beamup:

Also, he kept saying that the most popular music was on the 'average' of his historical spreads, when perhaps it would have been clearer to have simply deduced that more 'average' music is likely to appeal to a wider range of listeners and hence have a greater chance of rising up the charts! :headbang:

Such a wasted opportunity overall :thumbdown:


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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby blinddrew » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:18 pm

Martin Walker wrote:Also, he kept saying that the most popular music was on the 'average' of his historical spreads, when perhaps it would have been clearer to have simply deduced that more 'average' music is likely to appeal to a wider range of listeners and hence have a greater chance of rising up the charts! :headbang:
Yers, when he mentioned this I did wonder if his cause and effect was a bit backwards. Did the music in each period conform to an average or was the average for each period defined by the most significant music of that period?
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Dave B » Tue Mar 07, 2017 4:35 pm

I think that the idea was to use machine learning to identify key characteristics that hit songs have and track them so as to produce something that would be a hit now.

It/s an interesting idea but rather odd given that he identified that he was using evolutionary biology as a parallel - in evolution, there is often a random change that triggers something new. He identified this, but completely ignored it. When he did so I was completely floored as the one thing that seems to be a good indicator of a hit is it's difference to other songs. I don't want to hear a re-hash of a couple of other current hits - I want something else as variety. Maybe I'm wrong.

But all of this pales into nothing when you consider that they took a nice song, and then tried throwing silly ideas to turn it into something else. What an idiot. If he'd gone to Trevor Horn with a series of parameters / boxes to tick and commissioned him to create a new song that ticks all the boxes, it might have been interesting. But to hack and slash a perfectly good ballad in that way was almost criminal.

I'm just wondering how they got TH involved with such a strange programme. You'd think he had better things to do.
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby OneWorld » Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:20 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:Yes, I was looking forward to it and it was nonsense. Particularly infuriating was the fact that they didn't explain the criteria the system used to evaluate the music.

I did end up watching it all the way through, and as everyone has said it was rather a train crash. However, Dr Huge really did hit the nail on the head - although the presenter mentioned tempo variation and rhymthic changes as being considered, it would have been far more interesting if the statistical analysis was explained in more detail.

As it was, the presenter readily admitted at the start that he knew little about music and music history, so it seemed mad to then analyse such a huge amount of chart-based music without getting informed advice from musical experts on the parameters to be considered, rather than seemingly relying on statisticians to come up with suitable analytic methodds :beamup:

Also, he kept saying that the most popular music was on the 'average' of his historical spreads, when perhaps it would have been clearer to have simply deduced that more 'average' music is likely to appeal to a wider range of listeners and hence have a greater chance of rising up the charts! :headbang:

Such a wasted opportunity overall :thumbdown:


Martin

I came away with the same impression. Though I had expected the programme to have taken a batch of 'successful' tunes, and examine them for any common factors, more of a musical analysis than whatever he did.

In machine learning a cluster of data is examined and a result compared with the start point.
But he didn't explain what or why whatever data he used was there. The programme sort of told us all what we know already about 'success' - very little, one man's/woman's success is another man's/woman's ear croaker. Neither did he factor in those other important elements - marketing/publicity/contacts.

And if there were a formula for producing a sure fire money spinning hit, the person that creates the formula would most likely keep it to themselves, just like the wizzened old prospector in "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" said he'd shoot the first man that wanted to head off into town shouting "There's gold in them thar hills"

I did like the song they worked on though - Dive I think it was called
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby desmond » Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:52 pm

The thing is, there is no objective measure of "a good tune".

Yes, you can determine parameters, like popular keys, chord sequences, whether melodies resolve and so on, but just because lots of popular tunes use those values doesn't stop those same values being able to produce a million variations that would never make a hit, or anything even that interesting (as people who have experimented with algorithmic software know.)

The only real measure of "a good tune" is how closely it matches the listeners tastes, values, and satisfies them when being heard, and the amount of people in a given samples that it works for.

None of those things can be reversed to say why a given song is a good one, nor use that to create other songs with the same values that would also be a hit.

So: there is no "automatic hit" software, and nor is there likely ever to be. Even the people who have written hits don't know how to replicate it. The creative muse is a strange thing, and sometimes good art seems to come into being in spite of our effort, rather than because of them (the old "the song seemed to write itself" effect).

