Posts Tagged passion
I still remember the evening well. It was midnight during the summer of 1982. I was living in a thin-walled apartment, trying unsuccessfully to go to sleep while the people who lived upstairs were music bingeing on The B52’s Rock Lobster. They listened to the song continuously on repeat for hours, giving me the chance to ponder the rich world of undersea life, filled with manta rays, narwhals and dogfish.
We tend to binge on things we like – potato chips, Ben & Jerry’s, and Battlestar Galactica. Music is no exception. Sometimes we like a song so much, that as soon as it’s over, we want to hear it again. But not all songs are equally replayable. There are some songs that have some secret mysterious ingredients that makes us want to listen to the song over and over again. What are these most replayed songs? Let’s look at some data to find out.
The Data – For this experiment I used a week’s worth of song play data from the summer of 2013 that consists of user / song / play-timestamp triples. This data set has on the order of 100 million of these triples for about a half million unique users and 5 million unique songs. To find replays I looked for consecutive plays by a user of song within a time window (to ensure that the replays are in the same listening session). Songs with low numbers of plays or fans were filtered out.
For starters, I simply counted up the most replayed songs. As expected, this yields very boring results – the list of the top most replayed songs is exactly the same as the most played songs. No surprise here. The most played songs are also the most replayed songs.
Top Most Replayed Songs – (A boring result)
- Robin Thicke — Blurred Lines featuring T.I., Pharrell
- Jay-Z — Holy Grail featuring Justin Timberlake
- Miley Cyrus — We Can’t Stop
- Imagine Dragons — Radioactive
- Macklemore — Can’t Hold Us (feat. Ray Dalton)
To make this more interesting, instead of looking at the absolute number of replays, I adjusted for popularity by looking at the ratio of replays to the total number of plays for each song. This replay ratio tells us the what percentage of plays of a song are replays. If we plot the replay ratio vs. the number of fans a song has the outliers become quite clear. Some songs are replayed at a higher rate than others.
I made an interactive version of this graph, you can mouse over the songs to see what they are and click on the songs to listen to them.
Sorting the results by the replay ratio yields a much more interesting result. It surfaces up a few classes of frequently replayed songs: background noise, children’s music, soft and smooth pop and friday night party music. Here’s the color coded list of the top 20:
Top Replayed songs by percentage
- 91% replays White Noise For Baby Sleep — Ocean Waves
- 86% replays Eric West — Reckless (From Playing for Keeps)
- 86% replays Soundtracks For The Masters — Les Contes D’hoffmann: Barcarole
- 83% replays White Noise For Baby Sleep — Warm Rain
- 83% replays Rain Sounds — Relax Ocean Waves
- 82% replays Dennis Wilson — Friday Night
- 81% replays Sleep — Ocean Waves for Sleep – White Noise
- 74% replays White Noise Sleep Relaxation White Noise Relaxation: Ocean Waves 7hz
- 74% replays Ween — Ocean Man
- 73% replays Children’s Songs Music — Whole World In His Hands
- 71% replays Glee Cast — Friday (Glee Cast Version)
- 63% replays Rain Sounds — Rain On the Window
- 63% replays Rihanna — Cheers (Drink To That)
- 60% replays Group 1 Crew — He Said (feat. Chris August)
- 59% replays Karsten Glück Simone Sommerland — Schlaflied für Anne
- 56% replays Monica — With You
- 54% replays Jessie Ware — Wildest Moments
- 53% replays Tim McGraw — I Like It, I Love It
- 53% replays Rain Sounds — Morning Rain In Sedona
- 52% replays Rain Sounds — Rain Sounds
It is no surprise that the list is dominated by background noise. There’s nothing like ambient ocean waves or rain sounds to help baby go to sleep in the noisy city. A five minute track of ambient white noise may be played dozens of times during every nap. It is not uncommon to find 8 hour long stretches of the same five minute white noise audio track played on auto repeat.
The top most replayed song is Reckless by Eric West from the ‘shamelessly sentimental’ 2012 movie Playing for Keeps (4% rotten). 86% of the time this song is played it is a replay. This is the song that you can’t listen to just once. It is the Lays potato chip of music. Beware, if you listen to it, you may be caught in its web and you’ll never be able to escape. Listen at your own risk:
Luckily, most people don’t listen to this song even once. It is only part of the regular listening rotation of a couple hundred listeners. Still, it points to a pattern that we’ll see more of – overly sentimental music has high replay value.
