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AI Bots Pick The Hits of Tomorrow 510

Wolverine Inspector writes "The Music Industry uses a product called HSS (Hit Song Science) made by Spain's Polyphonic HMI. According to The Guardian "while no one's talking about it, it seems that the whole record industry is already using AI to choose hits. From unsigned acts dreaming in their garage, to multinationals such as Sony and Universal, everyone is clandestinely using a new and controversial technology to gain an edge on their competitors." Even though it costs about $5,200 US/$6,500, many artists are starting to buy it to help them write succesfull songs."
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AI Bots Pick The Hits of Tomorrow

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  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:40AM (#11394760) Homepage Journal

    That's just great.

    Remember how video card manufacturers were tweaking their drivers to perform well in benchmarks? "Musicians", and I use that term loosely, will be tweaking their songs to score a "hit" on this service.
    FTA: Those "leftfield", illogical and grassroots-inspired departures from the norm, such as disco or drum and bass, could not have been predicted - but they shift the mainstream and provide the momentum any culture needs to remain fresh.
    Right, but it will be harder than ever to produce something out of the mainstream when a record exec will look only at the score on HSS and potential effect on the bottom line.
    FTA: As Smith says, "Art is the one area where people can, and should be able to, make radical statements. Anything that encourages safe, consensus-driven music should be used with caution."
    Art for art's sake is virtually a thing of the past. Prepare for more of the same on the FM dial! (thank goodness for
    • by savagedome ( 742194 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:43AM (#11394814)
      Art for art's sake is virtually a thing of the past.

      Welcome to the age of 'Art for fart's sake'. It's the future!
    • Art for art's sake is virtually a thing of the past.

      Yeah, as if we haven't heard this one a hundred times before. But in time, these predictions have always proved wrong.

      • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:55AM (#11394976)
        But in time, these predictions have always proved wrong.

        The music industry has proven again and again that "time" no longer matters. Bands like The Stones, Aerosmith, etc, are all a thing of the past. They don't need them. They want acts like Spears, Maroon5, etc who rise to the top of the charts quickly through marketing, consolidation, and payoffs, and who are only there for a short time before the next big thing hits.

        Touring, actual music playing, and actual singing are overrated. The HSS printout says so.

        Just tweak this, this, and this. Add a synth here, here, and here. We have a hit. Two hits, maybe three, and we can continue to whine that we don't make any money because we spent it all marketing something that died after 3 years.
      • Oh really? Because many people are composing actual music today right? ...

        Just because you can play three chords, wail into a microphone and dress like a "$THING_TEENAGERS_WANT_TO_LOOK_LIKE" doesn't mean you're an artist. You're a performer.

        Fuck, even Titney spears admits she doesn't write the songs she sings. I seriously doubt lavigne, simpsons or the other MTV mutts write their own songs either.

        Let's just not confuse music/art with "noise that they produce". Sure it's a diversion and occasionally en
        • Oh really? Because many people are composing actual music today right? ...

          Britney Spears, et al != Current Music

          There is other music out there.
        • > Art is something made with a message or story in mind.

          This isn't really true... abstract painting, experimental composition are good counterexamples. These things are art, but they contain no message or story.

          I sympathize with your distaste for Britney Spears-ish pop, but it's still art - very uninspired, amateurish art masked by a high polish, but art nonetheless.

          > - explosions
          > - oddly casted music
          > - some "tough guy"
          > - girl (the more titties the better)
          > - car chase scene
          > - gu
        • - girl (the more titties the better)

          while there are rare exceptions (total recall springs to mind) most movies i have seen only feature girls with 2 'titties'.
    • by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:52AM (#11394932) Homepage
      "Musicians", and I use that term loosely, will be tweaking their songs to score a "hit" on this service.

      Sure, but so what? Same as you are not forced to eat crappy processed food you don't need to buy this homogenized shit.

      Sure, something gets lost along the lines. Creativity? Kharma? Soul? I don't really know, but unfortunately this change happened after the last of the titans in the music business left the ship and where replaced by young, aggressive, MBA schooled and Excel knowledged executives, who don't really give a shit if they're moving laundry detergent, softdrinks or, well, culture [for lack of a better word].

      The somewhat cheering thought is that we will always have good music around (currently Tom Waits: Blue Valentine, but I digress) and there will always be good new bands, song writers, arrangers and musicians.

      The difference between them and the mainstream will be that while they don't necessarilly shun technology they sure as hell won't use "hit"-writer software, or those gizmos that "clean" mistakes in human vocals.

