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The 'Democratization of Music.'
October 12, 2009 11:07 AM   Subscribe

uPlaya uses algorithms to determine if a song will be a hit.

Brought to you by Music Intelligence Solutions, the uPlaya software uses spectral deconvolution to rate a song on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being assurance that the song will be a hit. Ostensibly, the software can be used to sell new bands to record labels if a song achieves a ranking of platinum or better. According to Harvard Business School, the software is accurate 8 out of 10 times. The software is a finalist for the Creative Coast's Innovation Awards. A vodpod documentary about uPlaya. The uPlaya blog.
posted by Lutoslawski (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
and to editorialize my own post, I have a hard time thinking this software is more than "hey, you've got a steady 4/4 there, and a solid I IV V progression...I smell a hit!"

I think this is sad.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:09 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


u is the next i
posted by scrutiny at 11:11 AM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


Couldn't Pandora do this? I mean, they know what bands sounds like New Order (or whatever) so presumably they could just put in a bunch of #1 hits and see what their engine pops out.
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on October 12, 2009


Meredith also notes that his software isn't writing the songs. Human beings do that — at least for now.

Twenty minutes into in the future, someone will write a genetic algorithm that cuts and pastes different phrases, chords, vocals, etc. into making a 3' 05" song. The script will feed the output into the song rater, and the rating comes back into the algorithm's selection step. And this will happen over and over again, until the Ultimate Pop Song is born.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:14 AM on October 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


Blazecock, I think that tune you're talking about is the longer version of the jingle they use for the Zic-Zac commercials.
posted by adipocere at 11:16 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Couldn't Pandora do this? I mean, they know what bands sounds like New Order (or whatever) so presumably they could just put in a bunch of #1 hits and see what their engine pops out.

Actually, Pandora songs are tagged and categorised by real people.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:17 AM on October 12, 2009



Twenty minutes into in the future, someone will write a genetic algorithm that cuts and pastes different phrases, chords, vocals, etc. into making a 3' 05" song. The script will feed the output into the song rater, and the rating comes back into the algorithm's selection step. And this will happen over and over again, until the Ultimate Pop Song is born.



I always thought you could easily automate DJing for weddings or Reunions or whatever. Just take the average age of the people who would be on the dance floor, find out what what songs where hits when they were 14-18 and play those.
posted by The Whelk at 11:20 AM on October 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


As you well know, a record must break on radio in order to actually provide a living for the artists involved. Up until now, you've had to make these record-breaking decisions on your own, relying only on perplexing intangibilities like taste and intuition.
But now, there's a better way.
The cut that follows is the product of newly-developed compositional techniques, based on state-of-the-art marketing analysis technology. This cut has been analytically designed to break on radio.

-- Negativland
posted by demiurge at 11:21 AM on October 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


Twenty minutes into in the future, someone will write a genetic algorithm that cuts and pastes different phrases, chords, vocals, etc. into making a 3' 05" song. The script will feed the output into the song rater, and the rating comes back into the algorithm's selection step. And this will happen over and over again, until the Ultimate Pop Song is born.

Not pop music, but David Cope has already done this a bit. Through his Experiments in Musical Intelligence, he's created a program that will create works that could have been written by a composer but weren't.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:21 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I uploaded two of my (unsigned, unfamous) band's more crowd-pleasing sogs, just to see what this thing would do with them . . . the first one was given a 6.4 (honorable mention) and the second was given at 8.9 (Platinum "Auddy" award) . . . so yay me, I guess.

This looks kind of fun if you don't take it seriously, but at $90 for an opening subscription rate it also looks like one of the many "we'll make you a star!" companies that have sprung up within the last few years to fleece hopeful musicians out of their limited funds.

I'd be interested to hear about other people's scores - part of me cynically suspects that everyone who submits two songs gets one "platinum award" to bait the hook for that paid mambership.
posted by chaff at 11:33 AM on October 12, 2009


I wonder how Punch 'Em in the Dick would fare?
posted by barrett caulk at 11:37 AM on October 12, 2009


I always thought you could easily automate DJing for weddings or Reunions or whatever. Just take the average age of the people who would be on the dance floor, find out what what songs where hits when they were 14-18 and play those.

That's EXACTLY how the DJ for the lame-ass 20th high school reunion I attended programmed his set. It was a yawn-fest from start to finish, with very few songs that were actually popular amongst the student body, very few "oh, wow, I haven't heard that in ages" moments, and completely eschewing any hint of the intervening decades since we graduated. The dance floor was largely empty the entire time, he obviously was too young to be familiar with most of this material in the context of when it was released, and overall it was a total failure as a party / dance atmosphere. Very sad, tone deaf, and clueless.
posted by hippybear at 11:37 AM on October 12, 2009


There is one rule when doing a dance mix for a group of late 20-somethings early 30 somethings. You have to sneak in "As The World Falls Down" from Labyrinth for the slow dance. It works like a god-damned wizard spell, every time.
posted by The Whelk at 11:42 AM on October 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


From the article: "what human brain waves would find pleasing".