Statistical analysis is interesting, but ultimately can't provide any answers in how to make a hit. Best write another song, and hope... ;)
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Guest » Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:17 pm

The presenter was full of 'imself, it was all about promoting him nowt else.

There is a science to it though, all great music, (popularity is no guide to quality,) shares basically the same ingredients, I.E. excellent voice leading, the same &/or best available intervals are used every time but maybe in a different order and/or with diff pauses/pulses/beats... nature plays a huge role in this as she often decides/predicts for you, my ears have allways informed me of this...

Not just me neither, Calvin 'arris said something similar a while a go, that making tracks is scientific, like being in a lab, he should know cos he's been the most consistent hitmaker these past few years, the only ingredient needed for a hit is, very good, or even better, excellent voice leading, it really is that simple...

It's objective, if you don't use the right notes you'll get a wrong tune...
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby desmond » Wed Mar 08, 2017 8:18 pm

Ok, just watched this. Yeah, Trevor looked bored and like he'd rather be somewhere else.

Statistical analysis of pop songs, in various forms, has been done before, and every time it ends with no meaningful results in terms of what makes a "good" pop record.

They tend to analyse "components" - rhythmic intensity, chords and sounds used, the structure and so on.

Unfortunately, good art happens when the components combine to form something *greater* than the sum of it's parts. You can't get there from the parts alone - and it's this bit that is the mysterious thing that artists are in general chasing.

Maybe they would have stood a better chance if they'd got a pop songwriter/artist to actually *write* a pop song to use, than to take random artist in a random style who happened to have a song available. A ballad no less, and a rather non-descript one at that.

There are a lot of things that big data analysis can usefully tell you - how to create a pop hit isn't one, and likely won't ever be. The creation of art is such a human endeavour, than to do it artificially will probably require us to be able to create our own human intelligences artificially first - and we don't know how to do that either.

It seems some things will remain a (beautiful) mystery for some time to come, yet.

Thankfully!
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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:45 pm

Dave B wrote:I was completely floored as the one thing that seems to be a good indicator of a hit is it's difference to other songs. I don't want to hear a re-hash of a couple of other current hits - I want something else as variety. Maybe I'm wrong.

I totally agree with this Dave, but suspect that you and I may not be average listeners :beamup:

Dave B wrote:But all of this pales into nothing when you consider that they took a nice song, and then tried throwing silly ideas to turn it into something else. What an idiot. If he'd gone to Trevor Horn with a series of parameters / boxes to tick and commissioned him to create a new song that ticks all the boxes, it might have been interesting. But to hack and slash a perfectly good ballad in that way was almost criminal.

Spot on again - Trevor looked totally bemused when the presenter went back with his 'results' :headbang:


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Re: The Secret Science of Pop -BBC

Postby CS70 » Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:52 am

Dave B wrote:I think that the idea was to use machine learning to identify key characteristics that hit songs have and track them so as to produce something that would be a hit now.

It/s an interesting idea but rather odd given that he identified that he was using evolutionary biology as a parallel - in evolution, there is often a random change that triggers something new. He identified this, but completely ignored it.

Absolutely. This kind of methods can analyze the past well but are rather useless to predict things for anything more than trivial systems, due to the amount of randomized variables.

When he did so I was completely floored as the one thing that seems to be a good indicator of a hit is it's difference to other songs. I don't want to hear a re-hash of a couple of other current hits - I want something else as variety. Maybe I'm wrong.

That said, most hit songs are exactly copies and re-hashes of previous hits. It's due to how our head works - we like stuff that is familiar. Brains don't like effort (it consumes loads of sugar and worsens the odds for survival) and the familiar requires less effort.

The most notable consequences is that "different" is easily confused with "bad". There's lots of test showing that, and real world examples in many fields (design, fashion, art, music included). A case in point in music is, if I don't remember badly, "Hey ya" - for which a special radio setup had to be organized so that people actually *listened* to it a few times, sandwiching it between two familiar-type songs.. and it went from being a megaflop to a megahit. It was sufficiently different from anything else to require that.

So normally you have a breakthru (either due to luck, or marketing, or any conditions rather independent from the music itself) and then a wagonload of copycats, many of which become hits in their own right.

The trick to have a chance without having the pulling power of a great label or a a great name seems to be to make music which is sufficiently similar to feel familiar, but sufficiently different not to be ashamed of it 20 years later. Tough stuff.
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