Two weeks ago I wrote a post titled Create, Validate, Sell. I have been wondering since - could there be a fundamental flaw in the crowdsourcing methods I described to commercially validate music? This may not only be a problem for me, but it could be a serious problem for the record labels and festival operators that are relying upon technology that enables crowds to pick the next “idol”, artist, band or opening act.
Crowdsourcing is the practice of enabling a group (usually a large group) of people to pick a winner, a direction, a strategy, or crowdsourcing can even be used to design something (for example). Faith in crowdsourcing rests upon research that has shown that groups can make better decisions than individuals, even when the individuals are experts.
In 2004, James Surowiecki wrote a book titled Wisdom of Crowds. Just about every venture investor on earth has read this book, and it has been the bible for numerous startups that have wrapped crowdsourcing into their business models. In the music industry you can experience crowdsourcing at work by visiting OurStage, Amie Street, SliceThePie, SellaBand, TheSixtyOne and on many other sites on the Internet. Investors that have been seduced by the potential of the efficiency and effectiveness of crowdsourcing for the next U2, have funded many of these sites.
Here’s the problem - crowdsourcing really works well when the sum of the crowd possesses more knowledge than the expert(s); after all, an expert can never know as much as one thousand people (for example). However, when it comes to songs, ISN’T ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW in the package? Everything - melody, harmony, tempo, pitch, octave, beat, rhythm, fullness of sound, noise, brilliance, lyrics and chord progression - is in the package. If we are moving toward a world where people are more interested in single songs than albums or artists - what else do you need to know about a song to pick a winner? Does the expert have all the knowledge he or she needs to make a decision? Can the sum of the crowd possibly possess more knowledge about a song than the expert(s)?
So, I’m asking your opinion: should those investing in music/songs (like I have) rely on a small group of experts, should we use technology that enables crowds to pick the next hit single, or should we use both?