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How Songs Get Popular

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the why-stuff-sucks dept.

Music 316

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers created an artificial music market of 14,341 participants split into two groups to pick music from unknown musicians. In one group, the individuals had only song titles and band names to go on. The individuals in the other group saw how others had rated the songs. Turns out popularity bred popularity, which explains why there's so much crap on the radio."

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Just like /. (4, Insightful)

Mrs. Grundy (680212) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682945)

I think we all understand this. For instance here on slashdot this is the way the moderation works--things either don't get mod points or get the extreme value (not that I am hinting, dear bearer of mod-points, the you in particular lack independent judgement) . Pretty soon somebody will come along and mod this post down -1 as a troll. Seeing this, the next person with mod points will quickly mod it down as well--a kind of kick in the ./ groin if you will. If, on the other hand, the first person with points happens to have a wit worthy of Falstaff he will see the genuine insightful nature of this post and graces it with a +1. The result will be an avalanche of +1 placing this post among the few of well-meaning ineptitude that rises to empyreal absurdity. I'll leave it to the reader to determine which case illustrates the "Britney effect" mentioned in TFA.

Re:Just like /. (0, Flamebait)

AK__64 (740022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682957)

Welp, I have mod points, and I'm going to say..... LOL

Re:Just like /. (2, Funny)

od05 (915556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683376)

If you were to post this ten times you'd get modded up.

Re:Just like /. (-1, Redundant)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683437)

I've noticed this "music effect" on moderation too. If I get even one mod point in a + or - direction, more are sure to follow in more cases than not, while equally good or bad posts will get no attention. That's part of the reason why it's important to post early, besides being at the top, you're more likely to get flagged for moderation.

It's the Garmlich effect. (5, Funny)

rothic (596907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682952)

"It's the law of physics that states that if one girl screams for something, it will make other girls scream ... until all girls within a five-mile radius are screaming. Once you get girls screamin', you can't stop 'em! They're crazy!" --Chef, South Park

Re:It's the Garmlich effect. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683005)

"It's the law of physics that states that if one girl screams for something, it will make other girls scream ... until all girls within a five-mile radius are screaming. Once you get girls screamin', you can't stop 'em! They're crazy!" --Chef, South Park

Sorry, Chef, but Wilma And Betty had devised a method back in the 60's to counteract popular hysteria. Simply suggest the subject is, "you know", and draw a square in the air with your index fingers.

Re:It's the Garmlich effect. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683077)

Just as long as they're all screaming for sex, I have no problems with this domino effect. I'll knock 'em down.. or up as the case may be.

Ob Futurama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683220)

Death by Snoo Snoo!!

"Nothing attracts a crowd..." (3, Funny)

no_opinion (148098) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682954)

"... like a crowd."

Re:"Nothing attracts a crowd..." (5, Funny)

Aspirator (862748) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683103)

Obligatory Monty Python Reference

Brian (Talking to crowd): You need to be independant minded.
Crowd: We are! We are!
Person in crowd: I'm not!

Re:"Nothing attracts a crowd..." (1)

ZachPruckowski (918562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683158)

Very true. I work on the programming board at a university (I've mentioned it in previous posts, but won't here). Anyways, we often bring a certain act to the school, in the first or second week of school. It's a free event, and at most schools, it draws a relatively small crowd (a few hundred, making it somewhat worth the value). Here at my school, about 60-70 percent of the students go, and even camp out for it the whole day waiting. The act has been coming to our school for at least 20 years (we've actually lost the records that say how long, and that's as far as collective memory goes back), and we generally attribute that to its success.

How else would we get (3, Funny)

BillFarber (641417) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682962)

Air Supply?

Re:How else would we get (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683123)

I'm sensing that you're All Out Of Love. You should be Making Love Out Of Nothing at All. That way, you can be with The One That You Love and that will last Now and Forever.

... You better not give me One More Chance [classicbands.com] to make such an awful post...

Re:How else would we get (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683506)

How else would we get Air Supply?

Easy, out of nothing at all.

Re:How else would we get (1)

MechaShiva (872964) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683518)

Captain and Tenille?

Would the Beatles have made it today? (4, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682966)

I wonder how much the degree to which today's world is "connected" compared to the days and emergence of the Beatles and Stones (much less Beethoven, et. al.) contributes to the "lesser quality" of today's popular music? I have to think this is a significant factor, and an unfortunate one.

So, today stars are foisted, created, presented to the consuming public by fiat, not a great surprise. It's too bad though. I even wonder a group as good as the Beatles, or a composer as great as Beethoven (Ludwig, my opinion) would have much of a chance for recognition for their real talent -- probably not so much. Too bad.

For those of this generation, food for thought. (and, sorry for all of the sentence fragments.)

(Also, readers should visit the links at the bottom of the referenced article, there are some pretty interesting additional articles about human nature and music (and I have NO interest in that magazine).)

Re:Would the Beatles have made it today? (1)

BHennessy (639799) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682999)

There's probably great musicains currently that wouldn't have been sucessful back then, and there's also probably lots of great musicians that nobody knows about because they never made it.