I hear McDonalds has a new piece of software that predicts what blood-sugar levels will think tastes good.
posted by idiopath at 11:42 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Didn't Rivers Cuomo try doing this?
posted by jhighmore at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2009


For an entirely different view on what makes a hit, see this.
posted by motty at 11:46 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh! And once I was hosting a party where the theme was, of course, "Prom." We had picked out the Prom Queen and King from a random ballot and they began the spotlight dance. I was going to play "Prom Theme" from fountains of wayne but at the last second, cause the girl was blond and the guy kinda tall dark and handsome, I switched it out for the Sunday's cover of "Wild Horses."


There was an *audible* squee! from the Fangirl contingent let me tell you.
posted by The Whelk at 11:48 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd be curious to see the results of some brave MeFites putting their Music submissions into it...

Blazecock Pileon: Twenty minutes into in the future, someone will write a genetic algorithm that cuts and pastes different phrases, chords, vocals, etc. into making a 3' 05" song. The script will feed the output into the song rater, and the rating comes back into the algorithm's selection step. And this will happen over and over again, until the Ultimate Pop Song is born.

There was a post a while back about a few guys using SCIENCE! to make the "most wanted" and the "most unwanted" songs. The results are here. The "best" was predictably bland, but the "worst" is an excruciatingly great cacophony that includes marching bands and children singing.
posted by mkultra at 11:49 AM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Children singing about religion and cowboys, just in case you where thinking about not buying the CD.
posted by The Whelk at 11:50 AM on October 12, 2009


There is one rule when doing a dance mix for a group of late 20-somethings early 30 somethings.

Ha! That's brilliant! (a great tune from a great soundtrack to a great movie don't dis me, ymmv).

As a corollary, if things are getting a bit distracted and you want to pick up the energy, I've never seen it fail: Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot will fill the dance floor and make everything a party.

(A less risque song which does exactly the same thing is Love Shack from The B-52's, but it's not nearly as much fun to watch people dance to.)
posted by hippybear at 11:50 AM on October 12, 2009


I'd be interested to hear about other people's scores - part of me cynically suspects that everyone who submits two songs gets one "platinum award" to bait the hook for that paid mambership.

6.7 and 6.8.
posted by 23skidoo at 12:05 PM on October 12, 2009


Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot will fill the dance floor and make everything a party.

UGH! That song needs to be thrown back into the fire of Mordor from which it was obviously forged!
posted by milarepa at 12:10 PM on October 12, 2009


Hey, I'm not saying I approve of the content. I'm just noting its effect on a slow party and its ability to fill a dance floor.
posted by hippybear at 12:28 PM on October 12, 2009


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: Actually, Pandora songs are tagged and categorised by real people.

Really? I was wondering whatever happened to Sarah Purcell and Skip Stephenson, thanks!

Actually, Stephenson died of a heart attack in 1992. Poor guy. I hope they didn't bury him on one of those sweaters.
posted by JHarris at 12:29 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got a score of 7.1 (a Gold Auddy™, they offered me a little badge for the award I could put on my web page) for Laid Off. I think that is way too high as a measurement of potential commercial success for that track. I call bullshit on their "underlying patterns" claim, just listen to the track if you want proof, there is only the most tenuous relationship between the patterns of that extremely minimal piece and anything that has ever hit the charts.

On the other hand, Doesn't Have To Hurt has been processing for ages, if I get an unusually high or low score I will be sure to update with the score.

This strikes me as a high tech version of the old songwriting competition / modeling agency scam, the kind of thing where almost everyone is assured they are primed for success, and they have some fees you can pay to enter contests for a chance to make it big. I feel like a rube just for giving them my email address.

This is snake oil. We have been uplayed®.
posted by idiopath at 12:44 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I call bullshit on their "underlying patterns" claim

This strikes me as a high tech version of the old songwriting competition / modeling agency scam

I couldn't agree more. Like I said, I think this is just sad sad sad.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:00 PM on October 12, 2009


sad sad sad

Then maybe we should all listen to some sad sad songs.
posted by The Whelk at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


So I got 5.5 for Doesn't Have To Hurt. Anyone get any scores lower than that?
posted by idiopath at 1:40 PM on October 12, 2009


OK, so that's "hits" sorted, now can someone write some software to determine if a song is any good?
posted by pompomtom at 1:43 PM on October 12, 2009


With all due respect to your post title, I think this is less about "the democratization of music" and more about "the stupidization of democratic human beings."
posted by koeselitz at 2:12 PM on October 12, 2009


I thought it was a different company, but it's the same one featured here previously as hitsongscience.com.

Does have that "it's Science(tm)!" snake-oil vibe, and does sound like poetry/songwriting competition artist-bilking machine.

