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Yes, I do love my music. Old, new, borrowed and blue(s). To that end, I’m not particular to any genre although I can say that I don’t love pop country. As a result, I am like a little kid on Christmas when Austin City Limits (ACL) annual festival rolls into town. This year, we had the double bonus of stretching ACL across two weekends. And while I would be pushing my luck with my wife if I attended both weekends in their entirety (noon to 10 PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday), I was able to attend for a few hours last Saturday and will be taking my son for this upcoming weekend.

Before I get too far into this post and you wonder, “why the hell are you writing about music on a business blog, Aaron,” I’ll cut to the chase. Michael Westgate and several other esteemed colleagues rolled up their sleeves and put together not only a social ranking of all the ACL bands (top 20 depicted below) but recently updated the rankings with the biggest movers. Using these rankings, I’ve been able to discover some new artists I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to see. Obviously brands (and record companies/brand management companies) might want to pay attention to these rankings too because it provides some insight into who is being talked about in the socialsphere (both old and new).

Fortunately, I was able to see a few of the lesser known/highly ranked bands in the past. Three of the newer bands I saw thanks to the rankings were:

  • Portugal, The Man
  • Joy Formidable
  • Kendrick Lamar

Of course these three bands have enjoyed some  radio play so they weren’t really “undiscovered” but I was blown away by how good they were in concert. And as a result of the social rankings, I’ve started to listening to more of all four via Spotify. Based on my early success with our W2O ACL Rankings, I’m planning on seeing several more new/less known artists this weekend including:

  • JD McPherson

  • Dana Falconberry

  • Eric Church
  • Arctic Monkeys (have seen once before opening for Kings of Leon – they were great)
  • Grimes
  • Kaskade
  • Neko Case
  • Fun.

I’ll also be checking out Muse, The Cure, Depeche Mode and Queens of the Stone Age but again, those three are pretty well known commodities.

How about you? Who are you checking out this weekend?

If you saw our original digital relevance rankings for the 2013 Austin City Limits Music Festival lineup, you’d know that we’re not only serious audiophiles, but we love to geek-out on predictive analytics too. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of working for  a S2aaS firm here in the live music capital of the world. Since our original ranking was run shortly after the ACL lineup release in May, we have seen quite a shakeup in the index.

At W2O, we believe that an individual or brand’s digital relevance is nothing more than word-of-mouth chatter translated into bits and bytes. Applying this model to the ACL lineup, we think we can predict buzz-worthy acts by monitoring their growth in online engagement. The bands I’ve listed below may not necessarily have the highest relevance scores, but they have enjoyed tremendous growth since May. This could be due to a number of factors including record releases, summer tours and festival performances, or maybe even tastemaker endorsements. Though it’s not a perfect science yet, we’d be surprised if there weren’t a few breakout stars in our list. Of the movers-and-shakers, here are my top 5 must-see’s:

1. Typhoon

2. JD McPherson

3. Wild Nothing

4. Wild Belle

5. Dana Falconberry

 

Check out our Spotify playlist and in case you missed it the first time, have some fun with the original W2O Ranks infographic below. You can play videos, engage with the artists, and share with your friends all from within the image itself. Hope to see you at Zilker Park!

My colleague, Michael Westgate, did a very cool analytics review of the top bands that will perform at Austin City Limits in October, 2013.  Via Michael’s work, we already know which bands are most likely to be the hits six months from now.  We’ll keep tracking and refining our view, but we won’t do it in the more traditional way.   We’ll use our own algorithm to judge how each band is picking up influence across 107 metrics in ten channels of online communications.

The algorithm enables us to judge real overall influence and to do it over a long period of time.

And that is where the rather obvious point has hit me that crowdsourcing and predictive analytics are cousins and have been all along.

One of the common mistakes made to judge behavior is to study how a person travels online from site to site.  Somehow, we think, if we can see where they are going on a single journey, we can judge what they like.   That’s a bit of a crapshoot.  It’s what you would expect of a linear-focused advertising world geared to get you to buy something.

One individual’s journey is just that……one individual’s journey.

Now, if we follow, let’s say, a million of this person’s friends, making a similar journey, I would argue we could start to see patterns that are meaningful.  For Austin City Limits, we are and will be looking at millions of data points over time.

The crowd is predicting who the leaders are.  We don’t need to guess.  As summer festivals start, it will become even more clear.  Since ACL is the last of the summer festivals, we’ll know exactly where to spend our time.  And yes, we all go to ACL so we really do like that benefit!

What is even more intriguing is that we can validate our data by dropping a lens over summer festivals pre-ACL.  We can then see what folks are saying publicly, via mobile phone, by band.  This technology, from our partner, SnapTrends, shows activity by band at last year’s ACL.

The crowd always knows what’s next.  The trick, however, is following the right crowd.  Austin City Limits is easy.  But if we want to know which features of a computer will drive its sales a year from now, its more sophisticated and, as a result, far more important that we get this right.  One of the best examples I’ve heard on selecting the right crowd relates to the space shuttle.  Ask all of the residents of Florida how much fuel is in the space shuttle and they have no clue.  Ask 300 rocket scientists and they will get within an ounce.  Tracking the right people matters.

It is one of the reasons why we are building a software and a services firm together.  We need to innovate how we monitor the cloud, so we can make the right decisions on the ground.

Meanwhile, out of Michael’s top 20, my personal favorites so far are Eric Church and Atoms for Peace (RadioHead’s Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea and Beck’s Joey Warnocker).  My only problem is Michael’s algorithm doesn’t really care what I think…:)

Check out his post to see more of the top 20.

