(Editor: Here is a posting from Kaggle new series on data-driven companies)
Kaggle.com, Alan Caras, May 11, 2010
Welcome to Data Inc. a new series featuring on the Kaggle blog, delving into the burgeoning world of data analysis in business. Every few weeks, Data Inc. will profile a company driven by data.
For our first profile, we're taking a look at hit forecaster uPlaya. Fledgling bands upload their songs to uPlaya, which analyzes them against an ever evolving databank of past and present musical hits, to estimate a song's potential for commercial success. It's an interesting concept that raises the questions, what makes a hit song?
There's a video currently circulating the web of Bobby McFerrin, of "Don't Worry Be Happy" fame, demonstrating the instinctive human understanding of music. In the clip, McFerrin, a guest on stage at a World Science Festival event, engages the audience in a musical improvisation. He dances on a giant imaginary keyboard, prompting the audience by singing the first two notes of a pentatonic scale. Amazingly, the audience is able to predict the rest of the scale. As McFerrin dances over the invisible keys, the audience sings back the notes.
The clip eloquently says something about the human mind; that our basic understanding of music (or at the very least, the pentatonic scale) is inherent to our psyche. So perhaps the appeal of a scale, melody or entire song is not a matter of subjective taste, but rather one of science. This is the basis of the uPlaya model; that there are core mathematical patterns within all music, some of which we all objectively appreciate.