Music is a powerful means of self-expression and a deeply personal part of our lives, influencing individual attitudes and motivating our behavior on a daily basis. The pervasive influence of music in culture is well documented, and I’ve already written about it before on this blog. There are any number of ways we analyze the impact of these art forms, especially when media make their annual “Best of” and “top artist” lists each year. Since any kind of social change should be measured, I was curious: could I measure the impact of musical art on my own life much like I measure other influential media?
Fortunately I already have one data set to pull from: for the last 5 years I’ve been tracking my listening habits through Last.fm, a social network that tracks playback by music lovers so that we can compare music tastes. By keeping track of the songs I play through my computer (and more recently on my iPod), the network generates peer recommendations and Top 10 lists.
Over the last 5 years using Last.fm, here’s what I’ve learned through tracking my own listening habits:
- I joined Last.fm 2171 days ago (February 13, 2005), and have 54 friends on the network.
- So far I’ve listened to over 28110 tracks, by 3055 different artists (about an average of 96 songs a week).
- Beck is my most listened to artist, with at least 1369 plays (almost 5% of my listening), which is more than the rest of my top 5 artists combined
- My listening habits are more eclectic compared to other listeners, scoring in the 75th percentile for diverse styles of music
- A full Visualization of 5 years of music I’ve listened to, like the one pictured above, is available in PDF form (it’s a big dowload)
In my own experience music is most enjoyable shared experience, so I’ve been particularly interested in how music is shared. So much of music discovery takes place through our peer networks, whether it’s sharing the songs online, dancing with friends, or listening together to a new music over the stereo. For examples, here are some additional measurements of how I am using social media to share music online:
- On Last.fm I’ve have 50 musical neighbors, who provide my recommended listening. I’m also a member of 11 groups on the network, 2 of which I’m the group’s admin.
- I’ve shared 483 songs on Blip.fm with 58 listeners, earning “props” from about 1 in 5 of the tracks on my station.
- I listen to 38 Pandora stations, with dozens of my friends to compare music tastes with. I benefit from the crowdsorced music recomendations of friends and strangers alike who rate and review songs along with me.
- I keep an updated Tumblog mp3 blog of sorts at http://skewgee.tumblr.com
- I share my playlists with whoever will listen, and select a handful of mixtapes on 8tracks, which have earned me new fans and listeners.
I cut my teeth in online marketing promoting my own music, using sites like MP3.com to share my music with new fans. Along the way, I learned how to build a band’s website, promote music in niche communities, and even sold a few records in addition to the free mp3s we let fans download. At one point we even had the ubiquitous Myspace band page, sharing our music through social-networks way back in 2005. Being able to track plays, downloads, and even our songs’ rank compared to other bands online helped keep us motivated to continue our work. In the process we earned an introduction to online marketing, which I can continue to measure through playback today:
- My first band, Biotrix, has been played 311 times by 78 different fans on Last.fm, even though we haven’t released recordings since 2005.
- My solo recordings, under the name Skewgee, continue to be played by an admittedly smaller audience
Today bands have more options than ever sharing their recorded creations, and better tools to measure engagement that helps them build fans rather than only offering downloads. These networks not only provide tools to measure their effectiveness, but also to gather feedback from the crowd in a decidedly different forum than performing on-stage.
I hope to share some of my music recordings through some of these new channels in the near future, which I’ll be sure to link to on this website. Until then, feel free to compare music tastes with me through music-centered social media, which you can connect with on the Playlist page of this site.