Top Replayed Popular Songs
Perhaps even more interesting is to look at the top most replayed popular songs. We can do this by restricting the songs in the results to those that are by artists that have a significant fan base:
- 31% replays Miley Cyrus — The Climb
- 16% replays August Alsina — I Luv This sh*t featuring Trinidad James
- 15% replays Brad Paisley — Whiskey Lullaby
- 14% replays Tamar Braxton — The One
- 14% replays Chris Brown — Love More
- 14% replays Anna Kendrick — Cups (Pitch Perfect’s “When I’m Gone”)
- 13% replays Avenged Sevenfold — Hail to the King
- 13% replays Jay-Z — Big Pimpin’
- 13% replays Labrinth — Beneath Your Beautiful
- 13% replays Karmin — Acapella
- 12% replays Lana Del Rey — Summertime Sadness [Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais]
- 12% replays MGMT — Electric Feel
- 12% replays One Direction — Best Song Ever
- 12% replays Big Sean — Beware featuring Lil Wayne, Jhené Aiko
- 12% replays Chris Brown — Don’t Think They Know
- 11% replays Justin Bieber — Boyfriend
- 11% replays Avicii — Wake Me Up
- 11% replays 2 Chainz — Feds Watching featuring Pharrell
- 10% replays Paramore — Still Into You
- 10% replays Alicia Keys — Fire We Make
- 10% replays Lorde — Royals
- 10% replays Miley Cyrus — We Can’t Stop
- 10% replays Ciara — Body Party
- 9% replays Marc Anthony — Vivir Mi Vida
- 9% replays Ellie Goulding — Burn
- 9% replays Fantasia — Without Me
- 9% replays Rich Homie Quan — Type of Way
- 9% replays The Weeknd — Wicked Games (Explicit)
- 9% replays A$AP Ferg — Work REMIX
- 9% replays Jay-Z — Part II (On The Run) featuring Beyoncé
It is hard to believe, but the data doesn’t lie – More than 30% of the time after someone listens to Miley Cyrus’s The Climb they listen to it again right away – proving that there is indeed always going to be another mountain that you are going to need to climb. Miley Cyrus is well represented – her aptly named song We can’t Stop is the most replayed song of the top ten most popular songs.
Here are the top 30 most replayed popular songs in Spotify and Rdio playlists for you to enjoy, but I’m sure you’ll never get to the end of the playlist, you’ll just get stuck repeating The Best Song Ever or Boyfriend forever.
Here’s the Rdio version of the Top 30 Most Replayed popular songs:
Most Manually Replayed
More than once I’ve come back from lunch to find that I left my music player on auto repeat and it has played the last song 20 times while I was away. The song was playing, but no one was listening. It is more interesting to find songs replays in which the replay is manually initiated. These are the songs that grabbed the attention of the listener enough to make them interact with their player and actually queue the song up again. We can find manually replayed songs by looking at replay timestamps. Replays generated by autorepeat will have a very regular timestamp delta, while manual replay timestamps will have more random delta between timestamps.
Here are the top manually replayed songs:
- Body Party by Ciara
- Still Into You by Paramore
- Tapout featuring Lil Wayne, Birdman, Mack Maine, Nicki Minaj, Future by Rich Gang
- Part II (On The Run) featuring Beyoncé by Jay-Z
- Feds Watching featuring Pharrell by 2 Chainz
- Royals by Lorde
- V.S.O.P. by K. Michelle
- Just Give Me A Reason by Pink
- Don’t Think They Know by Chris Brown
- Wake Me Up by Avicii
There’s an Rdio playlist of these songs: Most Manually Replayed
Why do we care which songs are most replayed? It’s part of our never ending goal to try to better understand how people interact with music. For instance, recognizing when music is being used in a context like helping the baby go to sleep is important – without taking this context into account, the thousands of plays of Ocean Waves and Warn Rain would dominate the taste profile that we build for that new mom and dad. We want to make sure that when that mom and dad are ready to listen to music, we can recommend something besides white noise.
Looking at replays can help us identify new artists for certain audiences. For instance, parents looking for an alternative to Miley Cyrus for their pre-teen playlists after Miley’s recent VMA performance, may look to an artist like Fifth Harmony. Their song Miss Movin’ On has similar replay statistics to the classic Miley songs:
Finally, looking at replays is another tool to help us understand the music that people really like. If the neighbors play Rock Lobster 20 times in a row, you can be sure that they really, really like that song. (And despite, or perhaps because of, that night 30 years ago, I like the song too). You should give it a listen, or two…
One of the ways that Music 2.0 has changed how we think about music is that there is so much interesting data available about how people are listening to music. Sites like Last.fm automatically track all sorts of interesting data that just was not available before. Forty years ago, a music label like Capitol would know how many copies the album Abbey Road sold in the U.S., but the label wouldn’t know how many times people actually listened to the album. Today, however, our iPods and desktop music players keep careful track of how many times we play each song, album and artist – giving us a whole new way to look at artist popularity. It’s not just sales figures anymore, its how often are people actually listening to an artist. If you go to Last.fm you can see that The Beatles have over 1.75 million listeners and 168 million plays. It makes it easy for us to see how popular the Beatles are compared to another band (the monkees, for instance have 2.5m plays and 285K listeners).
