Digital music formats and streaming music services like Spotify and Apple Music have truly disrupted the entertainment and content industry. How and where music is discovered and consumed has changed, and this requires new data-driven strategies and insights for music publishing companies. Warner Music Group (WMG), which is one of the three biggest music forces in the world, has a mission to help artists achieve long-term creative and financial success while providing customers with the highest quality music content available.
To continue to succeed, WMG approached CLEVER°FRANKE to help them with their digital transformation and put data and insights in the hands of their teams across the world.
The C°F team developed an OPUS platform, which unifies different tools and data sources, ultimately giving managers more time to devote to their artists within one application. OPUS is setting a new standard in the music industry with a highly adaptive user-friendly and story-telling interface, enabling everyone within WMG to make informed decisions anytime, anywhere.
The core challenge was not only technical but more about the intended users: how to enable professionals in a creative industry, who are disconnected from data, to leverage the power of data on a daily basis. We aimed to combine the culture of the music industry driven by passion and creativity with a data-driven transformation that fosters rational decision making. To strike the right balance, we have involved ±100 people from across the WMG organization.
We found that they were using multiple tools, many of which required them to conduct manual tasks, resulting in data inconsistencies. To streamline this, we envisioned OPUS as a unifying platform that would bring data together from multiple sources and provide an efficient workflow.
Two workshops were held at key locations for Warner Music Group (New York and London), followed by a series of 60 user interviews. The main focus of these was to uncover the insights different users were looking for and define what we call their ‘meaningful moments’: what are the crucial decision moments in their lives where we can support and amplify their creativity with data?
We interviewed over 45 different stakeholders throughout the organization, spanning user roles like Commercial, Marketing, R&A, Artist services, Finance and Senior Management.
We consolidated all our findings from the research phase into one comprehensive Design Research Map. The map shows the relation between audiences, their work, use cases and the data.
Our solution required an interface that would be attuned to the diverse needs of users and seamlessly solve potential problems. The main entry point is the ‘OPUS Today’ interface that can be accessed from anywhere at any time, presenting the latest performance results of entities (track, artist, label).
We aimed at achieving utmost usability by providing contextual filters, designing simple navigation and interaction structures.
OPUS has an adaptive interface that reduces the number of permutations to only the most meaningful ones. The interface adjusts itself and shows users only significant data.
OPUS contains a notification system that allows users to set personalized notifications to their mobile device (WhatsApp or text message), email or smartwatch. For example, “Send me a message when Bruno Mars has hit 5 billion streams”. It also runs in lobbies and on screens in WMG offices throughout the world: while getting a coffee, one can get a ‘feeling’ of the performance of artists.
The visual language of the music industry is bold, iconic and expressive. OPUS builds a bridge between data density and offering a visual experience that feels inviting. We used bright colors to bring the vibrant language of the music industry combined with bold typography that contrasts the static look of standard dashboards and gives an airy feeling. The dynamic color palette, dominated by the blue in WMG’s identity, allows the entire design to be flexible in order to support many variations of data presentations.
As data coverage grew, we made sure to spend time with teams around the world to understand the challenges they face. We discussed how they adopted OPUS into their workflow, so we could address any challenges. To further improve OPUS we performed ongoing usability tests that provided insight into day to day experiences of several users and teams. These activities provided valuable feedback that continued to inform the product roadmap.
Rather than setting out to build a comprehensive monolithic software platform from the outset, we created a flexible system comprised of smaller components that would make the lives of users’ easier step by step. An intelligent interface that knows their interests and responsibilities, so we can provide them with relevant information and avoid data overload.
Together with WMG, we defined the approach to the API, how information is structured, which functionalities/features are needed to make a smart, personalized experience. We have decided to use the OpenAPI specification format because it makes all the agreements between different parties explicit so that there are no complications or mistakes.
Since we continuously receive data sources and types, we also use schema validation to safeguard the consistency of our data structure.
The entire front-end development of OPUS is put into production by C°F using React and D3.js. In order to build OPUS as a modern web application, we chose to use React as it allows us to reuse the data even though it repeatedly changes or is updated. We utilized the D3.js library for the visualizations as it allowed us to tailor every aspect to the needs of this platform.
With OPUS, WMG is ushering in a new data-driven era: faster access to data, making smarter decisions and exploring deeper levels of insights. It has become the ultimate personal assistant to the WMG teams around the world by putting them in an effective dialogue with data and guiding the organization to success. Every year, 2.1 million hours of manual data processing are saved, opening up artist managers to focus on the creative side of their job: making plans to develop new music and new concepts for fans worldwide.
OPUS allows the WMG teams discover what music resonates with which audiences, in what countries, and what age groups, compare performance across different platforms, analyze to which playlists an artist is added to and how that will influence discovery of that artist, and more.
We remain engaged with WMG to continue to make the data more meaningful, increase its value to the business, and balance simplicity and depth as we enhance OPUS.