Datavisualizing the Music Industry options

If we were all smart and PhD gifted, we would not probably need anything like visual representations. Most would directly read data-sheets and avoid anything that is about analogical. But sadely we are human beings, mostly sensitive as we need colors, shapes, 3D simulations to get to understand tricky things. But the good news is that we have now developed a very strong visual language that allows us to explain things that were left to specialists only decades ago.

Think for instance about the concept of the Long Tail -Chris Anderson patented- : it represents a logaritmical and sometime infinite chain of numbers. It is commonly applicable in many businesses while now summarised in two words ; and anyone saying « we can clearly see there the Long tail effect »  usually gets a nodding audience in return.

Let us do a fact-prof trial with the music industry prospective. It is generally a subject whereas foreseeing is difficult given the uncertainty of the piracy issue and several other landmark changes (distribution, marketing, etc.). During years, I had a very hard time to explain the different scenarii at stake to all kind of audiences, until I designed these three little visuals.

The first thing I had some difficulties to explain is that the music experience was not really improving. It was really uneasy until I created this quite simple scheme.

People started to see what I was meaning. They compared quickly the different music experiences (and size of the boxes) and came to agree with me. The best music experience was indeed the earliest one…  That is not obvious when you think mp3, internet adelivery, but when you consider the core of the musical experience, that may not be completely untrue.

Then I wanted to explain the music future scenarii as their are the most commonly defined in Europe… and depending of who tales what, it changes a lot. It is a real long tail story and… I dealt with it by doing some long tail drawings.

The first dash is basically describing the market as it has been structured over the past 100 years or so. A clear dominance of the 6, then 5, now 4 and maybe soon 3 majors records. A situation that was still very unchallenged until now as last year for instance, there were 46 of the 28 titles hitting the chart belonging to the Major records…

But everybody in the industry know that it is about to change. This being said, it is still very unclear on how, when, and what will come out of the change…


And indeed there are several scenarii at play. One of these is championed by the RIAA… this powerful body that represent the Major records in the US.

It is based on the idea that they will manage to overcome the crisis and that ultimately the music world won’t change so much apart the shrinking that affects all. This scenario is highly challenged. Foretelling such model would mean that the piracy’s enforcement would be so tough that it would end-up harming the 1st amendment. Something that few are really advocating for. Even the RIAA has understood that this project is sank by the advocates of a free internet… which obviously are quite numerous in the US.

On that precise side, comes the Libertarians. People that basically think that it is against the natural curse of things to try to keep people paying for the music. Music is accessible so easily for free on the Internet, that it should become as such.
Anyone who wants to sponsor the music is welcome to do so, but the notion of paying for some music content shall pass.When challenged about the way artists make their living, they thing that the Live performance should be the only clear option. Given that the live contributes to only one fifth in average to the musicians’ revenue… this scenario is not really the brightest for the industry… But there are lot of peoples advocating for it, especially in France, The 3rd biggest country for what regards music  piracy.

But the right scenario might be elsewhere… new players have already significantly altered the business model of the music industry -TuneCore, CDBaby and alike have created a brand new category… Therefore it is not impossible that the emerging model may look like the one of this new scheme. Even though this music scenario might not happen tomorrow, it is highly probable that it is already at play . sereveral researches (among which an analysis made by Chris Anderson himself) have proven that the music market size is already growing again, thanks to the limitless number of unknown small bands that benefit from the fact that the distribution costs of music is now down to zero.

Before that these four graphical were created, I had really some tough time explaning these four scenarii.

Let us now try to see if these prospects are in line with the consumer’s mood… To this extend, we have made some interesting research, interviewing two groups of music consumers (i) 13/14 years old yougsters from a Paris school and (ii) Some French grown up « bobos » on their 40s.

We first tried to value the emotional potential of different type of contents (including the Internet). Is is something that bring you lot of emotion was the main question. Then we asked them to split a 100 euros budgets on each of these type of content. Both are the variable represented in the following images.

Outcomes are really surprising as, on both groups, there is a clear gap between the emotional value and the price they would be ready to spend for each of these categories.

