Early Adopters

I don’t know how long ago Amazon introduced their ‘Early Adopters‘ section. There are blog entries from March 2003 talking about it, so it’s clear that I’m rather late to the game. But the first time I remember coming across it was this past Monday while browsing for a last few Christmas presents.

For those who have yet to see it, amazon categorise their customers’ buying preferences and then analyse the listening habits of those who buy particular items some time before they then become ‘hot’ items. So, for instance, they’ll tell you what what gadgets people who were quick to buy ipods are now buying. Or, as in this case, what people on the ‘cutting edge’ of (commercial) indie-rock are currently listening to. It wasn’t much of a surprise to see the feature on their site, as it seems a natural use for the data they gather.

What amazon aren’t able to replicate, however, and what therefore makes this sort of information rather misleading is the true listening habits of those people classified as ‘early adopters’. The phrase ‘a grower’ is well-worn in music criticism, but cliche or no it’s clear that it’s true that many people find their favourite albums now are ones that took a while to appreciate when they were first bought. Similarly, a lot of us buy a lot of music that ends up rarely listened to.

It’s abundantly clear that this sort of information would be very useful to those looking for ways to market new music or those anxious to find something new to listen to. And I imagine it’s only a matter of time before someone makes use of the data from a service such as Audioscrobbler and some data mining tools to produce ‘early adopter’ information based not on sales, but on the rather more useful listening data that that service gathers.

Audioscrobbler, for those not aware of it, encourages those who sign up on the website to download a ‘plugin’ for your music playing software. That plugin tracks what music you listen to on your computer and sends the data to the audioscrobbler server which then builds charts based on what you’re listening to. To build community the site offers ‘groups’ that you can join and compiles statistics for those groups as well as offering discussion boards and music recommendations. For those who are interested, you can find my audioscrobbler profile here. I’m a member of various groups, including: Greenbelt, delicatessen, Grand Rapids, and The Not-So-Holy Order Of Broken Record Players. The Guardian ran a story on audioscrobbler and it’s sister service last.fm, you can find it here.

At the moment Audioscrobbler does not provide enough information about the listening habits of its various listeners to do any meaningful analysis without considerable work (it does provide recent listening information in RDF format, but nothing more as yet) but it can’t be long before that information is more readily available — it’ll be interesting to watch how music promotion develops from there.

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