With all of this new data available, there are some new ways we can look at artists. Instead of just looking at artists in terms of popularity and sales rank, I think it is interesting to see which artists generate the most passionate listeners. These are artists that dominate the playlists of their fans. I think this ‘passion index’ may be an interesting metric to use to help people explore for and discovery music. Artists that attract passionate fans may be longer lived and worth a listeners investment in time and money.
How can we calculate a passion index? There are probably a number of indicators: the number of edits to the bands wikipedia page, the average distance a fan travels to attend a show by the artist, the number of fan sites for an artist. All of these may be a bit difficult to collect, especially for a large set of artists. One simple passion metric is just the average number of artist plays per listener. Presumably if an artist’s listeners are playing an artist’s songs more than average they are more passionate about the artist. One thing that I like about this approach to the passion index is that it is extremely easy to calculate – just divide the total artist plays by the total number of artist listeners and you have the passion index. Yes, there are many confounding factors – for instance, artists with longer songs are penalized – still I think it is a pretty good measure.
I calculated the passion index for a large collection of artists. I started with about a million artists (it is really nice to have all this data at the Echo Nest;), and filtered these down to the 50K most popular artists. I plotted the number of artist plays vs. the number of artist listeners for each of the 50 K listeners. The plot shows that most artists fall into the central band (normal passion), but some (the green points) are high passion artists and some (the blue points) are low passion artists.
For the 50K artists, the average track plays per artist/listener is just 11 plays (with a std deviation of about 11.5). Considering that there are a substantial number of artists in my iTunes collection that I’ve played only once, this seems pretty resaonable.
So who are the artists with the highest passion index? Here are the top ten:
I didn’t recognize any of these artists (and I’m not even sure if 上海アリス幻樂団 is really an artist – according to the Japanese wikipedia it is a fan club in Japan to produce a music game coterie – whatever that means). Belo is a Brazilian pop artist that does indeed seem to have some rather passionate fans.
It is not surprising that it is hard for popular artists to rank at the very top of the passion index. Popular artists are exposed to many, many listeners which can easily reduce the passion index. Here are the top passion-ranked artists drawn from the top-1000 most popular artists:
|75||269052||20293399||Mindless Self Indulgence|
|74||1056834||79135038||Nine Inch Nails|
|66||460518||30625121||Children of Bodom|
I find it interesting to see all of the heavy metal bands in the top 20. Metal fans are indeed true fans.
Going to the other end of passion, we find the 20 popular artists that have the least passionate fans:
|5||282095||1685959||The Isley Brothers|
|5||388183||2244878||Kool & The Gang|
I guess people are not too passionate about Soft Cell.
Here’s a passion chart for the top 100 most popular artists. Even the artists at the bottom of this chart are way above average on the passion index.
|74||1056834||79135038||Nine Inch Nails|
|61||1397442||85685015||System of a Down|
|60||1346298||81762621||Death Cab for Cutie|
|57||1060269||61127025||Fall Out Boy|
|55||1897332||104932225||Red Hot Chili Peppers|
|54||950416||52019102||My Chemical Romance|
|43||1011131||43930085||Kings of Leon|
|40||1023666||41288978||Queens of the Stone Age|
|39||1266502||49492511||The White Stripes|
|36||1326946||48738588||The Smashing Pumpkins|
|34||955876||33376744||Jimmy Eat World|
|30||1178755||35600916||Rage Against the Machine|
|29||1030982||30044419||Yeah Yeah Yeahs|
|28||985715||28485679||The Postal Service|
|28||1305984||37807059||Guns N’ Roses|
|26||1503035||40161219||The Rolling Stones|
|23||976745||22557111||3 Doors Down|
|20||1057288||22084785||The Chemical Brothers|
|19||968885||19219364||Simon & Garfunkel|
|16||996649||16234996||Black Eyed Peas|
I think it would be really interesting to incorporate the passion index into a recommender, so instead of just recommending artists that are similar to artists that a listener already likes, filter the similar artists with a passion filter and offer up the artists that listeners are most passionate about. I think these recommendations would be more valuable to the listener.