Crystal Balls

We all believe that it can predictable to know the success of entertainment-related products. We often call them ‘fashion products’ as their sales are driven by volatile and temporary consumer tastes. Fashion products have definitely short life cycles and they are driven by impulsive purchase decisions. The first move to make everything going right is to get more data – mostly by analyzing the past successes and try to repeat them. Then, we have definitely the belief that in creative industries, which are highly dynamic, looking to the past experiences can really help to replicate a hit.

We all assume that a famous and bankable actor will make the trick, that a multi-Grammy awarded singer will not miss the next album or that a sequel in a billion-dollar billing video game will be just awesome. We may be wrong. And the reason might be just be a simple common sense attitude. Because the world is changing.


Seifert’s Research ‘Effective Judgmental Forecasting in the Context of Fashion Products’ just studied some variables to see if professionals could predict the success of some music products regarding a series of variables – factors that were supposed to correlate with success. In the list, he put the budget for each music single, who else was releasing single the same week and whether the artist was accomplished or a newbie in the industry. He studies the possible future hits with 92 A&R executives, people in charge to find and recruit the new talents and sustain the existing ones. Of course, they all took their best skills to analyze the situation and their vision was confronted with the reality few weeks later.

Finally they categorized each factor as historical or contextual and they ran hundreds of formula to understand patterns in the way the music tracks were selected. They found something interesting. We make better judgments about volatile demand when we consider only contextual data. Historical data seem to lead to misleading assumptions.

Of course, the machines could analyze very well some linear information based on historical criteria but they were often wrong. To make a judgment in a volatile environment, consider withholding historical information so that we can focus on context. More data is not always better. And now, you understand that a successful artist is not protected from failure. On the contrary, it gives all new hope to Leonardo DiCaprio for the next Academy Awards Ceremony. And looking at the trailer of ‘The Revenant’, the odds should be with him.


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