Next Big Sound Shines A Light On Music Fans' Online Behavior

Going over the 10 startups that were profiled by guest author Don Dodge yesterday on the occasion of their TechStars 2009 ‘graduation’, Next Big Sound to me seemed one of the more interesting ones and I wanted to take a closer look at it. Basically, it’s a statistics and comparison engine à la Alexa or Compete, but for music artists and industry professionals.

And while I think that’s inherently a good idea, there are a couple of flaws in the system that put a downer on the experience. I’ll explain.

What Next Big Sounds aims to be is a place where you can go to see how fans interact with music online, virtually in real time. Look up a music artist, say Manu Chao, and you’ll get a nice overview of how many ‘plays’ his music is getting on his MySpace, and iLike profile, measured by week, month or all time. Wanna see how many fans your favorite artist has on any of those sites or other services such as Facebook and Twitter, how many times one of his accounts was viewed and how many comments it gets? No problem, click the corresponding tab and you’ll see a nice graph representing the evolution of all these elements.

Also a neat feature is that you can subscribe to any given artist in the NBS database and get fed RSS items or e-mailed alerts with updates on all that is measured. Furthermore, much like Alexa and Compete for website traffic, you can do comparisons between artists and bands, enabling you to track their online evolution in comparison with others.

A couple of gripes. When you sign up for the service, you can opt to register as a fan, an ‘industry professional’ or an artist but nowhere does NBS specify what the difference is. I signed up as a fan and set out to get some basic statistics on bands that I like, and quickly noticed that Next Big Sound’s database is currently too far from complete to be truly useful.

I did a search for a band I like called “Blackbox Revelation”, which yielded zero results, and trying my luck with electro dance sensation “Justice” there were multiple options yet the service failed to tell me which would be the right one to pick. YouTube isn’t tracked at all, and neither are services like Rhapsody and Pandora. Finally, it would be cool if Next Big Sounds let you check the online activity centered around individual tracks or albums instead of merely the artist’s name.

Overall, I think it’s a great idea and I’m looking forward to seeing it evolve in the future, but for now it’s clear that the service requires some extra work and polish.