Music Through the Decades: A Data Explorer's Analytical Journey

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September 13, 2017 - Sean Hanlon, engagement manager in the CSDS (Customer Success and Data Science) team at Dataiku, writes: The music industry is, and has always been, a playground for change. Once upon a time, we spent more than a decade with our listening devices, records, cassettes, CDs, etc., before new technologies took over.

Paradigms shift much faster now that everything’s gone digital. Overnight, we’ve gone from buying bundled collections of songs (i.e., records) and listening to a radio disc jockey’s playlist, to buying and streaming whatever tracks we want whenever and wherever we want. 

I’ve analyzed 60 years of Billboard music chart data to see how popular music has evolved as technology has continually changed the listening experience. And what I found might surprise you. No spoilers… you’ll have to wait (or, if you’re very curious, you can scroll down, skip the data process, and go straight to the conclusions).

But First, An Anecdote
It’s a Tuesday night in August on New York City’s east side. I’m settled in at my go-to cafe with the evening’s dark roast. In between the ebb and flow of after-hours coffee chatter, the most intriguing run of old-timey, tin-can reggae sounds ever curated is crackling down from the speakers. In neat, algorithmic succession, these once-impossible-to-discover Jamaican gems just keep coming. I note to self for the Nth time tonight, “Ask barista for playlist!” More...