There hardly seems to have been a time where 'good' musicians all got recognised/whatever, I don't think it's just a trait of today's music.

Re:Would the Beatles have made it today? (1)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683340)

There's probably great musicains currently that wouldn't have been sucessful back then, and there's also probably lots of great musicians that nobody knows about because they never made it.

No offense, but talented musicians are a dime a dozen. I'll take the raw power of early Clash over a perfectly performed piano concerto almost anyday. Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Guns and Roses, Nirvana; their ability to play their instruments are not what made them great, many would say its in spite of. Just being good at what you do is not a guarantee of success in any field.

Re:Would the Beatles have made it today? (1)

Kuvter (882697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683131)

Well to me music is good based on couple things. One being the complexity and the other if it's catchy. Music being complex might make it catchy. So mainly that means music is good because it's catchy. If your mind heards the music and it pleases you in a way, and that soothing could be a lively dance energy or a relaxing laid back kind, then you'll like it at that time. Popularity, as the article adresses, did the research on just shows that if someone else things a peice is pleasing to them then people who come upon it later will test it out first, which makes sence, and if they find it pleasing then they will stick with it. This goes further though in my thoughts. If you've already found enough music that is pleasing and you're content then you'll stop looking. If you're not content then you'll stop looking. I've seen this many times with my friends. The more 'into' music they are the more they've searched for that pleasing music. A typical person would listen to the radio. If they find what they like on the radio then they'll stick with that. If they only like some of the music on the radio then they'll go search for music. In this day and age that could mean checking it out online or seeing what your friends like. Again we go though the gambit of what's liked by those people as a starting spot. If we're pleased with our first finding and the radio combine we'll stop searching. If we're not pleased we'll keep going. This leads us to the parent post. He has done these same steps in a sence. He landed on The Beatles and Beethoven. He liked them as he said for their talent. He was pleased and not is speaking on behalf od those bands effectively promoting what he's found to be great music. This concludes that since what's on the radio is the first, or easiest, place that people search for music that we have many people promoting Britney, because Britney is on the radio and enough people are content with that, and share their findings.

Re:Would the Beatles have made it today? (0, Flamebait)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683205)

So, today stars are foisted, created, presented to the consuming public by fiat, not a great surprise. It's too bad though. I even wonder a group as good as the Beatles

HAHAHAHAHAHA. HAaHaHaAHA! *snort*

Let me let you in on a little secret, that no one in the world seems to know: The beatles fucking sucked. Off-tune, off-time. They became popular mostly due to their haircuts, and the fact that they were doing something new. Remember, 2 Live Crew became one of the best-selling rap groups of all time just because they were cussing a lot. The best part of the 2 Live Crew was the Mega Mixx tracks done by their truly excellent DJ...

If you could listen to the beatles with ears unclouded with the idea of the beatles, as I did the first time I listened to them (and many times thereafter) you would recognize the truth of this statement. Oh, you might still like them - I like a lot of crappy music. But I know it's crappy.

Re:Would the Beatles have made it today? (1)

CowboyBob500 (580695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683250)

Three words - Tomorrow Never Knows

Bob

Re:Would the Beatles have made it today? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683332)

"I wonder how much the degree to which today's world is "connected" compared to the days and emergence of the Beatles and Stones (much less Beethoven, et. al.) contributes to the "lesser quality" of today's popular music?"

Interestingly enough, you wouldn't have had the Beatles or Rolling Stones if the world hadn't become more connected. They grew up listenin to Chuck Berry (and others) and ended up adopting the sound. This (admittedly only one) example seems to suggest that the connectedness of the world allows more people to find the "right" music for them (i.e. a recent story on NPR talked about Arab rappers).

"So, today stars are foisted, created, presented to the consuming public by fiat, not a great surprise."

If you're familiar with the history of the Beatles you're aware that there was massive marketing surrounding their arrival in America (pivotal Ed Sullivan show, classic images of them at the airport)... Many might describe this as "created, presented to the consuming public by fiat."

I guess I'm trying to say that the music industry hasn't changed all that much since the time of the Beatles.

They probably violated RIAA, MPAA and TV Patents (1, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682984)

Turns out popularity bred popularity, which explains why there's so much crap on the radio."

I now sure there's a patent on a business process of promoting junk as solid gold.

or does the tailor who sold the king his clothes have prior art?

Re:They probably violated RIAA, MPAA and TV Patent (2, Funny)

symbolic (11752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683116)

I think the person that patented the method by which disease and pestilence are spread, beat them to it.

Re:They probably violated RIAA, MPAA and TV Patent (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683343)

I think the person that patented the method by which disease and pestilence are spread, beat them to it.

Thinking of Good Omens?

I did like the bit about " MEALS was CHOW with added sugar and fat."

How ideas on Slashdot get popular (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14682990)

If they follow group think they get modded up. If the go against the grain they get modded down. Feeble minds equate high moderation with popularity and thus popular opinion becomes their opinion and their reality.

Re:How ideas on Slashdot get popular (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683029)

If they follow group think they get modded up. If the go against the grain they get modded down.