As we can see teenagers are not valuing the music very much although they see it as a key source of emotion. As for HD movies, there is a clear indication that the habit of free download has changed the perception of real value. It is interesting as well to see that texts are considered as important emotionally speaking although they consider that their pricing is too high. It is funny too to notice that girls don’t see the same value in Gaming than boys.

And for what regards adults, it seems that they are more inclined to pay for music while they are not ready to pay as much as teenagers for videogames… They see a lot of -practical- value in the Internet and in the mobile Text but don’t perceive much emotional value in these media…

From that small note, it seems obvious to come to a a first conclusion : the music industry is in trouble and the game changer hasn’t been invented/discovered yet. But datavis helps to understand where it hurts…

The new frontier for Data: synchronization

« Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half »

John Wanamaker


Well, you thought you knew the most key marketing trends of 2012 and forward?  There is still one you may have missed, although it is likely to become central in the next quarters to come ; and that is synchronization.

For most adverstisers so far, media spending was (and still is) a mater of advanced planification. There is a goal: increase products output and revenue imput thanks to a media budget that must be carefully sliced and allocated according to the plan. « This year, we will engage with a very creative agency, increase our investment of x% and we will be more focused on direct marketing » is the way the business works.

In ten years though, the internet may have turned this way of working as old fashion if not completely has-been. In fact, online marketing is so real-time and ROI driven that planning and executing according to the initial plan is now perceived as foolish. The notion of dynamic is inherent to the execution mode. Would I detect a better way to increase my ROI, my investment would immediately be reallocated accordingly.

It is surprising that these methods haven’t been adapted to the non-internet media world, that still represents…. 90% of the media spending globally ! Some would say that a billboard campaign cannot feed-back in real-time -and that seems true : apparently a billboard cannot count the number of people who view its ad, and even less the time they spent viewing it.  Same for the tv advertising: watchers cannot click and therefore it is difficult to measure the real impact that the ads have compared to each others.

But there are many reasons to think that if marketing is still so much blind, it is more a matter of incapacity to change its dynamic than a matter of missing information. Actually information is everywhere, it is even overwhelming. A marketing director receives an average of 50 reports directly related to his media spending every… week. Reports from his creative agency -strategic planning would demonstrate that the brand’s consumer are more eager to watch sport tv that go on the internet-, from the Media agency -last campaign has been a success given that the target population reminds of it- from the retailers -sales have decreased over the past weeks- etc. etc. It is not possible to know how many people view an ad on a certain tube station, but it is now possible to know quite accurately how many people were in that station a certain day.

The thing is that it has become quite difficult to deal with all this imputs, it comes in heterogeneous format, at different times, covering different time-slots. It works in a completely opposite system than the media on the internet where there exist some tool that let any marketer access to info such as traffic, ROI, social traffic (of any kind), location, demographic and so on.

SYNCHRONIZATION may then shortly become the new frontier in a business that sizes a mere 3 trillions dollars in media spending. Making this happening is just a question of mind shifting. So far, the marketing is this only enterprise division that cannot really measure its ROI. This may end soon ; and that day John Wanamaker’s quote won’t be right anymore.

Why is data a big issue?

For most of us, the use of data remains a vague concept. After all, data is only numbers and numbers are mostly boring. So why should we care about it? Mainly because data can be beautiful as proves the impressive book and the blog of David McCandless. But data is not only glam ; it is also a revolutionary way to give more power to people, either from an educational, democratic, military, professional, social, etc. standpoint. Data truly represents a new form of information that differs from any other in the sense that data doesn’t lie (even though it can be tweaked to tell lies) while it brings limitless degree of -holistic- information, when compared with other data.

To make our point, we have brought to you 10 good ideas of great datavisualization concepts, some already existing, some still to be invented, but overall full of potential.


1° provide all the reimbursed expenditures of any elected person, either at a local or national level. Reporting can be made 2 weeks after the month’ closing. Time to reality: 7/10 – already existing in several countries, among which Danmark, United Kingdom, New Zeland. Our guess: Social networks have made people more demanding for what regards transparency. Surprisingly that is a space where we see governments moving fast. Elected people won’t like it, but we do. 