That said, when I was hearing R&B charts non-stop last February or so after not listening radio for a while, I was thinking jeez, are all these guys using the same producers/songwriters/software etc.? In particular, all the "hey" background choruses in Turning Me On, Blame It, Life Your Life, all the autotune stuff everywhere, it sounded like one fuckin' album to me.


I just went through the top 30 songs out of a Top 125 R&B I downloaded back then for a friend, and of them these 16 sound like they could have been made by one songwriting/producing team:
001 - Jamie Foxx Ft. T-Pain - Blame It (T J - RMG ).mp3
002 - Ne-Yo Ft. Jamie Foxx & Fabolous - She Got Her Own (T Def Jam IDJMG).mp3
004 - Keri Hilson ft. Lil Wayne - Turning Me On (T Mosley Zone 4).mp3
006 - The-Dream - Rockin' That Thang (T Def Jam IDJMG ).mp3
007 - Kanye West - Heartless (T Roc-A-Fella Def Jam).MP3
008 - Jamie Foxx Ft. T.I. - Just Like Me (T J - RMG ).mp3
009 - Jim Jones & Ron Browz ft. Juelz Santana - Pop Champagne (Explicit) (T Ether Boy Koch).MP3
012 - T.I. ft. Rihanna - Live Your Life (T Def Jam Atlantic).MP3
014 - Bobby Valentino ft. Yung Joc- Beep (T Blu Kolla Dreams).MP3
016 - T-Pain ft. Ludacris - Chopped 'N' Skrewed (T Zomba).MP3
017 - Ne-Yo - Miss Independent (T Def Jam).MP3
023 - Usher - Here I Stand (T LaFace Zomba).MP3
024 - Plies ft. Chris J - Put It On Ya (T Big Gates Slip-N-Slide).MP3
025 - Soulja Boy Tell 'Em ft. Sammie - Kiss Me Thru The Phone (T ColliPark).mp3
027 - T.I. ft. Justin Timberlake - Dead And Gone (T Grand Hustle Atlantic).mp3
030 - T.I. - Whatever You Like (T Grand Hustle Atlantic).MP3


So pop music does tend to have some predictability that way, and maybe it's gotten worse. It's obviously time-bound though, and hitsongscience/uplaya won't I think ever "create" a trend, just be good at spotting it. Maybe even good at seeing when the right moment is for a pendulum to start swinging back from trend X to trend Anti-X.
posted by cps at 2:18 PM on October 12, 2009


"With all due respect to your post title, I think this is less about "the democratization of music" and more about "the stupidization of democratic human beings."

Yeah, I absolutely agree with you. "The Democratization of Music" is what the software developer is calling it. I think that's crazy.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:30 PM on October 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


demiurge, that was my first thought too!
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 2:36 PM on October 12, 2009


Totally saw this one coming. Almost a full day in advance.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:27 PM on October 12, 2009


Oh! And once I was hosting a party where the theme was, of course, "Prom." We had picked out the Prom Queen and King from a random ballot and they began the spotlight dance. I was going to play "Prom Theme" from fountains of wayne but at the last second, cause the girl was blond and the guy kinda tall dark and handsome, I switched it out for the Sunday's cover of "Wild Horses."

At first, I misread that as being switching it out for "Goodbye Horses". Needless to say, I was utterly disappointed on re-read.
posted by kafziel at 3:28 PM on October 12, 2009


Last year two workers at Sony wrote a paper debunking "hit song science": Hit Song Science is Not Yet a Science (PDF).
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:49 PM on October 12, 2009



At first, I misread that as being switching it out for "Goodbye Horses". Needless to say, I was utterly disappointed on re-read.


We had another party where a girl stripped to Goodbye Horses. She had a robe and a little dog, and the Big Reveal was a bikini that made it look like she was tucking.

It was awesome.
posted by The Whelk at 5:09 PM on October 12, 2009


Previously.
posted by breath at 5:46 PM on October 12, 2009


By law, all threads that touch on the issue of manufactured pop are required to include a link to The Manual.
posted by Lazlo at 6:05 PM on October 12, 2009


diploma of love, which can be heard one mefi music, got an 8.3
posted by djduckie at 6:21 PM on October 12, 2009


King Flesh & Bone got an 8.4 (a platinum "auddy"); Flesh & Bone got a 6.6 (a silver "auddy").

That actually seems to align fairly well with how the songs have been received so far, but that's got to be pure coincidence. This concept is bunk right from the start, yet another scam to prey off artist's insecurities and desire for recognition.

"Democratization of Music?" More like "Demoralization of Music."
posted by saulgoodman at 6:58 AM on October 13, 2009


Oh and don't forget the fellow that proposed to create a pitchforkmedia.com high grade worthy song, just by parsing their past reviews for certain words/music content:

http://pitchformula.com/

An interesting venture - uplaya seems more for the pop sensibilities and pitchformula more for the indie cred. Perhaps I should capture Tony Iommi and create a perfect, crunchy metal hit machine.
posted by mctsonic at 8:27 AM on October 13, 2009


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