Sorry to disagree with you, but I've seen many pro-Microsoft (particular cases of course, or maybe just points of view) or anti-Linux rants get a +5 Insightful.

Of course, true statements often get moderated as insightful. Is it our fault that most statements against microsoft happen to be true?

Disclaimer - I'm not a mod.

Re:How ideas on Slashdot get popular (1)

vidnet (580068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683150)

Sorry to disagree with you, but I've seen many pro-Microsoft (particular cases of course, or maybe just points of view) or anti-Linux rants get a +5 Insightful.

The trick is to open with "I'll probably be modded down for this" "Here goes my karma"

Re:How ideas on Slashdot get popular (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683285)

Sorry to disagree with you, but I've seen many pro-Microsoft (particular cases of course, or maybe just points of view) or anti-Linux rants get a +5 Insightful.


That is true, but, how many of those moderations are metamoterated as 'fair' as opposed to 'unfair'?

Of course, true statements often get moderated as insightful. Is it our fault that most statements against microsoft happen to be true?


Oh you mean statements like 'Microsoft is a monopoly because they were convicted as such' as well as 'Windows is so unsecure and unstable'?

The first one, the have never really been a monopoly, as they have always had competition in the form of OS/2, Linux, and MacOS. Comparing OS/2 to Windows 95 or even Windows 3.11, it was much simpler to connect to the internet as OS/2 could not handle dynamic IP addresses, only static. Linux is only now maturing into a real product, and even then it's still in its early stages

Microsoft also has competition in the form of Openoffice.org. They also had competition that wasn't nearly as good because wordperfect and lotus both wanted to stick with 'tried and true' dos. Netscape ended up going nowhere whereas Microsoft was continually improving their browser. The reason Microsft came up on top is they knew how to compete viciously in the market. That is what Capitalism is. Then when they thought they had little competition to worry about, the Mozilla project was building up underneath their radar, now they have competition in the form of Firefox, Thunderbird, Openoffice.org, and Various Linux distributions.

As for the second statement, I haven't updated in a while and I have not had to reboot in a while and I have not had any security attacks on my system at all. The deal with security is mainly with attachments. I do not open unknown attachments and yes, I use Internet Explorer and Outlook Express.

IMHO, I think there is moderations and metamoderations that are based on what a person believes rather than whether or not someone makes a good point. Maybe cmdrtaco could implement a metamoderation system where 8 users can metamoderate one moderation, and base whether it fair or unfair on the majority of metamods so that it can be a little more fair.

On music, I have heard several song on the radio that I don't care for, but my taste is different than someone elses. I believe that there are some song that are popular just because it's popular, others are popular because it's good.

Re:How ideas on Slashdot get popular (1)

SeattleGameboy (641456) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683300)

Not necessarily suggesting that you are full of B.S...

...but, care to link a just a few (say, 5 or 6) of these +5 Insightful pro-Microsoft rant?

I don't mean those posts where people are taking lesser of two evils (say, MS vs Patents or MS vs Hollywood, etc.), I mean GENUINELY pro-Microsoft rant that is rated +5 Insightful.

I just can't for the life of me, can remember a single one...

So much crap in the radio? (5, Insightful)

MikkoApo (854304) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682991)

I blame the recording industry and its marketing. Popularity might breed popularity, but unfortunately marketing bypasses "real popularity". Unfortunately there are still artists making music which isn't spoiled by even if the system tries its best.

Re:So much crap in the radio? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683280)

. . .unfortunately marketing bypasses "real popularity".

Most people are little more than yammering apes. Apes like to yammer INXS and *NSYNC.

Much beyond fire, pointy sticks and the wheel there is actually very little around you that has "real" popularity, i.e. is widely adopted because of its own innate desirable properties.

You're an ape. You ape. Marketing just tells you what to ape. School taught you to ape what you are told.

KFG

Re:So much crap in the radio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683535)

School taught you to ape what you are told.

By that logic, you are an ape as well. :P

Buying airtime (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683297)

New York is investigating scams in which hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in buying extra airtime for specific songs. I did not know this, but this is actually a crime. There are a lot of companies involved, apparently, but two very familiar names stuck out... Clear Channel and Sony. Sony has apparently settled, not sure if Clear Channel has.


Part of the problem with media conglomerates is that you can buy a LOT of media outlets in a single transaction. Clear Channel, I believe, owns numerous radio stations in every State in the US. Cross-media ownership (eg: radio, TV and newspapers) rules have been relaxed, so the problem will likely get much worse before it gets better.


The easy answer would be to limit media ownership. One outlet in a city and/or two outlets in a State (for the US) or County (for England) should be ample and would make it much harder for labels to purchase airtime. Or, at least, more expensive and more tedious. It would neither inhibit freedom of speech nor commercial viability if "playlists" were banned, as well. "Top 40" charts and emphasis on those songs is fine, but essentially banishing all others (or banning artists for political reasons, as has happened) has little to do with any definition of freedom I'm aware of.


