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Friday, October 10, 2003

more [pointless] fun with pop charts

i had plans cancelled tonight, so…..

today we demonstrate power laws for the various power-law-seekers, and throw out some more data points about the top end of the music business into the ether.

to create these, we compile data from the full set of 52 weekly charts of the year 2002. each chart is inverted (score 40 for the #1 hit, score 1 for the #40 hit), and they are sorted and compiled by song and artist throughout the year. the chart positions for each song and artist are added together and plotted. this gives some measure of both time on the chart and rank on the chart (some will argue that a #1 hit isn’t just “one better” than a #2 hit, but that’s a different exercise and a different power law). it ends up looking like this (click for readable versions):

2002SongJuice_s.gif 2002ArtistJuice_s.gif

some points that may not be obvious…

there were 233 charting hits from 165 artists. there were 9 #1 hits from 8 artists.

it’s very possible to get “good chart juice” without getting a #1 hit. vanessa carlton scored 2nd place on the song juice chart, while only getting as high as the #5 position with “a thousand miles,” but it stayed in the top 10 for 15 weeks.

it also helps to keep new hits cycling through the charts – the “one hit wonder” syndrome caught kelly clarkson, and her #1 hit dropped off the charts after 13 weeks, leaving her with the 33rd ranked artist juice (and 32nd ranked song juice). no doubt, on the other hand, managed to get three tracks into the charts, “hella good” up to #13, “hey baby” up to #5, and “underneath it all” up to #3. no #1 hits there, but 53 track-weeks on the charts, which was good enough for 3rd ranked artist juice.

i don’t have the patience to figure out if 2002 was a “typical” year, but this is another demonstration of the high end. if you want to “crack the charts” you have to score among about 165 artists. the kelly clarkson (2002) and milli vanilli (1989) stories probably demonstrate that you can manufacture hits if you put enough cash under them. that said, kelly’s #1 juice in 2002 is the red dot on the far right of the group of #1 hits, and didn’t have the “hang time” on the charts to accumulate much “juice.” you can see that a lot of not-#1 tracks and artists outperformed kelly by this measure.

now, there’s a whole different set of questions about how efficiently various artists convert “chart juice” into “cash money.” i’m not going there tonight.

update: added the “song juice” stat for one-hit-wonder kelly clarkson.

posted by roj at 11:02 pm