In the early 2000s, the twin concepts of advanced statistics and sophisticated data analysis infiltrated the world of pro sports. This revolution was first chronicled in author Michael Lewis’ 2003 book Moneyball – exploring how that era’s Oakland Athletics built a World Series contender on a last-place budget – and again in director Bennett Miller’s 2011 Oscar-nominated movie based on the book.
For professional athletic leagues in which 30 or so franchises with varying financial restrictions are all vying for power, anything that has the potential to give a competitive edge while also saving money will quickly become popular.
But this Moneyball mindset may prove effective in the music industry, as well – where there is no limit on the number of competitors in the game, and each day (no off-season) thousands of franchises, a.k.a. record labels, and their millions of performers, a.k.a. artists, are vying for victories big and small.
Music and Data
If the Oakland A’s are the team most closely associated with data and statistical analytics, and now-retired first baseman Scott Hatteberg (portrayed by Chris Pratt in the movie) is considered the quintessential Moneyball player, then music company 300 Entertainment is the Oakland A’s of hip-hop, and the Atlanta-based rap trio Migos is its Scott Hatteberg.
The biggest difference between MLB moneyball and music industry moneyball is that, while it would be inarguably awesome to mathematically prove or disprove one’s assertion that, say, Mariah Carey is a better singer than Adele, in music it is less important to find inventive ways of gauging a performer’s talent than it is to gauge the audience’s response to that performer.
Hip Hop Stats
300 Entertainment was founded in 2013 by the hip-hop boardroom dream team of Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles, Roger Gold and Todd Moscowitz. The four partners, brought together by former Warner Music CEO Cohen, reportedly received $5 million in investment capital from Google (according to an article in the Dec. 2014-Jan. 2015 issue of Fader magazine) and later reached a game-changing data-sharing agreement with Twitter, now with even more clout due to mobile sharing.
One of the top acts associated with 300 Entertainment is Migos, made up of young rappers Quavo, Takeoff and Offset. The group is signed to independent label Quality Control Music, but they also have a promotion, distribution and marketing deal with 300 Entertainment.
The thicker-than-water trio – Quavo and Offset are cousins, and Quavo is Takeoff’s uncle – appeared on the mainstream hip-hop radar in 2013 with their single “Versace,” a hit they followed with 2014’s “Fight Night” and “Handsome and Wealthy.”
They have picked up BET Hip Hop Awards for Rookie of the Year, Best Club Banger (“Fight Night”), and Best Mixtape (No Label 2), and have collaborated with the likes of Drake, Justin Bieber, Busta Rhymes, Wiz Khalifa, Young Thug, Soulja Boy, B.o.B. and Gucci Mane.
All of this, and Migos has yet to release an official debut album.
The Strategy of Fame
Rising above the crowded Atlanta music scene to reach this level of popularity – not to mention the countless schoolyard ciphers, the trap-music amateurs, the legit ATL artists, the other Southern hip-hop groups and other viral acts across the nation and the world – certainly requires talent, charisma and luck. What companies like 300 Entertainment do for acts like Migos is bring strategy to what seems like a crapshoot and keep them famous for longer than the standard 15 minutes, which has become even shorter in today’s smartphone-driven world.
“It’s a lot of new things going on,” Quavo was quoted as saying in the Fader article. “A lot of new swaggers, a lot of new trends. It lets you know how fast you can pop and how fast you can drop.” That strategy can only be sharpened with data.
This is bigger than simply counting how many Twitter followers Migos has – about 463,000 for the @Migos account, with each of the group’s members averaging 147,000 followers on personal Twitter accounts – anybody can gather that information. The value that 300 Entertainment brings to the table is the ability to take that information and other forms of data, determine what is useful, and then make money with it, set to the tune of viral hits and an Internet audience that never sleeps. The value is in identifying and getting ahead of trends and in front of influential tastemakers.
Not much is known about the specifics of 300 Entertainment’s deal with Twitter, only that it involves sharing private data and developing new analytical tools designed to benefit the music industry and create a better experience for music fans. Of course, for them to provide a description of exactly how they do it would be akin to giving up trade secrets. (300 Entertainment did not directly respond to requests for interviews for this story.)
A decade after advanced stats and data, with the infusion of new technology, began to change the way we watch and think about sports, they will soon change the way we listen to and think about music. The process is already underway, with companies like 300 Entertainment and artists like Migos at the forefront of a new movement.