A new study (PDF) by NYU/Stern professor Vasant Dhar indicates that blog buzz has a strong correlation with album sales. The study looked at blog posts, changes in an artist’s number of MySpace friends, and online album reviews over an eight-week period — half before an album was released, half after.
The study found that increases in MySpace friends had a slight positive correlation to album sales. More significantly, artists who received ample attention from major blogs seemed to “move more units,” as they say in the biz.
Marketing budgets were also factored in, with major label artists performing better than their indie counterparts. However, artists on smaller labels could overcome this disadvantage with sufficient buzz. The magic number of blog posts to achieve online semi-stardom is apparently 240. Something to shoot for!
All of this number-crunching proves something that we all know intuitively — the more you’re talked about, the more albums you’ll sell. But you have to wonder about cause and effect: do better-selling albums receive more attention in blogs simply because the artists already have a higher profile? The study doesn’t analyze whether the blog mentions are positive or negative, so you can’t tell if blogs are truly tastemakers, or merely indicators of an artist’s existing popularity.
Along those lines, the number of MySpace friends a band has may be the result of of higher real-world sales rather than the cause. And, there’s also anecdotal evidence of a backlash when a band is overhyped by blogs before they even get to release an album. Indie-rockers Black Kids are an example of this phenomenon, according to snarky music-news site Idolator.
So should bands view blogs as a potentially powerful marketing tool? The results are inconclusive. But the study does indicate that blogs and MySpace have a role to play in exposure and sales. So you might wanna keep e-mailing those tunes and adding more friends.