Streaming music services like Spotify should, in theory, expand our musical horizons. With entire catalogs of music from previously unheard of artists right at our fingertips, we should each be able to find songs that cater to our own specific taste, transforming the Billboard charts into an eclectic musical landscape. But, after taking a look at the data, one analyst found that music charts in the Spotify era are actually dominated by a small number of artists with less-than-memorable song titles.
In his article, engineer and data enthusiast Michael Tauberg compares the Billboard Hot 100 charts from 2000-2008 (the pre-Spotify era) to the charts from 2009-2017. What he found was that, while the number of songs that appeared on the charts increased by 27% during the Spotify era, the chart leaders were even more dominant than before. With the introduction of streaming music, it became more common to see a random song appear on the charts for a week, but only a handful of artists had any real staying power.
Tauberg also found that, as selling records and getting radio play became less important, so did the need for a good, memorable song title. Artists no longer have to rely on catching the eye of busy disc jockeys or record store shoppers, so their song titles can become more specific, esoteric, or bland. Since 2009, song titles have consisted of 19% more unique words, and are either very short (1-2 words) or very long (>7 words). The article presents this as the death of “meaningful” song titles, but that really depends on perspective. Thanks to streaming music, artists now have the freedom to name a song whatever they want, knowing fans have numerous ways of seeking out their work and finding it again later if they wish.
So, what does the future of music look like? If these trends persist, there will be a lot more randomly named songs and the continued dominance of a handful of artists. Also, and perhaps least surprising, there will be less Country music. But, you can blame Walmart for that one.
You can read the full analysis on Medium.
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