CivicScience making its TV debut when it forecasts Grammy winners
January 21, 2014 10:34 PM
Wiz Khalifa is nominated for one Grammy Award in 2014 in the Rap/Sung Collaboration with "Remember You," featuring The Weeknd.
Chris Pizzello / Associated Press
Jay-Z is nominated for nine Grammys in the 2014 Grammy Awards on Jan. 26. Here he arrives at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards in 2009.
By Deborah M. Todd / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In the run-up to the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, amateurs and experts alike are betting rapper Kendrick Lamar will be named hip-hop's Good Kid and singer Lorde will receive the Royal treatment.
But with a slew of predictive data compiled using the opinions of music fans from across the country, a Pittsburgh company could steal the pre-show.
South Side-based polling and data analysis company CivicScience will make its national television debut today when CEO John Dick takes part in AXS TV's first ever "Grammy Prediction Special." Hosted by AXS TV host comedian Ryan Stout, the broadcast will feature a panel discussion that includes Mr. Dick, music critic Bob Lefsetz and radio host DJ Skee.
The hourlong show starts at 8 p.m. today and will be replayed throughout the rest of the week until the day of the big show. The 56th Annual Grammy Awards airs live Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
The link between what the Grammys calls "Music's Biggest Night" and CivicScience started last year with the movie industry's biggest night, the Academy Awards.
To predict who would take home the 2013 Oscars, CivicScience identified poll takers who had previously shown a talent for predicting trends surrounding movie box office performances, television ratings and the sale of products related to movies or television shows. The top predictors were folded into a group of more than 100,000 who were then asked to make predictions on the Academy Awards.
The result: a compilation of answers that were as good as or even more accurate than those gathered by insiders who had been studying the awards for years, said David Rothschild, an economist at Microsoft Research.
"In a forthcoming academic paper, we show that CivicScience's 2013 Academy Award polling stacked up very favorably against industry pundits and even statistical models," said Mr. Rothschild in a news release. "There is a lot of potential in the polling techniques they are using; this type of polling can be extremely accurate if you ask the right questions and know what to do with the data."
Once results of the Oscar predictions made the rounds -- including to CivicScience advisory board member and AXS TV founder Mark Cuban -- the decision to try a similar model to predict who would win Grammys this year became a natural next step.
"With this special, we are bringing the world of analytics to music in a new fashion, striving to address an area that is seldom tackled, which is correctly predicting winners before the envelopes are opened," said Mr. Cuban, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon, in a news release.
With close to 200,000 people involved in making Grammys predictions, according to Mr. Dick, CivicScience separated respondents into groups based on the genres of music they knew the best. On top of that, the company sorted through the most competitive categories to weed out the winners.
For instance, predicting that Kendrick Lamar will take home an award in at least one of the seven categories where his album "Good Kid M.A.D.D City" scored nominations is an easy bet. However, guessing which prizes two-time nominee Lorde will bring in gets a little more complex.
Mr. Dick said Lorde's pop hit "Royals" should be a shoo-in for song of the year since it's been one of the most popular songs in the country for months. However, Grammy voters, who are known for using their ballot to make political statements, could choose Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' rap hit "Same Love" to show solidarity for LGBT rights.
In the Best Rock Album category, Mr. Dick noted that four of the five nominees -- Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age and Neil Young with Crazy Horse -- all got their start in the 1960s. With voters who favor '60s bands likely to split their ballots between the four groups, CivicScience predicts there is a strong chance 5-year-old Kings of Leon will take home the top prize.
Calling the effort to compile all of the necessary data "incredibly difficult," Mr. Dick was nonetheless excited to see how closely the predictions line up with what comes out of envelopes Sunday night.
While the CivicScience experts are optimistic their formula will pick more winners than losers, they won't uncork the champagne unless the company truly has something to celebrate when the show's over.
"We'll have a party if we get them all right," Mr. Dick said.
Deborah M. Todd: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1652.
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