      I totally agree with your assessment. Just wanted to add some perspective and maybe a more joyful outlook on what is to come.

      • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:58AM (#11395035) Homepage Journal
        I totally agree with your assessment. Just wanted to add some perspective and maybe a more joyful outlook on what is to come.

        Yeah, if slashdot had a "+1, Cynical" rating my karma would be through the stratosphere. The only radio I listen to nowadays is AM news & weather. Most mainstream music isn't my cup of tea although there's a good university station here that plays some neat bands.

        In my original post I mentioned I meant, I've found a lot of really decent smaller bands there I would never have heard of had I gone to the standard CD mall-store or listened to the mainstream radio. Mind you, my favourite band is Motorhead [] so my observations on art and music should be taken with a grain of salt ;)
        • emusic was nice, and I found some really cool stuff there. However, they seem to have entirely stopped adding new stuff in the past few months, at least the stuff I listen to, so I've cancelled my subscription. Lately, I've been quite happy with Live365 internet radio, as long as I'm at my computer.
      • In many areas of the US, we're seeing a rise in the demand for organic, non-trans-fatty, less-processed foods (e.g., Whole Foods []). Actually, it's more acurate to say we're seeing a rise in the supply. The rise in demand necessarily preceded this rise in supply.

        Similarly, if too many musicians over-process their music, we will see an increased demand for more "organic" music that will evenutally lead to an increased supply. The end result might even be better music.

      • Its like the scene in Demolition Man (the movie) where all that the radio stations play is old advertising jingles...

        Music has a whole host of attributes:
        1. Tune/melody/rythum(sic)
        2. Lyrics
        3. Score/instrumentation (the instruments and harmonies selected to support the melody)
        4. Skill (singing, musicianship)

        Listen to the Beatles after they went into the studio with George Martin. Listen to Aerosmyth. These are masters of their art - and hence why their albums continue to sell today.

        Most of today's t
      • I find it even more cheering that such dreadfully inhuman methods would be used to make mainstream music that can only present indie music in a better light. If I were an indie musician (like perhaps the band Brother), I'd rejoice that my "competition" would take such a route to its own mediocrity.

        Apparently Humanity needs a constant lesson in what happens when power is removed from people and placed centrally in a bunch of corporate dirtbags. We need to learn this over, and over. The music industry i
      • I have to agree with you. There will always be good heartfelt music around. The days of it being spoonfed to you are over.

        I write an occasional song or two and believe that process to be a outlet for whatever I'm feeling at the time. It's an organic and personal process. I can't imagine using a computer program to tell me if what I'm letting off my chest is going to sell. Personally I don't care if it sells, I'm not trying to make a living off of it.

        To that end I try to write songs that please me first, t
    • > "Musicians", and I use that term loosely, will be tweaking their songs to score
      > a "hit" on this service.

      Isn't this is already what they do? People who buy pop music (myself included) are already spoon-fed, more or less, and artists who make it are already deriving their success by riding trends (intentionally or not).

      It might not be so bad. More bands get a shot, and more people get a listen. I would wager that the number of people who really care about music hasn't decreased because of coookie c
    • by Seumas ( 6865 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:09AM (#11395196)
      I really don't see any of this as a problem.

      There are musical artists and then there are musicians. Musicians play instruments or sing and write music, etc. Artists produce a piece of work intended to convey emotion and inspire or in some way evoke a response from the listener. A musician custom-builds a film-score, jingle, muzak or top 40 hit.

      There's no art in "rock-away" or "drop it like it's hot" or "thong thong thong thong thong". That garbage is just for bouncing around to. There's no more art to that than there is to a room full of old people after a burrito dinner.

      So, if they want to use some AI software to find out what the next big hit on Total Request Live will be - great. Artists will never be found on TRL as it is, so what do we care what happens with that genre of music?

      I find it unlikely that they'll be applying this to most other fields of music. *shrug*
      • by h0mer ( 181006 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @12:31PM (#11396396)
        There's no art in "rock-away" or "drop it like it's hot" or "thong thong thong thong thong". That garbage is just for bouncing around to. There's no more art to that than there is to a room full of old people after a burrito dinner.

        By "Rock-Away", I think you mean Lean Back by Terror Squad featuring Fat Joe, produced by Scott Storch. I find the instrumental part very well done, merging a orchestra sound with heavy drums. In fact, you could say it provoked an emotion from me. I feel "pumped up" when I hear it.

        "Drop It Like It's Hot" is produced by the Neptunes, who are famous for *not* using synths and computers to make their tracks. I find the mouthpops interesting since I haven't heard them used in that way.

