Insight: Analyzing Myspace – The Popularity Index

Music and place have always shared a connection, as our environment often influences the creative expression of music. Differing types of music and artists have arisen from and flocked to certain cities, based on the geographic clustering of music identities. Although music is a key indicator of regional creativity, have recent technological advancements eliminated the need for musicians to cluster in certain places? We here at the Martin Prosperity Institute have decided to take a closer look into the relationship between geography and music through a series of whitepapers that use Myspace data as the starting point of analysis examining geographic variation of Myspace artists across the United States.

The Myspace data (2007) allows us to look at a number of different metrics across the U.S. metros, including genre (the type of music the band self-identifies as); plays (the number of times users have played a band’s music); views (how many times a band’s Myspace page has been viewed); and fans (the number of fans a band has on the website). It is often difficult to assess a measurement for popularity when analyzing music, but using the Myspace data, we were able to develop the Music Popularity Index. This index combines the number of fans, views, and plays for each band and act (each of these variables was weighted, so one variable does not influence the popularity score more than another) creating an overall measure that can give an idea of the popularity of each band. These scores were then combined for each metro, allowing us to examine which metros produce the most popular bands and genres within the different metros. This Insight will look at the popularity ranking of each metro in the U.S.

Exhibit 1 displays the top ten metros with the highest Popularity Indexes. As expected, the most populated metros tend to have the largest Popularity Indexes overall. Los Angeles though was found to have the highest ranking on Popularity Index, despite New York having a higher overall population. While particular genres such as Rap and Rock and Roll dominate the Myspace popularity scores within most cities, Los Angeles boasts one of the most diverse music scenes. The large amount of very popular music acts from multiple genres within Los Angeles results their Popularity Index being much higher than any other city. The well-established music cities of Atlanta and Nashville also rank higher on the Popularity Index (3rd and 5th) than their smaller populations might suggest. Their high scores are due to the fact that these two metros are known for being creative capitals in regards to a few specialized genres of music. Surprisingly the large cities of Houston, Washington and Dallas are not found in the top ten.

As Exhibit 1 displays there is a loose correlation between population size and the geography of popular music within the U.S. The majority of the metros that ranked in the top ten of Myspace Popularity Index are located in California or on the East Coast. In order to discover which metros offered the greatest opportunity for musicians (in terms of popularity), we further analysed the Popularity Index per capita for metros with a population of 250,000 or more.

Exhibit 1: Music Popularity Index – Top ten metros

Music Popularity Index – Top ten metros

Exhibit 2 displays the Popularity Index per capita across the U.S. metros. Nashville was found to have the highest Music Popularity Index per capita due to the abundance of popular country music acts based in the city. Nashville is followed by Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tallahassee, Santa Cruz, Napa, New York, Las Vegas, Seattle and San Deigo respectively. Despite the large populations of Atlanta and Los Angeles, the popularity of the bands within these metros is illustrated in the fact that their Popularity Index scores per capita are very high. When looking at popularity per capita, the metros within the top ten, other than New York and Los Angeles were metros in which one particular genre of music and a few musicians were extremely popular. In this case, the place based specialization of music is directly correlated with popularity of a genre. For example country artists within Nashville contributed to greater popularity than country acts in Houston.

Exhibit 2: Music Popularity Index per capita

Exhibit 2: Music Popularity Index per capita

When analyzing music and its popularity, often the largest creative cities dominate as many of the most popular acts reside within major cities. This is not always the case, however, as musicians of particular genres still cluster in specific metros. While certain cities boast a plethora of diverse popular artists, the music scenes in other metros have successfully specialized. For example, in Nashville and Atlanta musicians within a few specialized genres (country pop and urban contemporary respectively) drive the overall popularity of music within these cities. The Martin Prosperity Institute reports on Myspace music analyze similar relationships in order to determine the correlations between music and geography, as music is an important indicator of regional creativity.

Further information can be found by reading these white papers:

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The Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto‘s Rotman School of Management is the world’s leading think-tank on the role of sub-national factors — location, place and city-regions — in global economic prosperity. We take an integrated view of prosperity, looking beyond economic measures to include the importance of quality of place and the development of people’s creative potential.