2° report the number of laws passed, attendance, number of reports made by lower and higher Chambers ; track revenues, number of assistants, cars, drivers, name and type of lobbyists met. Time to reality: 4/10 partially achieved in numerous countries, Danmark, UK, Israel. interfaces remain largely improvable. No Iphone/Android app yet. Our guess: here as well, things may move quickly, although the bottleneck remains largely in the friendliness of the interfaces provided. In France for instance, all these informations are available, but you may prefer to have your mother-in-law for the week-end rather than crunching the info on the Assemblée Nationale website. 

3°bring all city data to inhabitants: sidewalk date/ frequency of cleaning, crime reports, deseases, location of underneath water-energy-internet networks, traffic, pollution, demographics. Time to reality: 2/10. experimental apps have been made, mostly by independent players. So far, comparable to the state of the internet in 1995 i.e. lot to be done. Our guess: it is coming but not from the Mayor House but mostly from non-profit associations, individuals, third parties, etc. Good news is that it brings pressure on the ones that should do it. 

Education / Health

4°track all personal health expenditure, benchmark to average spending, compare personal health records & benchmark it with other, improve practice by data-analysis ; get advises. Time to reality: 1/10 (public) or 4/10 (private). Nike+ has tried a few things and lots of devices/apps for Iphone have been tempted with diverse successes : no real large scale service… So sad given that the OECD countries are spending 19% of their GDP into healthcare… Our guess: personal health monitoring is taking-off fast and should bring tangible results in the years to come. But large scale services brought by Social Security are decade(s) away. 

5°Monitoring all schoolboys records, provide non-attendance ratio, benchmark with others, get advices and online remedial courses. Time to reality: 2/10. the once hype I-education has largely remained in the box… Intranet are common things in universities and sometimes colleges, but the work has stopped halfway. Our guess: services will largely differs from a country / an university to another, innovations will largely come from private companies. The 10% barrier or users of i-education dashboard among schoolars shall not be reached until 5 years in the OECD countries. 

Consumption, marketing

6° provide high efficiency dashboard for marketers: ok, we know that is CaptainDash’s mission, so we won’t tell you that it won’t exist until years. And Yes, that is happening also thanks to us, and also thanks to the Internet that has made all key data accessible either from ERPs or from exogenous data sources… Time to reality: here it is Our guess: it is a mater of years before the marketing practice, as we know it, changes completely its processes. Bringing ROI in many areas where it has never seriously been measured shall changes lots of things. 


7° provide a holistic view on individual/family energy spending and bring advices on how to save it ; optimise the smart grid processes at the same time. Time to reality 1/10 or 7/10. Depending on whether you live in Mainland China or elsewhere, the ratio of reality differs a lot. Our guess: China is building up from scratch huge cities and can therefore integrate some brand new functioning smart-grid networks… And localizing the energy production also means actively engaging with the consumers. Highly smart interfaces is a must have and it is likely that the Chineses will be the first to indeed have it. It also touches litters, water and transportation records… 


8° improving the data on poverty dramatically improves our capability to cure it. According to Hans Rosling -the inventor of the Gapminder himself- powerty is highly correlated to the absence of data. It seems therefore logical that increasing the data availability and its distribution should logically reduce powerty. Time to reality 2/10 but quickly improving. The dissemination of mobile in the 3rd world brings a lot of fresh data in areas where there was none. One can now estimate the revenues in remote areas (by measuring the wealth of mobile bank accounts), access to sanitation (pooling people by mobile), demographic (number of subscribers), etc. In addition, Foundation such as that of Bill and Melinda Gates, makes a great deal of feed-back in addition to initial measurements. Our Guess: it is a mater of changing the planet so it will take time, and although data is important it can’t change the whole thing alone. The only certain thing is that we will be more and more informed of where and why people are poor. 


9° Getting more info and react faster: These guys use a lot of data and yes, they need it quickly, in a holistic way. When they put their guts on something, they first need to know everything about it: information, networks, people, supply, weapons, civilians, workers, education, and many other things that matters. Consequently, few business are changing faster than the military one. The datawar consomption is increasing exponentially. Time to reality: 5/10 in the US, China, Singapore, etc. 3/10 in Europe, 0/10 in Libya. Our guess : we hate these stuffs and will never ever work for these guys.