        You don't like it, that's fine. You don't have a right to say it's not art, I don't like a lot of classical music but it's certainly art.
    • Right, but it will be harder than ever to produce something out of the mainstream when a record exec will look only at the score on HSS and potential effect on the bottom line.

      To hell with the mammoth record labels and their use of that piece of software as their sole or one of many tools to determine a hit.

      We all know that they're a bunch of smug suits looking to do as little work as possible to maintain their riches. Not embracing electronic distribution, use of this software to determine their next
    • by Mr.Zong ( 704396 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:49AM (#11395749)
      Uh, we did read both links right?

      This thing picked Norah Jones. Frankly, shes damn talented, and is quite the opposite of this modern day radio crap fest. If anything, this app seems to be telling the brain dead execs that the crap your playing sells well initally, but if you put out quility (like jones) you don't need the marketing blitz (which she didn't get) and you don't need to reinvent the market every year.

      You would think the /. crowd would know better then to guess the outcome of data mining and pattern recognition applications(Look at me! I know how the ANN got it's answer!).

      Lets not forget, the program his to be smarter then those execs making the decisions. It's not possible for it be dumber. Its really not.
  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nastard ( 124180 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:41AM (#11394772)
    Remember the good old days when the listeners picked the hits?

    Next up: bots that generate pop music.
    • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

      by TJ_Phazerhacki ( 520002 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:46AM (#11394854) Journal
      They dont already?
      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Nastard ( 124180 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:51AM (#11394919)
        No, the record companies contract people to go and give monetary "incentives" to radio stations to get their picks put into heavier rotation (or into rotation at all). The station plays the song and calls it "hot", and the listeners, all eager to be hip and fresh and on the cutting edge of music, hear the word "hot" and jump all over it.

        Or in some cases, people just hear the same song so many times that it becomes familiar and eventually enjoyable.

        The point, though, is that you're given a multiple choice test when it comes to picking the music you like, and the record companies want to ensure as few choices as possible, and that whichever you pick belongs to them.
      • No. Hit charts are based at least in part on airplay, which makes them a clusterfuck based on the taste of a few DJs.
        • Re:Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

          by SnapShot ( 171582 )
          Do DJ's -- other than in college radio -- actually have any freedom to pick songs? I was under the impression that the suits at ClearChannel or Viacom choose the playlist. I can't imagine that a DJ at a ClearChannel owned radio station is going to have the freedom to play some local artist or, for that matter, the Dixie Chicks.
          • The suits probably have a great deal of influence over what gets played, but since commercial radio is still largely an old boys network people have control over various operations for various reasons other than actual skill.
    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Funny)

      by CheechBG ( 247105 ) * on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:46AM (#11394857) Homepage
      Next up: bots that generate pop music.

      They already have bots that do that, they call them boy bands. It was supposed to be bot bands, but I think someone in the 80's screwed it up with Menudo, and the name stuck. What are you going to do...

    • Fight back (Score:2, Funny)

      by Scorchio ( 177053 )
      I just use a bot to listen to the music and tell me if I liked it or not. It mostly says "no", so I assume it's working fine.
    • No, I don't.

      There will always be enthusiasts who want meaningful, inventive music. I count myself among them. There will always be people turning to underground scenes, college radio, Internet blogs, local concerts and word-of-mouth when big media falls short of providing anything interesting.

      If this tech can help the big-deal studios find new drivel to promote to the masses -- who may have other interests and simply don't CARE that much about quality music -- so be it. For some people, music just isn't t
    • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      " Remember the good old days when the listeners picked the hits?"

      When was this?
      Music has been marketed to death for a very long time. Heck even in the 60s do you think the Beetles landing in New York to all that press coverage and screaming fans just happened?
      Once a something crosses the line into big money it is all over. Look at Comic books, sf, Anime is on it's way to being market driven.

      Even computer software is now more driven by fluff than substance. BSD is every bit as good as Linux but it does not

    • How about bots that listen to the hits? Then we can all get on with our lives.

  • RIAA Bot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kdark1701 ( 791894 )
    It would appear that the music industry is not ailing as much as they would like us to believe.
  • by strelitsa ( 724743 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:42AM (#11394788) Journal
    Air Supply and Ashlee Simpson.
  • Scapegoat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CypherXero ( 798440 )
    So instead of people blaming the HUGE record industry that produces crap, they can blame a machine! Sounds like a scapegoat to me. Either that, or the record execs are SO STUPID when it comes to music, that they have to get a machine to help them out.
    • by EEBaum ( 520514 )
      So instead of people blaming the HUGE record industry that produces crap, they can blame a machine! Sounds like a scapegoat to me. Either that, or the record execs are SO STUPID when it comes to music, that they have to get a machine to help them out.

      or? I'd say "and"
  • by dtolton ( 162216 ) * on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:43AM (#11394816) Homepage
    This is not AI. The music companies are using clustering technology.

