Data Mining in Choral Music

By Joel Shoemake, Pine Lake Music

What do Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and choral music sellers have in common? Let’s dive in and find out.

Facebook took five years to turn its first profit. Amazon took six. Eleven year-old Twitter STILL hasn’t turned a profit. So why do venture capitalists continue to pour money into companies like these? It’s all about data mining. In the New Economy, knowing a customer’s habits, interests and buying patterns is remarkably valuable. Forget Bitcoin – data collection and exploitation is the second most valuable form of currency (besides, you know…actual money).

So what does that mean to you, the choral music seller? For the purpose of this article I will speak in terms of sacred choral music sales, but many of these principles also impact the school market. If your store or organization has an order entry system created after 1986, then your system captures sales data. If you have sales data, you have a knowledge base, and if you have a knowledge base, you can exploit it to meet your customers’ needs in a proactive (rather than a reactive) way. And here’s the best part – your customers will thank you for it. After all, who doesn’t like someone else doing research for them and meeting needs that they didn’t know that they had, ahead of their own schedule?

So what do we do with all of that data? The possibilities are nearly endless, but let me give you an example or two to get you started:

Pull up your choral music sales history. You’ll want to subdivide between seasonal and non-seasonal titles, and between anthems (aka octavos) and books (aka musicals, collections or cantatas). More recent sales are more valuable information, so maybe just look at sales over the last few years. Now look at your top sellers. Do you see any patterns? Is there an arranger or composer’s name that appears often? Keep that person in mind when ordering new product! Do you see a style of music that is particularly popular? Advertise a special on that type of music! But to whom do you advertise? Well, you can absolutely send an email to your entire email or mail list, but why not focus on the folks who have ordered similar titles from you in the past? The people whose orders make up the very list you’re currently studying. This process can be repeated again and again. You can begin with the sales data and then search for new titles to further meet those customer’s needs, or (my preference is to) base your data mining efforts on the new choral music that’s coming into your store. So let’s say that Joseph Martin has a new Christmas cantata. Build a list of every customer who has bought a Martin Christmas or Easter cantata in the last three years. Email them. Call them. They’ll want to know about the new piece!

And the more you mine, the better you’ll get at it. You’ll begin to see patterns that you didn’t see before. Maybe you didn’t even know who Joseph Martin was, but your sales data taught you that your customers actually like his work quite a bit. Then you begin to notice that many of those same customers also like Mary McDonald’s music. Now you have a new data point, a new set of titles to pitch to your customers, more sales knowledge and a new set of reports to run.

You don’t have to be Amazon to leverage the data on hand to better serve your customers and increase your choral music sales. All it takes is interest and willingness to make data mining a key component of your business plan.