10° matching people has proven to be a big business. The trick is that the more data you have on one each mate, the more relevant can be your matching engine. So far, it is mostly on what you reveal, but the Social Graph can certainly tell a lot more. Some players have already understood it… Time to reality 5/10: it is already there but it can largely be improved. Survey tends to prove that the ratio of divorce among people who met online is significantly higher that in normal life. Our guess: matching people is a business that is here to last, so datamatching is doomed  to improve. What will certainly be interesting is when one will have a personal dashboard to show to others… You don’t like it? Well we thing it may be cool. 

A new trend: Datajournalism!

In itself, the term Datajournalism isn’t very old. It has been largely popularized during the last American Presidential Election but, more accurately, it is fair to say that it more probably got its first moment of fame with the the initial ‘Gapminder’ shows of Hans Rosling, whom became almost a Data-visualization rock-Star, at the very least in the US since he first performed its demonstration at TED 2003. His magistral show is said to have been played over than 200,000,000 millions times on the web. Since then, lots of journalists have tried to come up with either breaking news based out of Datajournalism approach or to provide so in-dept understanding in any given topic. The New York Times, with its visualization lab, was the first to come up with a mainstream approach, it was quickly followed by the BBC, the Times magazine or USA Today.

But the founding notion of datajournalism is certainly broader than the principle of big media pushing a new category of information. Its definition is probably even a bit larger than the wikipedia one and could be summarized as such:

1° data inquiring: Reveal some hidden information in the data that surround us and that grow exponentially.
2° Provide interactivity, and let anyone make its own research out of the interactive map. and in a minor tune, let people publicize the result they have come with
3° Provide UGD (User Generated Data): maximize people contribution, help them to bring their own data or participate to the data analysis.

What is interesting is that the next pulitzer guys may not be journalists that were found of interviews in some doubious strip-tease club late at night. Think more of a 21 years old, talented internet tech-core geek: the information is there, all around us, it is just a matter of removing the noise and giving some constituency to it. An amazing result of that type of contribution, but also of an efficient UCD work, is the MP expenditure scandal in the UK, revealed by the Daily Telegraph. From the very beginning the journalists felt that they would not come up with a breaking news unless they were able to search through a huge mass of documents and data. There requested the help of hundreds of Internet users to go through 96,000 documents -invoice, reports- and built up a small IT system to monitor that case. It hasn’t come with lots of datavisualization results yet, but it has reach a level of excellency regarding datajournalism, that would deserve a Pulitzer if only that thing happened in the US…

The notion of Datajournalism is a serious play to save the news media industry. you feel it is a too easy short-cut? Well, consider this: one of the reason that makes that journalist aren’t able to come up with unique information is that everyone is a journalist. We, the authors of that post are actually doing the job of a journalist without any press-card. And some of us are able to come with some very relevant insight on any topic.

With the datajournalism, this whole notion of uniqueness of information gets back: expertise -although it is more of a programmer expertise than of a journalist one- is back and investing on a case means setting up a team gathering technical experts, journalist and sometimes ‘basic’ UGD participants…

As explained above, some newspapers magazines have already got some soundable success with datajournalism. it creates an interactional dimension that consumers -readers- clearly perceive and is probably ready to pay for. On the editor side, it brings an additional team value (inquiring journalists, programmers, data experts, graphic designer, etc.) that is not easily accessible to any lone blogger. US and UK newspapers have clearly understood it. In Continental Europe though, there is a lag that is preoccupying. It may be also due to the fact that Governments are just starting to open up the data box…

Retail Analytics: The Captain is training new Big Data Heroes

Captain Dash wants to share with you his insights on how to effectively use retail analytics.
Nowadays, there are so many things that can be analyzed and so many names that get tossed around describing these different processes including the term Retail Analytics. So what exactly is Retail Analytics? This concept is rooted on the idea that logistically the process of getting a product from creation to the retailer is at its most efficient at all stages due to extensive data.

However, once the retailer receives this product, the amount of data they have is significantly less accurate and thus the process is much more ineffective. Therefore, Retail Analytics seeks to remedy this by allowing individual store or department managers to have the necessary information needed to efficiently run there store.

In essence, it is the process of gathering customer information that was previously undiscovered to initiate the best practices for an individual store.