    The basic idea is that you measure certain characteristics of a song,
    such as voice quality, cadence, etc. I'm sure the actual
    characteristics used are much more complicated, but the idea is the
    same. Once you have your characteristics you can build a three
    dimensional vector out of a song. After you have your three
    dimensional vector, you can then use many different algorithms, one
    such is the Bi-secting K-means algorithm to group the songs together.
    After you have built your cluster, you take a new song, run it through
    the process and check to see how close it falls to a "hit" cluster.

    We use this same process for document classification at my work, and I
    don't think it bears any relation on AI. As I stated above, it's a
    rather simple grouping technique.

    There is a downside to this technology though. By measuring how close a
    song is to previous hits, you are guaranteeing that all new songs will
    be similar to old hits. This type of system tends to minimize or
    eliminate fresh new types of music.

    (why the word wrapping? Emacs auto-fill-mode)
    • So basically, the AI is using the J. Evans Pritchard method for determining greatness in poetry (which is can be widely considered as a spoken form of music) to determine the overall greatness of modern music.

      Just great. Where the hell is the barbaric YAWP when you need one.
    • There is a downside to this technology though. By measuring how close a song is to previous hits, you are guaranteeing that all new songs will be similar to old hits. This type of system tends to minimize or eliminate fresh new types of music.

      Downside? Sounds to me more like the recording industry executive's dream come true ...

    • This type of system tends to minimize or
      eliminate fresh new types of music.

      I believe you mean it tends to miss new types of music, not eliminate them. New music won't be going away, it will just be flying under the radar of the labels until it's large enough that they can't ignore it. Which sounds like what they do now anyway.

    • AI and statistics... (Score:4, Informative)

      by Omni-Cognate ( 620505 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:26AM (#11395436)

      ... are intricately related. Many AI techniques are forms of statistical inference or statistical classification techniques. Some neural nets implement grouping techniques not that different from k-means.

      Any box which learns from a set of data in order to predict future data by implicitly extracting trends and patterns from that data is an implementation of some form of statistical inference algorithm and is subject to all of the general results statistics has to offer about such algorithms. Conversely, statistical inference algorithms are often implemented in ways associated with AI, for example as neural nets.

      Given this situation, it's hard to define the boundaries that separate artificial intelligence, pattern recognition, statistical inference and classification and the rest. Of course, there is a legitimate question as to whether such techniques actually mimic genuine intelligence even in principle, and there are other approaches.

      From the point of view of terminology, there is a huge range of techniques that can be called AI, and statistical inference is one of them. If you call a VLSI neural network implementing a statistical inference algorithm "AI", then why not call a normal computer implementing a statistical inference algorithm "AI"? Besides, AI sounds a hell of a lot sexier than statistics when you're trying to extract maximum dough from the ample coffers of the recording industry.

    • The article says: ". . . [an] A&R director at EMI believes that HSS as a hit predictor merely reinforces decisions taken by A&Rs, those record company employees given the job of discovering new songs and artists. "A good A&R has a very accurate instinct for what the market needs," he says - and the fact that 95% of hit songs in the past 50 years are high scorers seems to back him up."

      Um, HSS is using past hit songs to define high scores, so the fact that past hits have high scores is not some
    • by Mechanik ( 104328 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:29AM (#11395470) Homepage
      Once you have your characteristics you can build a three dimensional vector out of a song.

      Don't you mean an n-dimensional vector? Wouldn't it be only three dimensional if they're only measuring three characteristics?

  • Can it generate songs which are cross-format focused [] and guaranteed to break on radio based on state-of-the-art marketing technology?

  • I wonder whether "supply & demand" will play a role here. If thousands of artists start producing formulaic output, won't the per-artist demand drop? With perhaps a compensating increase in demand for innovators?

    • If thousands of artists start producing formulaic output...

      Start? You haven't listened to the pop charts in the last decade have you.
    • Re:Self defeating? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 )

      I wonder whether "supply & demand" will play a role here. If thousands of artists start producing formulaic output, won't the per-artist demand drop? With perhaps a compensating increase in demand for innovators?

      If??? IF??? My god, have you heard pop music nowadays? I can't tell them apart because they've become so formulaic. A lot of modern groups sound like they must be a dime a dozen; or at least carefully compiled to match some already known formula.