On the other hand, it might be easier to just clone the late John Peel and require all music stations to give him an hour's airtime per day. That would definitely work wonders for bringing the real talent out there to the listeners.

Re:So much crap in the radio? (1)

thej1nx (763573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683453)

There is nothing all that surprising here. It has always been common nature to use others' experience as a guide. We see someone making money through something, and presto! Everyone is trying to ape the same to get similar results. That trend was responsible for the dot com bubble burst, when everyone was trying to have a success story by marketing really stupid ideas(at least one person had a portal to send doggie poo to your friends).

On the other hand, this socially acquired experience mechanism is exactly how the civilization has developed.

Except in the case of music industry, with the amount of marketing the studios do, something really crappy can be passed off as "popular". And it is entirely possible that a large number of folks possibly "convince" themselves that they like a particular kind of music, just because they are trying to fit in with the "popular opinion". Even if the said piece of "music" is just plain noise and completely crap.

What would have been a far more interesting twist on the experiment(to make its inference more clearer) would be to have a two more groups. Let one group try and rank the songs as a group vote, without being provided any additional info about the songs. Then reverse the list thus arrived at, and present it to the second group. Misinform(market) to the second group that the songs actually voted the crappiest by the first group, were voted the best. And then let them vote for their favourite ones.

The results of *that* would indeed be illuminating.

Barriers to Entry Falling = More Freedom (4, Insightful)

Ritz_Just_Ritz (883997) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682994)

Until relatively recently, the barriers to entry of the music business were sky high because of distribution costs. Now that distribution costs are going into a tailspin (iTunes & Bitorrent...Gracias!), the studios are scared out of their wits. Not because they're so worried about piracy, but because they can be cut out of the game entirely.

So I'm quite content to have actual listeners help shepherd in popular bands rather than have mediocre cookie cutter crap foisted on me by megacorps.

Makes sense to me (1, Insightful)

SsShane (754647) | more than 8 years ago | (#14682996)

When I want a new book and don't know which one, I go to Amazon and read reviews from others who have bought. It works for the most part. Oh well.

Re:Makes sense to me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683344)

But you don't just buy a book based on the number of sales it has done. With the music if it's a top seller it's at the front of the store and there are millions of them there. I prefer to read reviews, even for music.

Re:Makes sense to me (1)

n54 (807502) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683373)

When I want a new book and don't know which one I go to a bookstore and browse. It works for the most part. A bit too well actually; I've taken to avoiding bookstores as I really can't afford the spending spree it usually triggers :)

Yes, I can also go to Amazon and browse as well as read comments but I rarely do that. Something about the total of preferences of others not fitting that closely with my own, not that I should always trust my own taste in books either but I've only been disappointed by something like three books (which turned out to be completely worthless to me) and I own close to 3000.

These days I mostly read freely (and legally) available short fiction and classics on the net (there's a lot of it out there).

--
this additional sig includes a portrait of Mohammed in support of freedom of expression, feel free to reproduce it

If you like reading... (1)

Javaman59 (524434) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683554)

These days I mostly read freely (and legally) available short fiction and classics on the net (there's a lot of it out there).
Serious comment. How about using the local public library? The books are free, you get the pleasure of browsing, and you can find books which you would not normally encounter. You can also borrow commercial DVD's and music. For me, a Sunday afternoon at the local library is a treat.

People like to talk about music (3, Insightful)

AK__64 (740022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683011)

Most people don't listen to music in a bubble, they talk to other people about the music and ideas get implanted in their heads. Also the way people talk about music makes a difference. If you say to me, that you LOVE this song and I HAVE to hear it, and download it and listen to it all the time, I'm going to look at you funny. But if you tell me in a laid-back, smooth and cool manner that this song is cool, I'll be more inclined to listen to you and less likely to write you off. It also works backwards. "I'm used to really like that song too, now I'm getting kinda sick of it..." Now you start to feel the same way, even just a little bit.
There are some really interesting studies on how people react in certain situations, responding to peer pressure and all that. Good stuff.

Uh duh.,.. (3, Insightful)

phaetonic (621542) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683012)

Hence the Top 40 stations and lists

Re:Uh duh.,.. (1)

slowbad (714725) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683164)

For a few decades, the buying habits of 11-15 year old females totally determined "Top 40"


Guys typically bought albums in much lower volumes than 45rpm singles that created the list.

What? (1, Insightful)

robyannetta (820243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683018)

I don't need anyone's complex mathematical computations to give me algorithims to find what music will be popular and what won't.

Has anyone actually listened to today's music? It sucks!

Really? (1)

pinkstuff (758732) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683024)

We'll, like, oh my god, you didn't know that?

GREAT! (4, Funny)

Shuh (13578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683028)




Now that I've posted, everyone is going to get in on this thread.


Re:GREAT! (0)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683369)

OMG, how did I just appear as a reply to this guy's post?

Re:GREAT! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683399)

This sure is a one great thread!

Re:GREAT! (1)

NoGuffCheck (746638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683463)

i'll bite.

the variable that was changed (3, Insightful)

blue_adept (40915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683033)

Although it's not spelled out, this study tested whether those songs highly rated by group A, would become more popular in group B, WHETHER OR NOT the ratings were actually true; in other words, the truthfullness of the ratings was the variable.

