Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Value of a Band's Name

Regular readers know I make plenty of snarky comments about the names of bands. However, while repeatedly spinning my thumb in circles on my iPod while searching for something to enjoy, I recently began to wonder about the value of a band's name.

When looking for a band to play, I often get tired of spinning through the list of 1,500+ bands/artists on my iPod. That made me question whether or not I tend to settle for songs higher on the alphabetical listing more often than scrolling to the bottom of the list for just that right band to make me happy. If the world was perfect, something as silly as what letter of the alphabet a band's name started with would not matter. However, in the iPod dominated world, it does seem to matter.

Here's what I did...I pulled my iTunes song list into Excel, split the alphabetical list of artists into four equal quartiles (393 in each) and then looked at the play counts for the first quartile in relation to those of the other quartiles.

Here's what I found...the first quartile had 9,218 plays while the other three quartiles averaged 7,131 plays. That means that bands in the first quartile have been played 29.3% more often than the bands in the other quartiles. That's a big friggin' difference and would encourage bands to name themselves AAA Band; just what we need.

I then wondered if the higher play counts was simply related to the difference in the number of songs per artist in the different quartiles. So, I looked at the average number of plays per song for each quartile. I found that the songs in the first quartile averaged 3.91 plays per song while the songs in the other quartiles averaged 3.58. That means that songs from artists in the first quartile average 9.1% more plays than the ones in the other quartiles. Once again, it looks like it's better to be called Aardvark than Zuckerman.

My last thought was that perhaps the differential was being driven by some particularly popular artists in that first quartile such as The Capstan Shafts, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Bob Dylan. So, I went back to the lists of bands in each quartile and removed the top three artists (based upon play counts) from each quartile. However, the results were the same.

The total number of play counts for the top quartile was 25.6% higher than the average number of play counts in the other three quartiles. Additionally, the average number of plays per song was 12.4% higher for the first quartile.

Now, obviously, other people may be less lazy than me and more dedicated to finding the perfect band for that moment. Therefore, perhaps these results are skewed by my general prioritizing of "ease of use" over "excellent musical selection". However, I think I'm a fairly average person so I wouldn't be surprised if others found similar results within their own iTunes library. If that is the case, then bands would seem to be able to get a slight advantage in attention by giving themselves a name that falls towards the beginning of the alphabet.

In my case, don't go past the letter D since my first quartile ends with Dirty Three.

ABBC | Gilbert | Buy | 14 plays

The Zincs | Coward's Corral | Buy | 4 plays


Casey said...

Wow. Math. Stats. Excel.

I wish I had your ambition!

Tyler M said...

First quartile = 7921
Second quartile = 6203
Third quartile = 5642
Fourth quartile = 6060

Radiohead and The Slip dominate the third quartile though--two of my favorite bands, but I've also got tons of live audience recordings of those two bands. and I don't listen to audience recordings very often at all, so that probably knocks down the listening count a bit.

Still an interesting thing to think about though. I once counted how many bands I had that started with each letter of the alphabet, and A and B were way up there. maybe bands are conscious of this. or maybe it's coincidence.

Flatlander said...


I wouldn't call it ambition; just geekiness and curiousity.


Thanks for running the numbers on your library. It's always nice to have independent corroborating evidence.

Regarding your last point, I sort of noticed that too. My first quartile only made it part of the way through "D".