      As to wether an increase in demand for inno

  • by kent_eh ( 543303 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:45AM (#11394831)
    many artists are starting to buy it to help them write succesfull songs."

    Comercially successful != good

    • Commercially successful is the DEFINITION of "good" when it comes to the world of business. If more people buy it, you make more money. That's all there is to it.

      Disgusted by it? I am too. That's why I don't buy music anymore. The RIAA isn't just bad for consumer rights, it's bad for art as well. When art and finance collide, the business world just steamrollers it.
    • Comercially successful != good

      Exactly. When acts are commercially successful there are a number of things that could happen that the conglomorates won't like:

      a) The band could be so independently successful that they could break off and start producing their own material or even start touring and releasing their live/new stuff on the Internet!

      b) The conglomorates might see the successful band as a threat to the shit they have been releasing. People flock to the successful ones and they feel like they
  • I think what the music industry needs is a tsunami tidal wave of insipid filth to just wash over the airwaves for several years, and this software has got to be the ticket.

    I'm hoping that after another ten years of generic, predictable, and bland popular pabulum, the music-buying public will abandon the major labels and start going to coffee shops to hear something different.
  • never, ever buy a new album ever again. I'll just use this crane here to put it on the tippity top there, like the star at the top of a Christmas tree.
  • Circular statistics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mfarver ( 43681 ) * on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:46AM (#11394844) Journal
    Is it just me or did the article quote music industry folks as saying the software must work becuase 95% of the hits of the last decade scored highly. The software is a mathmatical model based on the hits of the last century.. so of course it scores them highly.

    • by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @04:03PM (#11399323)
      You've made a very good point.

      In the field of machine learning, it's considered a major no-no to quote performance figures based on your training data.

      The typical way to validate your results is called an N-way cross-validation. You split the data into N parts, and perform N training runs. Each run uses N-1 chunks to train, and tests on the remaining chunk. Then you average the results to get a general performance estimate, or you can use a T-test to compare the results against another algorithm.

      This report would have been rejected immediately from any academic journal of any significance. It's a fucking joke.

  • The formula (Score:5, Funny)

    by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (cificap_4k)> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:46AM (#11394847) Homepage Journal
    The program works by applying the formula. It takes three variables.

    The artist must have boobs. The larger they are, the higher this value.

    The blander it is, the higher this value.

    The stronger the beat, the higher this value.

    These are multiplied together.

    B * B * B = X

    If X is greater than or equal to the Olivia Newton-John quotient, a recognized standard throughout the popular music business, the song will be a hit and we release an album.

    If X is lower, we don't do one.

    Q: Are there a lot of these kinds of artists?

    You wouldn't believe.

    Q: Which record label to do you work for?

    A major one.
  • So that's why nearly everything coming out of the RIAA's cartel sounds the same..

  • Lets hope someday they'll use same kind of AI for movies too...
  • I understand it, the music industry will continue to sell what has successfully sold in the past ( specifically: crap ).

    Got it. Nice to know I don't need to budget in CDs in the foreseeable future.
  • by sporktoast ( 246027 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:50AM (#11394900) Homepage

    This announcement from the producers of this record contains important information for radio program directors, and is not for broadcast.

    The first cut on this record has been cross-format-focused for airplay success. 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. And it will, sooner or later.
    For the station that breaks it first, the benefits are obvious. You lead the pack. Yes, no matter what share of this crazy market you do business in, no other release is going to satisfy your corporation's current idea of good radio like this one. On this cut, we're working together, on the same wavelength, in scientific harmony.
    But remember, this cut is constructed for multi-market-breaking NOW. Don't waste valuable research with needless delay. We've done the hard work of insuring your success; the final step is up to you.

    SPECIAL DESIGNER SONG FOLLOWS IN 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1 [].

  • If you look at the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguillerra and the like, it would follow that the systems the music industry is using to pick out the 'hist of tommorow' like skin, and lots of it.
  • They care if they make good music.

    Sucess [which is a very relative term] is just a consequence of making good music.

    If you tweak your music to make it more likely to be a 'hit' instead of what you were aiming for artistically you've already lost.
  • Dupe of a Dupe (Score:4, Informative)

    by Gossy ( 130782 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:53AM (#11394948)
    This was discussed last November [], which was a repeat of the same tech from February [].

