What makes a song successful in the competitive music market?

Here comes the sun.

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Music is central to the human experience and ubiquitous in everyday life for most people worldwide. The ability of music to influence emotions characterizes practically every musical activity, from composition and performance to music listening and the many applications of music in society, such as film, marketing, and therapy.

An international research team, which included the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt am Main, suggests in a recent study that environmental factors, such as weather and seasonal patterns, can have a significant impact on listeners’ preferences and choices, potentially affecting the commercial success of a song.

The study, which looked at over 23,000 songs that charted in the UK weekly top charts between 1953 and 2019, discovered that upbeat, danceable songs that made you feel good were positively associated with warm and sunny weather and negatively associated with rainy and chilly months. Similarly, in the UK, upbeat and uplifting music changed with the seasons, rising in the summer and falling in the winter.

But the study also discovered that these outcomes were influenced by how well-liked the music was: The strongest connections with weather variations were seen in the top 10 most famous songs, while less popular songs showed no correlation. This implies a song’s compatibility with the weather can factor in its ascent to the top of the charts.

The study, taken as a whole, emphasizes the significance of considering general environmental elements when analyzing the popularity of songs in the music market. It offers insight into how external factors other than the music itself influence music choices.

Lead researcher Manuel Anglada-Tort (University of Oxford and MPIEA) said: “These findings challenge the traditional notion that success in the music market is solely based on the quality of the music itself. Instead, our study suggests that favorable environmental conditions, such as warm and sunny weather, induce positive emotional states in listeners, leading them to choose to listen to energetic and positive music, potentially to match their current mood.”

“This is a correlational study, so the results must be interpreted cautiously. Correlation is not causation. Although we perform several control analyses to account for temporal and seasonal dynamics, we cannot establish any causal effect between weather and music preferences.”

The research used machine learning techniques to extract music properties from the audio of each song to analyze this big dataset. They discovered two musical dimensions along which audio elements varied. The first musical component was represented by auditory elements that reflected intensely happy and joyful feelings. Sean Paul’s 2005 song Temperature is one illustration. The second dimension was represented by auditory elements that reflected weak and unfavorable feelings, including melancholy.

Interestingly, not all musical feature combinations were connected to the weather. The researchers discovered that only musical features indicating intensely happy emotions were connected to the weather. In contrast, musical elements reflecting intensely negative emotions had no connection to the weather. This shows that rather than broad environmental variables, specific situational elements may have a greater impact on negative feelings.

Journal Reference:

  1. Manuel Anglada-Tort, Harin Lee, Amanda E. Krause, and Adrian C. North. Here comes the sun: music features of popular songs reflect prevailing weather conditions. Royal Society Open Science. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.221443

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