These little tips will help you to be more efficient and increase your business. So let’s get started: blast off in 3…2…1…

Try it on a Small Scale

Before committing many resources to retail analytics, try it on a small scale to get a feel for it. But, just because you’re starting small, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t include all available data when testing out retail analytics. For example, if you have multiple shops, try it with only one of them, but make sure that you use all the data.


Include all possible data in your analysis starting from day one. Breaking the barriers that might exist within your data from the beginning is an indispensable asset for every company. This allows you to compare datasets across at least two dimensions from the onset of your implementation.

Think Big

Don’t ever believe that you have too much data- one never have too much data. Yes, data is increasing, but ways and technologies to process this information are also increasing. This means you still have the capability to analyze all the data. Think specifically of systems that cope with big data; NoSQL and Hadoop give you the chance to have an agile system.

Go Outside the Box

Variable data shouldn’t be kept within one company. Rather, put your business in to context; share it, exchange it, link it with suppliers and maybe even customers. Offering up your data to other individuals will lead to an open data revolution resulting in the creation of valuable new services.

Mix Datasets

Exogenous factors play a key role. Internal factors are not enough to explain customers’ behaviors. Purchasing decisions are also driven- sometimes up to 45%- by exogenous factors like weather conditions or traffic patterns. Mixing this data with internal information will reveal insights like never before that will benefit your company.

Make your Interface and Data-visualizations sexy

Data is sexy when the interface is fancy. Ask for professional tools that are as easy to use as personal ones. Smart data-visualizations are the new way to offer a good experience to people in exploring, understanding, and showing their data. Machismo isn’t a part of computing- agile technology and systems are, and they exist. So use those!

Hire Data Superstars

Believe in scientists ability to improve your ROI in the short-term. They can do for your sales what commercials can’t! Data scientists are the next superstars employees. They are rare but essential and change the landscape of your shops in a few seconds through good insights.

Data for Every Company

Not a big company, not a problem. Retail analytics shouldn’t just be a concern for multinationals. New technologies and agile systems can also give small businesses the opportunity to increase their sales. Simple analytics are easy to get without any integrations while visualization can play a vital role in delivering data manipulation abilities to those without direct programming or statistical skills. There is no longer a need for large investment costs, nor are there skill barriers. Now, every business can benefit from analytics.

Data for everybody

Don’t reserve the opportunity to see solutions to only executives; instead, offer everyone in the company from top management to cashiers the possibility of visualizing information. Becoming a data-driven organization is about fostering a better feeling for data among all employees. Use the intelligence of everyone in your organization to improve your business. Soon it won’t be possible to begin one’s day without looking at their analytics.

Back to Commerce

Stop thinking that optimization processes are reserved to only logistics. Instead of doing inefficient and expensive special orders use these new tools to bring optimization into the marketing world. Become traders once again- make real time and accurate offers. The aim of your business is to have more business at the end of the day- so, optimize daily prices and offers via the new insights and succeed in this goal!

Make it mobile

Don’t buy hardware devices when every customer already has one in their pocket. Catch digital data from the real world with cell phones. By using it accurately, you will know the space and the attendance of your customers in a shop via sensors. Make sure that you use contactless devices embedded in phones from the beginning.

Connected Business is Born

E-commerce is dead  but connected commerce is just being born and long may it live! Business is now cross channelled- no purchase is exclusively online or offline. People are constantly getting feedback from friends on Facebook and reading review on specialized blogs. But, people also still go into shops so they can touch a product and see it with their own eyes. So, make sure that the activity on your company’s online services isn’t trapped between marketing and IT departments.

Privacy Policy

Don’t try and play with a customer’s data with ought giving them some transparency; give people access to data that you have about them. Take advantage of it to promote consumption but also show them your good will towards privacy policies and practices.

Share the benefits

Don’t look only at your ROI. Share the benefits from your data analysis with your customers. This will not only improve your ROI but also the customer experience. People tolerate the increase of information held by companies as long as it saves the time, earns them money, or gives them a beter service.

I hope that all of these tips have shown you the importance of retail analytics and how it can help your business succeed. I definitely encourage you to implement some, if not all, of these ideas into your business to improve your sales. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to ask!

As always,

The Captain

PS:My comics on this topic is here: Retail Analytics by CaptainDash