Using AI to Make Meaningful Comparisons Between Musicians

How unsupervised machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) can identify artists’ genre neighbors

Using AI to Make Meaningful Comparisons Between Musicians
Josh Hayes
Josh Hayes
June 28, 201916 min read
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Title Photo by Earvin Huang on Unsplash

I love comedy. It is fun and lighthearted, but surprisingly often the jokes highlight deeper insights. Let me give you an example.

Flight of the Conchords, a music-comedy duo made up of Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, opened their HBO Live special in London by introducing themselves and recapping their career trajectory.

Bret starts, “We are one of the biggest bands in New Zealand now…”
Before the crowd can cheer, Jemaine interrupts, “…in terms of the number of members.”

The result is the first belly laugh of the night. It’s a great joke. Punchy. Self-deprecating. Ends with a surprise twist.

More than that, the joke also hits to a important but easily overlooked insight:

How you compare musicians drastically influences what you see.

People from all over the music industry have to decide how to compare musicians every day. How one chooses groups to draw comparisons against can radically change the insights and take aways.

Identifying a comparison group is never more tricky than when it comes to music genres. Where does one genre stop and another begin?