It’s An Exciting Future in Music When We Have Clean Data

By Grammy-award Winning Musician, Imogen Heap

Hello, I’m Imogen Heap – musician and tech founder. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Why is a musician and composer talking to me about data? Well, for any of you that follow my work, you will know that I am a bit of a data nerd, and that’s why I loved speaking to Joe DosSantos on the latest Data Brilliant podcast. A lot of my music is powered by data. In fact, Joe and I discussed my love for how technology and data inspires me to be more creative. Want to know how? Well, keep reading (and give the podcast a listen, obviously).

Data Gives Me the Freedom To Be More Creative and Present on Stage

Over a decade ago, I was on stage performing, and I was growing increasingly frustrated with the fact that I never felt fully free, because I was always tethered back to my equipment. I felt like I couldn’t really get out from behind the laptops, keyboards and controllers, which left me feeling like I wasn’t able to perform and engage with my audience in the way I wanted to. So, back in 2010, I started exploring the concept of what are now my Mi.Mu gloves. And these are exactly as they sound – a gestural musical device – gloves – powered by technology and data, which I wear on stage to create sounds and beats, giving me more freedom to perform and develop new riffs in real-time. If you want to hear them in action, listen to the podcast, where I give Joe a demo and talk to him about how data is enabling me to be more creative in how I make music, perform and improvise on stage.

Good Data Will Help Make the World a Better Place for Music Makers

As you may have noticed by now, I am a musician with an inquiring mind. Let me give you an example. I wanted to know how much my most popular song, Hide & Seek, had earned in its lifetime. This should be an easy question to answer. It is the simplest arrangement in terms of royalties, because I’m the producer, writer and sole performer, though it is split across two record labels in different territories. Easy right? But no! What started out as a simple question needed a team of seven people to answer it.

We went back to day one, starting off with where it was written, how much it earned from record sales, being played on TV shows, YouTube, online streaming platforms, the radio, etc. But, the process became ridiculous – even with a concerted effort over a year, we had hardly been able to scratch the surface on how, when and where the income had come from. The data was missing, incomplete or obfuscated, so we took the decision to stop.

We displayed the findings of our research online and called it the Life Of A Song project. There is a section on our dedicated website that exhibits where data is missing for musicians. And, it proved to me that something has to change!

My Passion for Tech Turned Me Into a Tech Entrepreneur

Right now, the ability to be easily able to collate and identify all the data sources needed is terribly unsatisfactory but new technologies are being developed that could help solve these problems, such as verifiable credentials, public and privately permissible blockchains and self-sovereign digital identities, all with the metaverse and web 3.0 in mind. There's so much room for improvement and therefore commercial opportunity. Feeling this frustration, I created The Creative Passport, a digital-ID platform for music makers, where they can access, update and manage information about themselves and their works and share it with others, while using it also as a single log-in for music services.

Its aim is to simplify the process for artists and provide a single location for their professional and background data, and, while it may still be in beta stage, we’re already getting lots of traction from artists and music companies who understand the benefit of having a centralized store of information for an artist.

We are building The Creative Passport in the hopes that a comprehensive, verified dataset of music and sound works exists, so that music makers can individually and collectively help authenticate, edit and complete over time. Because, ultimately, good data has the ability to impact and improve the world for musicians, but we are only at the beginning of this journey, and we still have a very long way to go as an industry to clean up the streams of data created by every artist, song, composition and album. But, we all have to start somewhere.

To hear @imogenheap explore how #data is reshaping the music industry, listen to the latest episode of #DataBrilliant, hosted by @JoeDosSantos.


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