Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pop music's answer to Retrosheet

The "Whitburn Project" is an online collaborative effort to "preserve and share high-quality recordings of every popular song since the 1890s." The project has led to the availability of a public database full of chart data, which Andy Baio is now starting to analyze.

In this blog post, Baio gives us three separate studies, based on Billboard chart data from 1957-2008. He tells that:

-- "diversity" is down -- there are fewer new songs appearing on the charts (which I suppose is the same thing as saying that songs stay on the chart longer);

-- "one-hit wonders" peaked between the 50s and 70s. But, because those were the years when diversity was high, you can era-adjust the numbers. Once you do that, you find some mild inter-decade variations, but, overall, there's a pretty consistent level of one-hit wonders throughout chart history.

-- and some other interesting bits -- read the full blog post.

It's amazing what you can learn about stuff if you have enough good data. I'm looking forward to seeing what else Baio can come up with.

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