All the best, Bob

 

If you’ve ever spent months planning for a trip, a music festival, or even college, you probably employed a few peer recommendations and a healthy dose of guesswork. Which cities/resorts should you consider, which bands should be on your playlist, which school will help you land a dream job? Here at W2O Group, we’re demystifying the process with forensic analytics. We believe that a brand’s online social resonance is a leading indicator of offline word-of-mouth advocacy. By monitoring digital dialogue, content sharing patterns, and peer networks, we can predict the next “big thing”.

I’m excited to introduce W2O Ranks, a digital relevance rating for newsworthy personalities, brands, organizations, and places. You may have seen the past work we’ve done ranking top universities and health care influencers (Sharecare). As we mature into the Agency of the Future we’re leveraging the in-house brainpower of our 70 analytics and 80 digital pro’s to test new proprietary methods. For a bit of fun, we ranked the top 20 bands of this fall’s Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) by reach, relevance, and resonance across social and digital channels.

ACL is a premier fall American music festival which spans two weekends, features 130+ bands, local eats and arts, and takes place on 46-acres of Austin’s Zilker Park. I’ve often wondered how (producer) C3 books bands, how they’re sequenced across eight+ stages and six days, and who will be the next breakout. As music becomes ubiquitously digitized, social buzz might be the best barometer for who is “hot”. But this doesn’t always correlate with font size and implied order on the official ACL lineup list. Each year there’s bound to be an Alabama Shakes, Skrillex, or Lumineers who magically transform their B-list timeslot into a coming-out party. This isn’t the result of organized PR, it’s good old-fashioned word-of-mouth advocacy. In the mobile age, a band’s rise to headliner status can happen real-time, so the question is no longer “who sells records” but “who builds digital momentum?”

To test the hypothesis we ran the 2013 lineup through a proprietary algorithm indexing social scores from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, web, and digital radio. The result is an interesting mix of established artists and a few potential breakout acts. You may be wondering how Eric Church, Portugal. The Man, and Grimes will drive attendance to ACL. These emerging acts may not sell wristbands, but they’ll probably light up C3’s radar with their ability to extend the festival experience beyond Zilker and into the social web.

Check out our playlist and have some fun with the infographic below. You can play media, follow artists, and share with your friends all from within the image itself. Keep an eye out for future W2O Rankings which could include athletes, actors, sporting events, movies, TV shows, vacation spots, chefs & restaurants, you name it (literally)!

During my Microsoft days, it was sacrilegious for me to own or support anything produced by Google. They were the arch-rival, the antithesis of establishment, and the pesky yet incredibly agile innovator. These days I fancy myself as an impartial tech enthusiast and avid believer in free market forces, and like my fellow Austinites I can barely contain my excitement over Google Fiber’s expansion into the heart of Texas. From this marketer’s perspective, the rising tech-tide will lift all boats.

Infrastructure costs/timing/regulations aside, let’s assume the Google Fiber announcement signals a not-too-distant future expansion of affordable broadband to the masses (Google or any other ISP). Consumers and brands alike should have plenty of reasons to rejoice. I’ve explored only a few of the reasons below, but as always I’ll welcome your feedback.

CONSUMERS

1.  The entrance of new broadband technology puts pressure on established ISP’s, which drives down cost, boosts service quality, and ultimately drives more rapid innovation

  • Benefit: affordable and flexible internet, cable, and wireless plans
  • Caution: the hidden cost is privacy, Google now knows EVERYTHING about you

2.  Ubiquitous connectivity leads to the genesis and availability of value-added on-demand services and applications

  • Benefit: a fully-connected and “always-on” home, internet in every device in every room and on every street corner, startup paradise
  • Caution: “with great power comes great responsibility” – once again buh-bye to privacy

3.  Enhanced digital access leads to greater interactive and connected experiences for events, products, and services

  • Benefit: adding a social “surround sound” to your favorite shows, concerts, and shopping experiences
  • Caution: human social interactions regress exclusively to six second loops and 140 characters

BRANDS

1.  Expansive broadband will enable rich, high-fidelity media options, ultimately enhancing commercial experiences and customer touchpoints

  • Benefit: videos, banners, and ad placements won’t be device or bandwidth dependent, technologies such as augmented reality can flourish
  • Caution: brand saturation and customer intrusion, focus on consistent/relevant vehicles and messages

2.  Increased interactivity –> bigger data

  • Benefit: digitized dialogue can lead to loads of data, which can be distilled into insights revealing unmet customer needs, market opportunities, and competitive activity
  • Caution: data and insights are not synonymous, and organizations can drown in irrelevant datapoints

3.  Organizations can separate themselves from competitors with the adoption of digital collaboration tools, which will be critical for partnerships, employee and team dynamics, and customer connection

  • Benefit: no longer will you be constrained geographically for access to talent or customers, face-to-face interactions can literally happen anywhere, any time, on any device
  • Caution: as Marissa Mayer discovered, remote-connectivity may actually depress productivity, and sometimes there’s no substitute for the good ol’ fashioned water cooler

Google’s investment in Austin perpetuates our reputation as one of the most innovative, vibrant, and exciting cities for commerce and entertainment. We have a unique combination of academic thought supported by The University of Texas, and an active, diverse, and growing population of progressive thinkers, resulting in rapid startup incubation and corporate growth. You couldn’t design a better petri dish for invention and investment. South by Southwest, Austin City Limits, and Formula One may be the most recognizable symbols of our city’s distinctive culture. But those of us living here know that beyond all of the bells and whistles, it’s really just a damn cool place to be.

(Check out the video here)