The acticle doesn't really dwell on this, but if that's not what they were doing, then what's so surprising about the fact that both group A and group B found the same songs to be "good". (d-uh, they're actually better songs!)

Re:the variable that was changed (1)

MutantHamster (816782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683239)

From what I can gather in the article, it's not what they were doing. That in mind, I'd consider this experiment fundamentally flawed. It seems like a much more effective way of testing this effect would be to reverse the popularity of songs. Songs rated highly by the independent group would be shown as being rated lowly to the other group and vice-versa. Don't these researchers know anything about experiments?

Re:the variable that was changed (2, Informative)

mattmacf (901678) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683292)

Not quite. From TFA:

The social-influence group was further divided into eight separate, non-interactive "worlds." Members of each world could not see the decisions of the other seven. The idea behind this was to observe multiple outcomes for the same songs and bands.

"If you look at Britney Spears, some people say she is really good. Others say she isn't good, she's just lucky," Salganik told LiveScience. "But by having just one argument, it's impossible to distinguish. However, if you have 10 worlds, and she's popular in all 10, then you can say she's actually good. But if she's only good in one, then you could say it was due to luck."

Although different songs were hits in each world, popularity was still the deciding factor, although the "best" songs never did very badly and the "worst" songs never did very well.

What you missed is the fact that "group B" was in fact subdivided into eight distinct, independent sub-groups. Rather than determining "WHETHER OR NOT the ratings were actually true" (Who is to decide whether a song is good? Critics? Fans? Other bands?) what the researchers did was take the same independent ratings (from group A) and give them to each subset of group B. It's not surprising that the "best" songs generally did well and the "worst" ones generally did poorly. What is notable is that different songs were hits in each "world," based (presumably) on the same set of independent data.

Re:the variable that was changed (1)

blue_adept (40915) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683489)

right, what I should have said is that the song ratings were the independent variable in the experiment. Different "words" were exposed to different ratings, and lo and behold the songs rated highly by group A went on to be popular in group B.

This is actually no different than making up "fake" ratings for the songs, since the researchers selectively dish out specifically rated songs to specific "worlds".

Seems a bit obvious... (1)

jjeffrey (558890) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683059)

If all you had to go on when selecting music out of a massive list was the artist, title and ratings from other people - wouldn't you start by looking at what other people had rated most highly? I think almost everyone would.

unknown.....and brand names??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683061)

"pick music from unknown musicians. In one group, the individuals had only song titles and band names to go on."

If they are unknown how do they have a "brand name"? Article seems fishy to me, though there is CRAP on the radio and being produced these days to ad nauseum.

I still don't under stand how "old bands" with crap music keep releasing alubms, ah-la the stones, areosmith, etc. Please, oh please let these bastards die.......non of em have made any good music in 20+ years!!

A key to music is the familiar. (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683073)

It took all the work to realize that. Just take some Music Theory Classes and it would make since. The key to Music and popularity is the familiar. It is brings up elements that are familiar then you tend to like it more then ones that bring up elements that are less familiar. So we grow up listening to music we tend to link it as familiar, to our ears so whenever we listen to other music we judge it based on what we know. So if you grow up listening to Pop, Pop is what sounds good and listening to classical will just feel wrong to you. Or even if you have a more broad range of music you enjoy there will be stuff from other cultures that will sound sour to you ears because they use a different key for music. So if you like listening to Brittany spears you will tend to like other Brittany spears songs because you connect to the music and her voice and other voices may not match. Because Brittany Spears is popular you will tend to listen to her more thus like it more, then say some lesser known band.

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (1)

mischmasch55 (908788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683196)

I disagree, I think what makes a song popular is the hook of the song. Throughout music history all the new fads have had hook, what makes that song different from others, what makes you want to hear that song over and over again. If it was the familiar we would not get new and different music that is out there. Many of the genres out there sound completely different from each other, but each of them had that one thing that made you want to listen more. In the early 90s, Gegorian Chant was considered popular music during the 90s what music was around that made it familiar so that someone would listen to it?

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (1)

prichardson (603676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683363)

Gregorian (not Gregorian at all, that's a myth started by Charlemagne) Chant was not popular in the 90's. It may have gained an increased following, but it was not popular. It wasn't even popular when it was written. It was just church music.

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (1)

prichardson (603676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683342)

If you like pop (in a broad sense) music, don't take music theory. You'll realize how shitty most of it is and then you'll feel empty.

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (1, Flamebait)

chanrobi (944359) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683349)

It's hard to take someone seriously when there are spelling mistakes all over the place.

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (1)

Eythian (552130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683411)

I think you misunderstood the article. It's not saying "people found these styles good". It's saying "people found these tracks good if they thought others thought they were good". At least, that's what I got from it.

