IBM Watson

IBM Watson Goes to the GRAMMYs

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The recording industry has a certain rhythm to it. Throughout any given year, there is a steady drumbeat of new releases from established artists. There are the debuts of fresh new faces and innovative sounds. There is the heartbreaking loss of some of our most beloved musicians.

And every year, this complex symphony of events comes to a crescendo at the annual GRAMMY Awards in late January, when The Recording Academy gives us one night to reflect on where our music and culture has been, and where it is going. The show itself is a canvas on which an entire year’s worth of art is on display; compressed into an experience that lasts just one day. It’s an extraordinary celebration.

It’s also a monumental effort.

“We call the GRAMMYs ‘Music’s Biggest Night,’” says Neil Portnow, President of The Recording Academy. “It’s arguably the greatest live concert on the planet. That’s because every year we build a bridge between the prestige of music’s past and the promise of its future. We’re creating once-in-a-lifetime experiences. And that requires a tremendous amount of effort by an enormous amount of people.”

That’s why this year, for the first time ever, IBM Watson and Research Technology was is coming to the GRAMMYs. Specifically, The Recording Academy is partnering with IBM to use Watson’s enterprise-grade and experimental AI to help streamline the operations and production behind the GRAMMY red carpet experience. The partnership will integrate Watson AI capabilities into the show’s digital workflow, helping the Recording Academy editorial team to produce and curate GRAMMYs content more rapidly and generate more engaging fan features.

In all, there are half a dozen Watson and IBM Research solutions supporting the Recording Academy team, including the ability to analyze and organize video footage and thousands of photographs from the five-hour red-carpet procession. AI technology identifies certain artists and celebrities, their position on the red carpet, the emotion expressed in the image, and the color and style of clothes they are wearing. From this information, the editorial team can rapidly curate content, and even automatically create galleries of similar content (for example, all the images of Best New Artist nominee, Julia Michaels; all the images of artists nominated for best song; or all the images of artists in red dresses.)

In addition, Watson technology will be used for lyrical analysis of decades-worth of GRAMMY nominated songs. It will assess the emotional content of the music, identifying the themes of joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust within each song. And fans will be able to visualize the resulting patterns and insights through a visualization feature on

Some applications of AI are about back-office productivity and workflow efficiency. Some of it is about innovative methods of fan engagement. But all of it is unprecedented. It’s easy to forget in these days of relentless digital progress, that not long ago systems were practically incapable of processing sources of information that did not consist of binary ones and zeros. Unstructured information like images, video, speech, and text were not readily accessible; part of a vast universe of content known as “dark data.”

Today we are able to identify patterns in images, lyrics and fashion. We can analyze the affect in a celebrity’s face, or the emotional tone of a song. And we can use these insights to organize and enrich content, making it more relevant, and ultimately, more engaging.

These capabilities have applications that cross a range of industries. It is the same technology we use to help corporate marketing departments understand which content works and why. We work with large, complex customer service organizations to transcribe and analyze their interactions looking for patterns and opportunities to improve. And of course, the visual recognition and photo tagging is the same technology we use to help manufacturers spot defects on a production line.

There is so much that makes up the modern music industry; the outsize personalities; the outrageous outfits; and of course, the music itself. One day hardly seems enough to do it all justice. But with Watson’s help, music fans will get a chance to experience the pageantry in new and unique ways. And we’ll all get to celebrate the progress of music and technology together.

Vice President of Sports and Entertainment Partnerships, IBM

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