Data Scientist Maps Music with Listeners

How does a music company use data science to determine the artists we stream?

Dr. Kobi Abayomi P’28
Dr. Kobi Abayomi P’28

During Poly’s How I Got Here speaker series, Dr. Kobi Abayomi P’28, Senior Vice President Data Science at Warner Music Group, answered questions and talked about his own career path with Upper School classes interested in data and statistics. This speaker series event, which taps alumni and parents to share their stories with students, was held on February 24 in the library.

Dr. Abayomi is a widely recognized data science expert, statistician, and author, as well as an adjunct professor of statistics at Seton Hall University. When he began his new role at WMG in 2020, it was described as: “He will lead analytics globally across WMG, driving valuable business insights through which the company can measure and maximize success for its artists and songwriters.”

An Upper School student panel from Computer and Information Science classes included Maeve Igoe ’23, Marisa Triola ’24, Kyle Williams ’23, Jasmine Kaur ’22, Sophie Stamicar ’23, and Vandell Vatel ’22.  In advance, Williams said he was really interested to hear how Dr. Abayomi combines music technology with data science. “It’s been a long time since anyone’s done something exceptionally novel in the field,” Williams said.

What Do Data Scientists Do?
How I Got Here Dr. Kobi Abayomi
Maeve Igoe '23
Maeve Igoe ’23

Panelist Maeve Igoe opened the discussion by asking Dr. Abayomi what data scientists do. He described how data science “took off around 2010” with cell phone usage ubiquitous in society. His own personal journey to becoming a data scientist began, he said, as a child who “liked to take things apart.” He was homeschooled until starting high school. When he had trouble with algebra, his mother, a mathematician native to Jamaica, hired a tutor for him. The tutor introduced him to quantum mechanics. After a corporate and teaching career, Dr. Abayomi joined the Warner Music Group. He shared that he always loved music and has a sideline as “DJ Leroy,” so WMG was a great fit.

The Transformation of How Music Is Consumed – And the Power of Data Analysis

Dr. Abayomi explained that “one of the first lucrative uses of data science” was “ad tech.” Using visuals, he showed that statistics is “all about grouping information in useful ways” and then “making sense of experiments, discovering patterns.” He said that the introduction of the iPod “shifted the way people would buy and consume music” to the point that, “Last year 80% of money that music companies got was through streaming.” With these changes, comes Dr. Abayomi’s role, “in understanding the information and how people consume music.” “Genres are going away,” he said, and added that algorithms will figure out what type of music you are listening to in your car. In his role, he said, “We map the artist/listener space.” He added, “A music company is like venture capital—many artists fail; some succeed.”

“Data science is a hot job right now… The people who do the best are the ones able to think deep.”

Kyle Williams '23
Kyle Williams ’23
Sophie Stamicar '23
Sophie Stamicar ’23

In response to Kyle Williams’ question about an exciting project he might be working on, Dr. Abayomi said, “Everyone gets music instantaneously” and he has been part of a “yearlong debunking of the myth that there is a time lag.” He used the example of a Nigerian musician, Burna Boy, and how music creates community. Through social media and streaming, someone in London or Jamaica or Nigeria can experience or discover the artist.

Sophie Stamicar asked Dr. Abayomi if he had any advice for students who might like to follow his career path. He said the students were “already doing a lot” judging by Poly’s Computer and Information Science courses. But he did advise that they learn a programming language such as JAVA. “Data science is a hot job right now,” he said. “The people who do the best are the ones able to think deep.”

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The Poly Community Is Invited to…

Dance Like No One Is Watching!
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Families are invited to bust a move to Dr. Abayomi’s alter ego, DJ Leroy, as he takes you on an “aural journey.” Come meet Dr. Abayomi P’28 who will be hosting the Silent Disco DJ Leroy Listening Party on Wednesday, May 25. This is a family-friendly Party Book event and all are welcome! Rain date is May 26. For more information, click here.