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (1)

ffflala (793437) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683516)

Just take some Music Theory Classes and it would make since.
Your opinion has nothing to do with Music Theory. Music Theory != "what I think about why certain music is popular." Confusing, since plenty of "music theories" have been bantied around over bong hits, but that isn't Music Theory w/ a capital MT. Music Theory deals with the structure of the elements that create music. It is about structure, tones, organization, classification and combination of tone combinations (chords, scales), modulation, compositional techniques such as serial composition or 12 tone composition, that sort of thing. "What makes music popular" is a marketing topic, not a music theory one.

Re:A key to music is the familiar. (2, Interesting)

happymedium (861907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683528)

If "the key" were actually this simple, we'd still be listening to Gregorian chants. Referencing a music theory class seals the absurdity of this argumnent. Where did the theory itself come from?

In music, an element of familiarity is important, of course, especially for mass audiences, for whom music is little more than its social context. But familiar elements (chord progressions, instrumentation...) can be recombined endlessly. Combinations that once seemed incongruous become normal--e.g. OutKast's use of acoustic guitar in "Hey Ya!" New techniques are made to coexist with old ones, achieving substantially new effects--Radiohead's integration of electronic music into Kid A and Amnesiac, anyone?

Moreover, innovation is the key to longevity. Think of how long Radiohead and OutKast have been popular, especially by comparison to [insert top 40 hack here].

At the same time, derivative music sucks up market share like a crazed idiot teenager chugging energy drinks; by nature, it lends itself to intense but brief enjoyment. There's so much of it because the labels have to keep churning it out; all they can do is throw money at problems, and you can't buy creativity.

--hm.

What else did you expect? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683088)

What about a group who picks music based on what is sounds like?

Without that option, did anyone really expect people to pick music based on the names of the songs and artists?

If people use either of these methods, it's lame.
But, obviously, picking based on popularity makes about a billion times more sense that picking a song based on it's title. DUH!

What a retarded measure of nothing.

Re:What else did you expect? (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683134)

If people use either of these methods, it's lame.

That's ok. Another study has shown that most people are lame.

KFG

Re:What else did you expect? (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683180)

From the mouths of Cowards comes wisdom. You're absolutely right, people find it incredibly hard to be random. Deprived of more meaningful criteria to base a selection on, they will use less meaningful, or even totally meaningless criteria. Ask me to choose between two cocktails that I've never heard of, and I'll probably choose the one whose colour I like best - I know it has no bearing on how good it's going to tase, but you have to choose, right? (Actually I'd ask for a scotch instead, but you get the point).

And... (1, Funny)

RoscBottle (937276) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683093)

In other news, water is still wet.

A person ... (1)

Gaima (174551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683115)

... is smart. People are stupid, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.

Duh (1)

Have Blue (616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683118)

I don't see what's surprising about this. Every smart customer checks what other customers have had to say about a product before purchasing it, whether it's in-depth written reviews or a simple rating. A product most other users liked is more likely to be investigated further and purchased, and a product most other users didn't is likely to be avoided.

Re:Duh (1)

pla (258480) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683408)

Every smart customer checks what other customers have had to say about a product before purchasing it

Except, that works well for physical objects, not matters of preference. My washing machine, I want to know does what it claims and won't break in three months. My newest CD, I literally expect most people have never even heard of the artist(1), and I don't really care if anyone but me enjoys their music.

As for what surprises me about this study... It lacks a glaringly obvious "control" group - Namely, let people listen to the music in question and rate it according to preference, with no outside influence. Lacking that control, this study has almost no external validity.

Though, I suppose that basically agrees with you - The findings have no meaning, and don't surprise me... Given an overwhelming number of choices and no better means of selecting from them, as a human, I will most likely find enjoyable the same things other humans (with whom I have shared cultural experiences) enjoyed. That strategy may not result in the optimal choice (by which I mean that, out of 10k songs, I might not ever listen to the one that would turn into my instant lifetime favorite), but I'll probably find enough tolerable material from which to derive some pleasure.



1: Bitstream Dream. It you want to check them out, you can download their entire catalog FOR FREE, yet I still bought their newest release - Suck that, RIAA!. And no, I have no connection to them, other than as a listener.

so much crap on the radio (0)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683121)

Yet another condescending comment on /. on how geeks are so much superior to mere mortals - this time because their taste in music is so much better.

I don't get it... (1)

Eldorian1979 (905117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683139)

I tend to go by user reviews quite a bit, especially if it's in something I'm not familiar with. If I want to listen a genre of music I'm unfamiliar with, I'll look around and see what other people think. If a lot of people listen to it and rate it high, then it has a good chance of being pretty good and I'll buy into it. I mean, I dunno how many times I've chosen a product over another on amazon.com solely because one had better user reviews/ratings. I don't see how this pertains to crap being played on the radio though. That's whoever has the more money to market their musician the better chance they have of getting played. The more it's played, the more people hear it. The more people hear something, the more likely they are to buy it. I find smaller stations, especially ones that are on a college campus are way better for finding better quality music. Because they select their tracks based on their own good tastes and not who is bringing more money into their station.

so, peer ratings are more important than titles... (1)

dhardisty (914014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683162)

"Participants could then browse through a collection of unknown songs by unknown bands... In the social influence group, participants were provided with the same song list, but could also see how many times each song had been downloaded... They also found that as a particular songs' popularity increased, participants selected it more often."

