So you think that, because you live in Los Angeles, you are in a hip city that influences music? Think twice! And New York people, you think your city is the most important one in shaping music tastes? Not a chance!
Conrad Lee and Padraig Cunningham, two researchers at Cornell University have published an eight-page scientific paper studying how taste patterns spread over geography, using last.fm as a base of what people in hundreds of cities listen to each week.
One of their hypothesis was that some cities are early adopters of new music, and to test this hypothesis, they adapted a method previously used to detect the leadership networks present in ﬂocks of birds, and they found support that a similar leadership network exists among cities; then they tested the hypothesis that large cities tend to be ahead of smaller cities.
The study is quite complex and elaborated, but they found weak support for this last hypothesis, as the results are not those expected: large cities such as NYC and LA do not occupy prominent positions, but rather Montréal, Atlanta and Oslo in Europe have the most prominent ones!
Ok calm down, I am already seeing you screaming at the screen of your computer, yelling bullshit,…. But it is what it is, a study based on last.fm… The problem is that I hardly use last.fm, tons of people do, but many don’t. What about iTunes for example?
It is very difficult to get up-to-date numbers of how many people are using a service. I have found these numbers on the internet, and they may give you an idea:
iTunes was introduced in 2001 and may have more than 200 million users.
Last.fm, founded in 2002, may have 40 million registered users in 2011
The more recent Spotify was launched in 2008 but had already 10 million users as of 15 September 2010. (2010 -09-15)[update]
And there is also YouTube, which receives 800 million unique users a month, but of course YouTube is not exclusively about music.
The predominence of last.fm suddenly becomes quite relative. So should we really believe this study exclusively based on last.fm, or are the users overdosing on Arcade Fire and Cee Lo Green? Should all musicians move to Atlanta or Montréal? It would sure empty my neighborhood.
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