Data [Science] Rocks at HPX - Want to know if a critic's music rating is influenced by album art?

HALIFAX, Oct. 19, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - You've heard the saying "don't judge a book by its cover."  Everyone's probably done this once or twice in their lives. 

Lixar wanted to prove (or disprove) through data science if critical music ratings are influenced by album cover art.  Does a music critic judge an album by its cover? 

To start the process, over 1000 plus album covers and their critical ratings were collected.  Next, an algorithm was created to determine if there were recurring patterns in the data. 

Modern data analysis methods such as deep learning were used to answer this question.  The objective was to find interesting and relevant results for the music community who is becoming more and more sophisticated in the way that they purchase, produce, experience, listen, and share music every day. 

James Boyle, Executive Director of  Halifax Pop Explosion, "The music community recognizes that it is a creative industry.  Data is really important and the more we have, the better the experience for everyone.  It benefits the artist and adds a cool factor for the fans."

If critics are influenced by album art then organizations like the Polaris Music Prize Awards would be impacted by the findings and perhaps change the way that music is shared with and between judges.  (The Polaris is a not-for-profit organization that annually honours creativity and diversity in Canadian recorded music by recognizing albums of the highest artistic integrity without regard to musical genre, professional affiliation, or sales history, as judged by a panel of selected music critics.)

If critics aren't influenced, then it's a validator that critics are judging the music based on its merit, not on the artwork that accompanies it.

"As an avid music fan, I was very curious to see if the album art made any kind of connection to the critical rating.  Until today, perhaps we never knew." said Bill Syrros, Lixar CEO.

Lixar created a computer model, through a deep neural network, which extracted concepts about each image.  This means that each image was pulled apart and rebuilt based on most common to least common features. The machine's job is to learn the concepts. 

Here are examples of how the machine 'sees' things :

As complex mathematical algorithms learn contextual information about 'album art', the computer redraws the album's cover with its own simple language.  As the computer understands more and more about the album the image becomes more and more refined.  The first image is darker on the bottom, lighter on the top.  This pattern was consistent with ~50% of all the albums.  Another common trait is a light circular region layered on a darker background  in the centre of the album.  Makes sense as many artist portraits are shown in the middle.

"Why is this relevant to critic score? …  Well,  because it lets us ask questions like 'What percentage of top 10 albums feature something that looks like a  portrait', and 'What percentage of top 10 albums feature the sky and horizon?'  If we had found that 90% of the top albums all feature a dark background, while only 5% of the worst ranked albums do, then there is a pretty good chance that having a dark background is somehow related to album critical reception," said Will Hickie, Chief Data Scientist, at Lixar.

Does a music critic judge an album by its cover?  The data science says that album art plays an insignificant role - less than 3% influence.  Critics do not judge a music album by its cover, which is maybe why they make good music critics.  They let the music speak for itself. 

… and so can you at the Halifax Pop Explosion:

About HPX

HPX is the Halifax Pop Explosion Festival and Conference, an annual five-day Music, Digital and Culture event that showcases over 150 artists and speakers in more than 15 venues across the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia.  HPX has a long-standing tradition of presenting the best in new and innovative music from across Canada and the world.  HPX bolsters the music presentation with a creative tech conference called  Collide.  Click on the links to find out more about HPX artists, scheduleconference, or MusiCounts HPX. @HalifaxPopX.

About Lixar

Lixar drives mobile technology and enterprise-level mobile products and solutions in Mobile, Data Science, UX, Proximity, IoT, Wearables, Concepts, & Cloud. Lixar focuses on Mobile Connected Transportation in Air, Auto, Telco and Emerging Tech Markets.  Lixar is a proud supporter of HPX and the MusiCounts program.  Lixar will be presenting  Cloud Nothings and Majical Cloudz this year at HPX.  For every ticket sold at a  Lixar Presents show, Lixar will provide matching dollars to MusiCounts [Halifax].  MusiCounts supports music programs in Halifax-based schools. @LixarIT


Image with caption: "Data [Science] Rocks at HPX - Don't judge a book by its cover (CNW Group/Lixar IT)". Image available at:

For further information: Shelley Fraser, Lixar, 902-405-4443,


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