Is this really that surprising? Given a big list of unknown songs, you listen to the ones that other people thought were good. Kind of like reader reviews on Amazon. I would do the same thing.

Does that mean..... (0)

8127972 (73495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683163)

I can stop watching American Idol?

Mod me up! (2, Funny)

slart42 (694765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683165)

Others will mod me up, too.

Re:Mod me up! (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683384)

It's only funny 'cause it's true.

Re:Mod me up! (1)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683471)

'tis moderated funny. but I've seen that effect before. once moderated things keep getting moderated in the same direction.

Now Why Do We (1)

boogahboogah (310475) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683167)

hear the same songs over & over & over & over & over ?

Do people really not remember a song ( or never get sick of a song ) after they've heard it five thousand million billion times ?

Not very surprising... (2, Insightful)

lordsid (629982) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683198)

The results aren't very surprising considering their "virtual music market" consisted of teenagers.

Why is this a bad thing? (1)

miked1001 (173101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683201)

This phenomenon is not surprising. Sure, Popularity begets popularity.

I see several comments pointing to how this shows that popular music is doomed.

Disillusionment about a musical era past aside, in general, why is this bad? Something (whether it's a song, vacuum cleaner, or graphics card) can't become immensely popular if it doesn't have some merit that has widespread appeal. That appeal is never based solely on marketing. In the case of a song, marketing helps, but it must be catchy to some people or it would never sell. Regardless of your own view of a popular song, enough people find it appealing to make it popular.

So, can you blame people for trusting popularity as being one of the factors that affects what they pay attention to? They can always trust that there is some appeal of that item (be it product or song or whatever) if it's popular.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (0, Troll)

dotzilla (844589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683333)

That's right: an art piece is not "objectively" good, it depends on the context where it's consumed, and that context is largely defined by the popularity of that art piece among other people. Look at famous classical musicians that became appreciated only after they died, for example.

...or Van Gogh's self-portraits, for another example: they are thought of as masterpieces but only because lots of other people liked his other stuff; if all he ever painted were self-portraits, no one would ever pay attention to them (or him).

Btw what would be an "objectively" -- standing in isolation from all else -- good music anyway?

Crap Rock (1)

HooliganIntellectual (856868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683202)

There was some study years ago that found that "hit" records and popular artists were the result of a mostly arbitrary process. In other words, there are probably as many good artists, if not many more, than the popular ones that dominate the airwaves and music sales.

There are other factors that account for popularity, of course, such as the concentration of the music industry, payola, real talent, sex appeal, and so on.

What mystifies me is the popularity of classic rock stations on the radio. Why is the crap of the 1970 and 1980s considered "classic" today? Just because those bands and those songs were popular 25 years ago? Journey? REO Speedwagon? Come on. Much of that "classic" rock was crap. It was popular crap. And why are certain popular songs "classic" when there may have been better songs on those albums?

A social experiment (4, Interesting)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683203)

Go to most any store, supermarkets especially. Now stand and stare at an item on the shelf. Even if the isle was empty before within a minute or so at the most some one will be looking at the same shelf. I've quite often had people muscle me out of the way or at least stand in front of me. They will tend to stand there as long as you do and quite often won't pick something from the shelf. It's pretty common to draw a crowd. Marketing companies have known about this effect for years and used it to market products by hiring people to stand and look at displays. Humans are very territorial and are by nature very concerned that they will miss out on something or some one else will get the bargin and not them. If you anounced on the radio that sales were exploding for an album by an unknown group and that the stores would be sold out before the end of the day people would line up so they wouldn't miss out knowing no more about the group than everyone else wanted the album. Advertising works for a reason. You create a craze by convincing people they are missing out. Remember Beanie Babies? People were desperate to get them yet they were nothing more than a small stuffed animal and effectively worthless.

Re:A social experiment (2, Insightful)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683484)

"If you anounced on the radio that sales were exploding for an album by an unknown group and that the stores would be sold out before the end of the day people would line up so they wouldn't miss out knowing no more about the group than everyone else wanted the album."


Yup that is also a very common marketing trick too. It is exactly why every single new movie that comes out is "The #1 Movie In America!!!" and why every single new book is "The Best Selling Book" etc.

Re:A social experiment (3, Insightful)

brian0918 (638904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683545)

"Remember Beanie Babies? People were desperate to get them yet they were nothing more than a small stuffed animal and effectively worthless."

Everything is worthless unless people want it.

a couple of real-world examples (5, Insightful)

zuki (845560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683206)

This has become such a science, there is just too much at stake for people who routinely invest 6 and 7-figure sums of money into a new album. (And I am not necessarily speaking about record labels here, it could just as well be about the associated release tour, which by now generates far more income than the actual CD sales). Focus groups, endless studies of people's buying patterns, major pressure from the 'top' (i.e.: management) to conform to a predictable sound, etc...

