Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Parsing the Current, part 2

More data...and a pretty graph!

Okay, not pretty.

The three lines represent weekly tallies for total number of songs played, total unique artist names, and total unique tracks. Fun things this shows up:
1. Beginning in late 2007, the total number of songs per week trends up. I suspect that this represents a reduction in the amount of named programming in favor of either listing the tracks played during such programs or generally choosing to play songs instead of programs.
2. Dips in number of tracks at pledge drive time. Every six months or so (late May/early June and late October) there's a clear downward dip in the total number played, to the tune of about 15-20% or so. Hardly surprising, and they have to pay the bills. I still can't help but wondering if there's some kind of Laffer curve in pledge drives, where talking more decreases revenue because it alienates listeners, but talking less decreases revenue because you create less guilt.
3. The weekly diversity of tracks and artists clearly HAS been decreasing. There's a slow decline in diversity from early Q2 of 2006 on, with a sharp drop in track diversity in Q4 of 2007 and artist diversity in Q4 of 2008.
4. Really interesting are the three spikes in track diversity in Q2 '09, Q1 '10, and Q2 '10. After trying out a few theories about after-effects of the pledge drive, I remembered that they tend to do weekend countdown lists during Memorial Day weekends, which correspond to at least two of those blips. The third, in January 2010, is a mystery to me.

And now, some data: artist diversity across three semi-randomly* chosen weeks.
For the week beginning 23 Dec 2005 (2166 tracks):
1. Leela James (played 13 times, last on 2007-04-14 19:34:00)
2. Gang of Four (played 8 times, last on 2010-10-07 19:37:00)
3. Blackalicious (played 8 times, last on 2010-10-08 18:43:00)
4. Sun Kil Moon (played 7 times, last on 2010-10-12 13:40:00)
5. Matt Pond PA (played 7 times, last on 2010-10-09 04:34:00)
6. Teenage Fanclub (played 7 times, last on 2010-10-14 23:01:00)
7. David Bowie (played 7 times, last on 2010-10-14 22:46:00)
8. Diamond Nights (played 7 times, last on 2010-08-02 14:55:00)
9. Fiona Apple (played 7 times, last on 2010-10-13 19:11:00)
10. Spoon (played 7 times, last on 2010-10-14 17:12:00)

For the week beginning 6 Oct 2007 (2110 tracks):
1. Jose Gonzalez (played 14 times, last on 2010-09-26 22:52:00)
2. Spoon (played 13 times, last on 2010-10-14 17:12:00)
3. Band of Horses (played 13 times, last on 2010-10-14 07:19:00)
4. American Routes (played 12 times, last on 2007-11-11 08:32:00)
5. The Enemy (played 12 times, last on 2010-08-12 14:57:00)
6. Ryan Adams (played 12 times, last on 2010-10-08 18:00:00)
7. Steve Earle (played 12 times, last on 2010-10-13 15:55:00)
8. Radiohead (played 11 times, last on 2010-10-13 22:09:00)
9. Hot Hot Heat (played 11 times, last on 2010-10-11 14:22:00)
10. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (played 10 times, last on 2010-06-19 22:42:00)

Finally, for the week beginning 6 Oct 2010 (2286 total tracks) (get ready for a shocker!):
1. Cloud Cult (played 27 times)
2. Lissie (played 25 times)
3. LCD Soundsystem (played 23 times)
4. Robert Plant (played 23 times)
5. Of Montreal (played 22 times)
6. The Black Keys (played 19 times)
7. John Lennon (played 19 times)
8. Atmosphere (played 19 times)
9. Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs (played 19 times)
10. Mumford and Sons (played 19 times)

Holy cow! Back in 2005, the most popular artist for the week was Leela James, and she wasn't played quite two times a day. Fast forward to 2010, and you can guess that you'll hear FOUR Cloud Cult songs a day! Not only that, but some artists have gone "extinct"- Leela James went from being a top 10 to nothing in April of 2007. ("American Routes" is a radio program.)

Just as a measure, the 10 most popular tracks of the week in 2005 accounted for 78 0f 2166 tracks (3.6%), in 2007 it was 120 of 2110 (5.7%), and in 2010, 215 of 2286 (9.4%!). This meshes well with my observation that I hear the same songs over and over- I listen on the bus, mostly, for probably 2 hours a day, which I estimate to be about 20 songs a day or 100 a week. If 10% of those songs are coming from a list 10 songs long, I'm bound to hear the same songs several times over.

Again, I will reiterate that I really dig the Current. The DJs seem to REALLY love music, and their enthusiasm is infectious. I'm curious, however, as to how this Clear-Channel-esque playlist arose (anyone at MPR want to comment anonymously? :-)

I will also mention that at least one person I shared this data with responded along the lines of "I could have told you that" and indicated that he had dropped his membership because he no longer felt it was worth his support due to this drop in diversity (no, it's not me- I'm a sustainer and would be even if the Current goes away just for the news stations).

*I say "semi-randomly" because I know full well what a truly random choice would require; what I mean is that I chose them because the first one is at the beginning of my data set, the second is near the middle, and the third is near the end.

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