Scientists at the University of Bristol in England claim they have identified quantifiable factors that impact the success of pop songs on the charts. According to an article by BBC News, the scientists tracked 23 individual characteristics of songs on the Top 40 charts for the last 50 years and highlighted key factors with songs that were more likely to generate chart success. While the equation the scientists created is a work in progress, their success rate of 60% with respect to chart position suggests that focusing on these traits and applying them to the creative musical arts can increase the odds of song popularity and successful pop stars.
The key takeaways here are that statistics can be used in many applications to maximize the chance of success, no matter how success is defined, and that statistics can aid in efficiency improvements in achieving that success.
While it feels very Orwellian to apply data to creative arts, everything goes back to how the creators define success. Is it about maximizing radio plays, album sales, and revenues? If yes, then the record company wants to maximize efficiency and not waste time on creative works that won’t pay off. The alleged use of this quantified analysis by the major record companies – the idea of giving the market what sells until it doesn’t sell anymore – attaches a stigma to some pop stars whether it’s deserved or not. (Nickelback, anyone?)
However, if an artist’s objective isn’t to sell albums but to use music as a genuine creative outlet, then using such data analysis does nothing for them.
The most highly-idolized stars are those who can create a transcendent sound that is appealing to the mass audience while also maintaining a genuine, insatiable focus on creativity in order to stand out.
(H/T to BBC for information included in post)