Here's a funny one, on a recent flight I was sitting next to the manager for some very well-known heavy metal and rock acts, who flatly declared that if U2 was a new band today, they wouldn't have a chance in hell of getting signed the way they did in 1983 when their breakthrough album propelled them into stardom. The people he deals with both at the label and promotion level would never take a chance on something that original.... Which of course means that after years of this kind of behavior, the general public's ears do not have a desire for anything new or unusual.

I could very well see a broke Jimi Hendrix today, still playing $100 fill-in gigs at Cafe Wah in the Village (still around too) and no one giving a rat's ass about his life-changing guitar playing because it would be too strong and outside of the norm....

Here's another example, last year a major game developer allegedly saw an increase of sales of their flagship PS2 game to the tune of 5,000 more units per week when they tweaked the music on their current TV campaign and featured background music that was more familiar to their target audience.....

This if doesn't seem like a game of chance and talent anymore, that's because because it isn't. Like P-Diddy said, it's all about Da Benjamins.

Still, it comes down to this: if you are going to do it, do it because you like it, not because of the expected returns.
If you actually have talent, you might go a lot further on that than the empty promises and broken stardom dreams most end up shelving when they get their girlfriend pregnant.

On another (closer) note, maybe someone should transpose this study to /. and do a research on what posts get rated and modded the highest, and how this does influence the writers to conform to a certain style that they know will get them modded? ... and does this make their style more boring and predictable?

How Darwinian!! Z.

Re:a couple of real-world examples (2, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683275)

you might go a lot further on that than the empty promises and broken stardom dreams most end up shelving when they get their girlfriend pregnant.

You must be new here.

Ordinary fucking people (5, Funny)

Drunkulus (920976) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683304)

I hate 'em

Re:Ordinary fucking people (2, Funny)

rkanodia (211354) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683557)

Don't worry, we hate you too.

Our crap is as good as their crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14683324)

Canada has Canadian content rules for music played on the radio. It has been in place since the 1970s and has worked very well. People hear Canadian music being played on the radio and buy the CDs. Canada thus has a very strong music industry. One of the founding assumptions of Canadian content was: "Most of the music on the radio is crap. We can make crap that is just as good as American crap." So, I have to agree. Most people have a poorly developed musical taste and respond largely to what the other sheeple are listening to. Bah. er baa

big companies (1)

bobtheowl2 (703500) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683336)

The Big music companies and Radio stations have been doing this for years.
You really believe that Top 40, is the listeners Top 40? In some cases they might be close, but I listen to 20on20 (XM) frequently, and all of a sudden a new and unpopular song shows up as #20, and that's all it takes.

saves a lot of time (4, Insightful)

DeveloperAdvantage (923539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683345)

Following the crowd probably evolved as a pretty good way of shortening the decision making process. If someone else ate a berry or mushroom and didn't get sick or die, then there was a pretty good chance that I could eat it too and would be ok. This saves a lot of time and energy instead of having to sort through everything by yourself.

Re:saves a lot of time (1)

MurphyZero (717692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683550)

Also saves learning how to sort through everything by yourself. Now if only those that do it to avoid learning would follow lemmings.

So much for nostalgia (1)

NickFortune (613926) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683356)

Turns out popularity bred popularity, which explains why there's so much crap on the radio."

So... has popularity not always bred popularity?

Or are we to conclude that the radio has always been crap?

I think this theory is missing something, somehow

what about the hepsters? (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683393)

did they take into account the dyed black hair, dickies wearing non-conformists that only listen to the most obscure music they can find by searching though the blogs of 14 year old girls on myspce!? //POPCORN!

Bellwether (3, Interesting)

jbum (121617) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683440)

Connie Willis's novel Bellwether [amazon.com] , which is about the science of fads, deals with this phenomenon in depth.

The title comes from a middle english word used describing a practice in sheep farming. Sheep tend to follow each other. But farmers would sometimes use a castrated ram with a bell around his neck to lead the rest of the flock. The ram would tend to move first, but in a very subtle, nearly undetectable way.

At the center of any cloud of popularity must be a seed of initial impulse - the bellwether.

Nothing new here. (1)

Onuma (947856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683451)

This is how Bruce Springsteen's fame came about. He was pushed heavily and given false ratings by his record company (NBC iirc)...he was made popular because he essentially won a bet.

The Boss, my ass.

Sorry if you like his music, but it's the truth :P

Common sense? (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683460)

If you've got limited time to pick music from a large pool that likely contains a lot of crap, you're going to get more decent songs by making use of previous people's attempts to do the same. It's a pyramid scheme where you benefit from all the people who came before you.

Familiarity breeds popularity (1)

timshea (257474) | more than 8 years ago | (#14683494)

In my case, I found that since I switched to listening to "free" music (offered by unsigned artists to download for free), that after listening to what sounded "okay" started sounding great...even though my friends consider it to be garbage ("How can you listen to that off-key, under-produced cr.p?").

After two years of listening to pretty much the same 40-50 songs, they sound pretty good to me - much more "real" than "commercial" music...I feel more like the artists are present rather than in a recording studio.
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