Genetic Data Tools and Pop Music

Music GenresGreat crossover article about using tools developed for genetic analysis to also analyze pop music from 1960s onward. It’s an interesting read and I encourage reading all of it so I’ll just entice you with one conclusion.

There’s a popular conception in the music industry that in recent years pop music has become less diverse. Usually the arguments involve standard economic ideas such as a diminishing pool of leaders emerging from an initially diverse pool of players. And in the music industry that seems to make sense with the usual arguments being limited air time to play a broader range of hits and a somewhat consolidation of radio stations.

However, the linked article and the chart I’m using to showcase the article point out this is not the case. The analysis technique quantifiably identified 13 musical genres.Since these genres were identified algorithmically, it isn’t initially clear what actual genres these 13 belong to. While it’d be great if we could click on a link for each of these genres and hear a sample, the authors did the next best thing and used the tags from a popular music website to verbally describe the specific genres. This is why there’s a fair amount of overlap in this “naming scheme” (eg “love song” is one of the tags for both genre 3 and genre 10).

One way to verify the conclusion that music is as diverse now as it was then is to look at the thinnest lines at the top and bottom of the graph. At the bottom, in 1960 there were only 2-3 very thin lines (one obviously belongs to rap, genre 2), but also at the top there are 2-3 very thin lines (here one belongs to “funk, blues, jazz, soul”, genre 4). Basically 10-11 active genres in the 1960s and 10-11 active genres now

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