    A quick search for "polyphonic" in the music category would've easily picked this up, they're the only 3 matches!
    • No - It's a new article created by examining popular past articles and generating an article which is statistically similar to the great slashdot articles of the past.
  • i wonder how william hung scored.
  • by Elphin ( 7066 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:54AM (#11394965) Homepage
    From the website:
    • The first step in the process for our technologies is to analyze a representative sample of music (up to date we have
    • analized more than 1 Million tracks)
    Analized? Analized? - what dedication these folks have. Brings tears to my eyes.
  • that episode of STTOS where they visit a planet where they simulate nuclear war based on mathematical calculations and the people who would statistically die in the attacks where supposed to go into a chamber and kill themselves.

    Sillyness. Nothing is left to chance anymore.
  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @10:55AM (#11394975) Homepage Journal
    The label's marketing department are promoting him to the Norah Jones audience. But Polyphonic's analysis has shown that the crooner's song patterns are more similar to Linkin Park, Aerosmith and JayZ.

    future HSS developer: You know who I really hate? The record industry.

    future HSS collaborator: Well, you should do something about that.

    future HSS developer: You're right! Recording execs are really, really, stupid. I bet it'd be easy. I've got a plan.

    future HSS collaborator: Sigh... fine, what's your plan?

    future HSS developer: They pay us $6000, and we tell them if their song will be a hit or not, then give them some printouts with, you know, clusters of dots on them, random numbers, whatever. Then we say "Artificial intelligence! The magic boxes say this will be a hit because it resembles Tupac Shakur and Wagner!"

    future HSS collaborator: You know, unlike your plan to hack people's PVRs to make them think they're gay.... this would actually work. Let's do it. Get me a dartboard.
  • Producing something for a desired effect like that is not art, it's a manufacturing process if you make it this automatic. Any monkey can produce such regurgitated music, so why should I pay them, I can buy the software myself and make such music. There is a way to make use of this kind of principle without automating and dehumanizing it, for example, Neil Sedaka [] wrote Oh, Carol by studying the number 1 hits in a number of countries around the world for weeks and then he drew on that to come to some conclus

  • by EEBaum ( 520514 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:00AM (#11395075) Homepage
    I can't help but think this (and similar issues) is in some small way a lost opportunity for academia, which likes to pretend that popular music (i.e. music that people like to listen to) is somehow less valuable than "serious art music." Here, we have thousands of people who could be leading intelligent discourse on music, many of whom like popular music but won't dare say it because of an unwritten stigma that popular music is "low brow". Because of this, a potentially vocal, educated population that could be smacking RIAA execs upside the head now and again, or at least crying foul, instead relegates itself to the "classical" niche, often the "new music" sub-niche. Said people actually do speak out from time to time, but are so isolated by genre that they seem rarely to be noticed.

    As one of said people, please excuse me while I return to my clarinet practice and writing my string quartet.
  • I think they're digging their own grave. There is progressively less magical wonders and more blatantly formulaic crap out there.

    I can feel a new revolution coming within not too many years. After all - they had the same stranglehold over the music industry in the 80s (and especially the late 80s - how many great records were released in the late 80s?). Then grunge and alternative rock detonated and created quite a bit of upheaval in the business.

    You can even go back to the mid-70s. The coked up soft rock
  • by stevenharman ( 841350 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:04AM (#11395124) Homepage
    This sounds a bit familiar... I think the RIAA stole this idea from Southpark. Cartman dressed up like a robot (AWESOM-O) to get secrets from Butters... but he ended up in Hollywood creating blockbuster movie ideas. Here is how it went down:

    Producer: Gentlemen, this little boy was kind enough to let us show you his robot. The AWESOM-O 4000. [approaches the robot, who's seated at one end of the table] I've already seen what he can do.
    Staffer 1: Uh, excuse me sir, but uh, that's not a robot.
    Producer: It's not?
    Staffer 1: No, it clearly had bipedal movement, so the correct term is "computerized automatron."
    Mitch: Oh, very nice, Mitch.
    Staffer 2: You are the smart one.
    Producer: Well, regardless, I believe maybe this automatron can help us come up with new movie ideas.
    Staffer 2: How can a robot come up with better ideas for movies than us?
    Producer: Watch this: AWESOM-O, given the current trends of the movie-going public can you come up with an idea for a movie that will break a hundred million box office?
    Cartman: Um... okay. How about this: [the staffers take pen to paper and anticipate the ideas] Adam Sandler is like, in love with some girl, but then it turns out that the girl is actually a ...golden retriever, or something.
    Staffer 2: [thinking over this idea, then write it down] Oh, perfect!
    Staffer 3: We'll call it "Puppy Love"!
    Staffer 2: Give us another movie idea, AWESOM-O!
    Mitch: Yeah yeah!
    Staffer 3: Let's hear it!
    Mitch: Yeah, we wanna hear it!
    Staffer 3: Come on, come on!
    Cartman: Okay, how about this: Adam Sandler... inherits like, a billion dollars, but first, he has to, like, become a ...boxer, or something.
    Staffer 3: [the producers start writing again] ...Yes, it's flawless! Mitch: Punch-Drunk Billionaire!
  • Living near New York City, I consider myself lucky to have access to the New York Times Classical Music station. I am so sick of the garbage that has been produced in the last 10 years (Except Eminem, for some retarded reason I like his crap) that I barely ever change my radio tuner off 96.3

