Ep.89: Predicting musical hits with the mathematics of music, with Music Xray’s Mike McCready

Photo by Soundtrap on Unsplash


April 6, 2021


Analysis of a song’s mathematical structure has led to technology called Hit Song Science (HSS). This science makes it possible to predict a new song’s hit potential – AND has revolutionized the opportunities available to musicians. We discuss music’s structural components, and how songs’ mathematical relationships can predict commercial potential, level the playing field for musicians, connect musicians and fans, and match music industry professionals with the musicians they need.

Mike McCready


Mike McCready is a musician and entrepreneur whose companies have become case studies at Harvard Business School. His companies have been profiled in multiple documentaries, and have had plotlines written around them in network television series. Mike pioneered the introduction of Hit Song Science into the music industry and then co-founded and currently serves as CEO of Music Xray. He is a frequent guest speaker at top business schools around the world; and I’m thrilled to have him with us today.


  • We discuss a song’s structural components, and how can these mathematical structures predict a new song’s hit potential.
  • As part of its analysis, Music Xray calculates a song’s Hit Grade, Periodicity Grade, and more.
  • Music Xray’s machine learning technology helps music industry professionals identify high potential, opportunity-appropriate music & talent. Find opportunity-appropriate music & talent.
  • Music Xray’s technology increases opportunities for musicians, connecting them to fans and industry insiders who want their music. It levels the playing field for musicians, making it less about who you know and more about pure talent, skill, and market appeal. “We help musicians do three things. Get deals. Get fans. Get better.” – Music Xray website
  • Music Xray helps music fans discover new music and talent targeted to their taste. Fans are compensated them for their time and attention.
  • Music Xray has become the largest online community of music industry professionals in the world.
  • Its hit prediction technology was a central part of an entire episode of CBS Numb3rs series.

Connect/Other Resources

  • Music Xray website
  • This short video does a great job of explaining exactly how the Music Xray platform works.
  • On May 9, 2008 Music Xray’s hit prediction service was a central part of the story line on the CBS television series Numb3rs (“Pay To Play” episode).
  • Mike hosts the Hookblast podcast
  • Twitter: @hookblast and @mjmccready
  • Clubhouse: @hookblast
  • Mike’s personal website
  • The Musical Brain documentary features Mike along with Sting and Daniel Levitan.
  • If you enjoyed this topic, you may also enjoy:
    • Ep. 78: How and when are songs selected for TV & film scenes? with Jody FriedmanEp. 67: “Why You Like It: The Science and Culture of Musical Taste,” with author Nolan Gasser, PhD
    • Ep. 57: What the music you like says about your personality; with David Greenberg, PhD

In-Episode Promo

If you’re a regular listener of this show, you’ve probably heard me talk about my Rolflex Pro. It played a significant role in healing my repetitive use injuries; and I have continued to use it every day for years, both to prevent injuries – and because it feels so good! The Rolflex Pro is a foam roller tool with clam-shaped arms that provide leverage to adjust the pressure to whatever you like or can tolerate. I use it mainly on my arms and neck/shoulder area; but it can be used on any body part because of how it’s designed. I highly recommend it. As I mentioned, I’ve been using the Rolflex daily for years, and recently signed up as an affiliate; so you can help support the show – at no extra cost to you – by purchasing through this link. The Rolflex is eligible for reimbursement from Flexible Spending Accounts and HSAs; it’s also eligible for medical insurance reimbursement in certain situations. More information is on the Rolflex website


Mike says: I had a very unique experience for 5 years as marketing director of the Olympic venues in Barcelona where my job was to interface with all the big music acts that were on tour through Europe. As the only native English speaker in the venues, I was able to develop relationships with the acts, their managers, and I was able to sit-in for many private performances from some of the biggest acts in the world, like Springsteen, Prince, U2, ColdPlay, Aeorsmith etc. That job, which was focused on music every day, impacted my life in countless ways.

Closing Words

Thanks so much to Mike for joining us today. If you’re interested in learning more about Mike and his work, check out his podcast! Mike has a podcast called Hookblast, it’s a weekly, ten-minute show where he pulls songs out of the Music Xray filter and gets the license from the musician to feature its hook in his podcast. So it’s a great way to discover new music and artists.

If you’d like to learn more about the Music Xray platform, there’s a great short video on their website that explains exactly how it works. The Music Xray hit prediction service was actually a central part of the story line on an episode of Numb3rs (the CBS TV series) in 2008. I found that really fascinating! 

I love to hear from listeners! If you’re on Facebook, please follow me at @EnhanceLifeMusic. You can also connect with me on email, other social media platforms, or my website. Thank you so much for joining me today. Until next week, may your life be enhanced with music.


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