When a music video has a million views, what does that mean? Does it mean that one million people had listened with rapt attention? Not necessarily. Even if someone watched he could have easily hated the music. Then again, the person could have had the video in the background and paid little to no attention as he checked his emails. Who knows, the video could have been clicked upon randomly.
What about liking and disliking said music video? Case in point Youtube’s feature of thumbing up or down. It gives us the ability to know how many people either did or did not enjoy the content. Can these thumbs even tell us why this person did not enjoy the music? Not exactly. We don’t even know if it was the music that the person detested. It could have been the quality of sound or the way the video was shot. But wait, what if someone clicked the thumbs down accidentally?
There are countless variables that are a part of one view, one listen, one like, one dislike for music content online. It is murky to assess one artist’s impact strictly through numbers. Even if these numbers try to quantify qualitative characteristics, the aforementioned likes and dislikes for instance, there are still potentialities left in the shadows that dim the potency of these numbers.
One million views are something but one woman telling you how much your violin playing moved her to remember a loved one she missed is something else entirely. If numbers cannot assess music’s impact faithfully then what can? Human beings. Not acting in the service of their metrics but in the service of their own humanity.