Music and Muzak – TechCrunch

We are facing a firehose. Data spews at us from all angles, inundating us with ideas, culture, and creativity. We produce terabytes of information a year, changing the world as we know it. We are the most culturally aware generations in existence.

Or are we?

An interesting recent post on Marginal Revolution post gives lie to the idea that the world is moving faster than ever. In fact, they propose that we’re moving more slowly because our brains, doused in information daily, are exhausted. Culture does not move as fast as it once did and we are poorer for it.

“I’m writing because there’s an another example of American complacency that’s only come to light in recent weeks,” writes an MR reader, Jesse Rifkin. Rifkin continues:

Specifically: the Billboard music charts..

Shape of You by Ed Sheeran last week broke the record for most weeks in top 10, with 33 weeks. The song it beat, Closer by The Chainsmokers and Halsey, set the previous record less than a year ago. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/chart-beat/7948959/ed-sheeran-shape-of-you-record-most-weeks-top-ten

(And yet another song in last week’s top 10, That’s What I Like by Bruno Mars, currently holds the 8th-longest record on that metric — and potentially still rising.)

Meanwhile, Despacito by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Justin Bieber tied the all-time record with its 16th week at #1: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/record-labels/7942315/luis-fonsi-daddy-yankee-justin-biebers-despacito-ties-for

The numbers back this up. In fact, all of the longest-running songs on the Top 10 appeared in at least the past decade, from Imagine Dragons (87 weeks) to 62 weeks for “Ho Hey.” Only LeAnn Rimes rated in the top running with a song from 1998.

There are two factors at work here, I think. Billboard counts sales and radio plays. We can assume that the radio, a medium that is fairly moribund when it comes to cultural relevance, plays these top ten songs because these songs are on the top ten. This virtuous circle forces Ed Sheeran up the charts week after week even though we’re all pretty much done with that song about eating Chinese food and going to bed.

Further, there is such a long tail now that the top ten hardly matters. SoundCloud is not going out of business because it is devoid of content. Instead, new acts dump their stuff on the service and gain popularity, thereby racking up server fees for SoundCloud that it cannot sanely recoup.

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