    As for what I listen to at home and work... Ironically it's all old school stuff from Black Sabbath and Beasty Boys earlier music, plus.. more classical

    I wonder if I'm the only guy who's so totally jaded to new music t
  • I seem to remember a Piers Anthony series called the "Apprentice Adept" in which there was a game where you could play music. It was judged by a computer, so while your music may have sounded like utter crap to humans, it would be given a high score because it was "technically" right. This reminds me of that.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @11:08AM (#11395183) Homepage
    The music industry might turn itself around; they go ahead and do something this stupid. Music is art. It is not objective. It is not rational. It is not definable. It is not quantifiable.

    This system will destroy popular music. It will define the elements of a "hit" song, then it will only determine that songs with those elements could possibly be hits. That ignores the history of music where what's a hit changes from year to year.

    I listened to punk rock for decades. In the 80s songs by the bands All and 7 Seconds would never have been recognized by any system as being hits. But fast-forward a decade and suddenly artists like Blink 182 and Greenday ARE having hits using the same formula.

    Basically, this system will stagnate the music industry as it will lock it into a very narrow form of music and it will not be allowed to grow. People will get even more bored which will lead to decreases sales.
    • Music is art. It is not objective. It is not rational. It is not definable. It is not quantifiable.

      I'd like to see proof of that, because I've a sneaking suspicion that it might not be so. For "good art", you're talking about the preferences of human beings. Those preferences are shaped by fixed forces - factors that have been selected for over the last 100 000 years or so, and the preferences are expressed in a definiable physical system, the brain. "unquantifiable" and "not definable" as opposed to "has
  • That's why there is so much crap nowadays. Most of the current 'pop-hits' is so lame it can rival with the 'bothers of the hood' rap.

    It's so dull, colorless and less-the-original they increasingly have to start showing some boobs or ass (on MTV) to make it even remotely worth listening too. (you could turn of the sound, though :-)

    I guess that's the reason why the RIAA keeps its prices sky-high too; they have to make so much effort in marketing to sell their crappy stuff, they can't reach their 85% profit-
  • I thought ClearChannel picked the hits of tomorrow.
  • in theory these "AI"'s will update their "opinions" on whats hot by checking out the top 50 songs every now and again.. eventually they'll corrupt their own pool of choices..

    It'll be inbreading for music *shudder*

  • ...The initials of American Idol are "AI"

    ...Simon has no human feelings

    Coincidence ? I think not !
    Simon is obviously a bot, and he uses his AI to pick the next American Idol.

  • from TFA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Johnny Mnemonic ( 176043 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `eromsnidm'> on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @12:10PM (#11396123) Homepage Journal

    But why do we really like the music that we like?

    Becuase we're told to. The fiasco that is Ashlee Simpson verifies this: she came from nowhere, is obviously bad to even the most undiscerning listener, but all of a sudden she's everywhere because she got signed up for the "Star Treatment Package", $19.95.

    They push crap like this down our throats because they think they have a "product" and don't care enough to think about it too hard; then they blame poor sales on pirates. Thank God for internet radio. Those bastards are going to sell out to irrelevance if they aren't very careful.
  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @12:27PM (#11396341)
    They can cluster Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears all they want. Just please, pretty please, don't kill any newborn Pink Floyds or Deep Purples with some junky software. This would make me fold little paper boats from my IT degree, that's for sure.

  • by Mr. Cancelled ( 572486 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @12:41PM (#11396535)
    Sorry, but I subscribe to the "music's in your blood" theory of being a musician. You've gotta have the passion and the drive to get it out, as well as the desire to explore your creativity. At least that's the way I think.

    When people pay several thousand dollars to have a computer tell them what kinda of music they should be making, they're no longer musicians in my book. At this point, they become money grubbing attention whores, incapable of original thought or expresion.

    While the real musicians are out honing their craft, and improving themselves, these "plastic musicians" are out trying to find a shortcut to easy street via techniques as this.

    The only bright spot for real musicians these days is the fact that as the Net and other technologies become more prevelant, there's many more options for the average listener (the one's who think that if it's not on the radio, then it's not real music). In fact I think that the growing success of podcasting, and shoutcasting is a direct result of people finally getting fed up with the crap that radio forces upon us! Once people realize that they too can easily "dial in" something other than the next Jessica Simpson lipsync'd hit, then this industry will slowly die away.

    As proof of this, scan Shoutcast sometime, or hook up with some podcast feeds. You'll soon notice that there's hardly any cookie-cutter pop music being played on them.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @01:26PM (#11397082) Homepage
    You can't just buy the application; you have to pay $5000 per run. That keeps people from figuring it out.

    Otherwise, you could put a genetic algorithm and a synthesizer on the job. Use the HSS application as an evaluation function, and let it crank until it had composed an optimal song. Or just run every free MP3 on the web through. (Now that would be a good idea. Somewhere, there may be a garage band that doesn't suck.)

    There's a similar program to predict Wine Advisor scores. If that were easily available, people would be synthesizing the optimal wine.

  • The Ultimate Melody, (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tekrticus ( 758000 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @04:11PM (#11399476)
    A short story by Arthur C. Clarke describes one possible consequence of this sort of thing. The scientist involved builds a computer to study the underlying theory of music, harmonic relations, wave analysis, frequency distribution, etc. and how it interacts with the brain on a physiological level. His search is related to the notion that all existing tunes are crude approximations of the fundamental melody that has eluded composers for centuries (basically a rehash of Plato's theory of ideals applied to music.) The scientist is later found in a permanent catatonic state in his lab (by his tone-deaf assistant) with the Ultimate Melody repeating over and over in an endless loop. Because the overwhelming power of the Ultimate Melody (the ideal form on which all melodies in the universe are patterned after), his mind is completely dominated by it--much the same as when a catchy tune gets stuck in your head for days, only much more powerful. The melody formed a fugue in the pathways of his brain, going round and round forever, obliterating all other thoughts.
  • by GrahamCox ( 741991 ) on Tuesday January 18, 2005 @07:18PM (#11402425) Homepage
    Everyone seems to be saying (as was my first reaction when I read the story) that this will lead to everything sounding the same, being bland, etc - as if that wasn't already the case. However, I believe there is cause for optimism - because when something good comes along that really doesn't fit the "hit box" it will stand out so much above the background mush of the rest that it will be worth taking notice of. When I was growing up mainstream music seemed to be a lot more diverse, and you had to pay close attention to really keep up with what was going on. It was hard work (but usually rewarding) to sort the good from the bad. Now all you need to do is keep the radio on but turned down low so you don't actually have to listen to it, but loud enough so that when something interesting does get played, your brain suddenly wakes up and notices it. Thus it becomes much easier than it used to be to pick out interesting stuff. Thanks, lazy pigopolist music industry-type guys!

    If you think I'm joking, consider this. The UK has just now "celebrated" the 1000th number one record in the charts. The track in question is Elvis Presley's tune One Night from about 2000 B.C. Last week's number one (the 999th) was Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock. Hrrrmm... could there be a marketing campaign around promoting Elvis records? Perhaps to help flll up the special "limited edition" (only 500,000 issues!) box sets of Elvis's Greatest Hits that were flogged off the other week, a bargain of an empty carboard box for only 10.99GBP. Marketing genius really, get the punters to stump up for an empty box, then get them to fork out 3 quid a week for fifty weeks to fill it! (Elvis fans - just say no!)

    Every number one nowadays comes IN at number one, because of hyping and marketing techniques. But the 1000th number 1 needed only 29,000 sales to make it there. Of the last 530-odd number ones, all but 2 entered at number one. This makes the chart meaningless. Back in my day :) entering at number one was virtually unheard of - Slade's Merry Christmas Everybody did it in 1973, the next one to do so was about 5 years later! And back then you needed to sell hundreds of thousands if not millions of records to make No. 1. So basically the music industry has ruined what used to be a useful indicator of popular taste (within limits) into something that isn't even a useful indicator of how successful their marketing is, except in pure binary terms (number 1 = did OK-ish, not number 1 = flop). Basically the chart has been quantised down into fewer and fewer bits. I say it's time it was officially abandoned altogether, though those of us with any musical sensibility personally abandoned it some time in the early 1980s.

The human mind ordinarily operates at only ten percent of its capacity -- the rest is overhead for the operating system.