The Science Of Chart Busting Singles
Well, well, well. Looks like now you too can write chart topping hit singles because by the powers of British scientists the reason for what makes a song chart worthy has been discovered. At least that’s what’s starting to float around on the internet. Me, I’m skeptical, so before I start going on a tirade let’s see what we’re up against.
The claim is that scientists from the University of Bristol have been developing but a simple program, called Scoreahit, that can analyze a song and predict whether or not it will be a hit. The results, however, have been arguable, but more on that in a bit.
The resources used have been songs from the UK top 40 charts from the past 50 years and Scorahit analyzes various aspects of a given song including tempo, loudness and changes of, time signatures, song length, variations of the beat, how harmonically complex it sounds, and even how danceable a song is if such a thing can be gauged.
Perhaps the biggest misconception I had when I first started reading other articles about this is when the term “formula for a pop hit song” was being thrown around. If you were like me then you’d have just presumed they meant “2:30 song three choruses, two verses, intro, outro, done.” It’s actually a mathematical formula applied to predict which songs have what it takes to be a chart topper.
So here we have a mathematical equation that takes into consideration over twenty different aspects of a song and predicts where it would be on the charts. To keep it in a controlled environment for testing they’d simply consult the charts of decades past, test the songs, and see how they line up. The only problem is apparently it’s only lined up 60% of the time, so it’s not the kind of thing you’d want to put a lot of stock in just yet, and certainly (in my eyes) not ready to be proclaimed a finished formula.
Beyond that there were a number of aspects also taken into consideration outside of the song including how it was marketed. A poorly marketed song may have had the potential to top charts, but without the proper attention it wouldn’t make it. Also the fact that as people grow and change so do musical tastes, so the formula could never fully be completed.
Also regional interests probably didn’t help. Near as I can tell they only consulted the UK top 40. Here in the states people seem to dance to the beat of their own drum, so I don’t know how big an impact that could have.
And naturally I do have my own thoughts on this. When I first read articles about it I thought to myself “stupid.” As I looked into it, however, and saw how much attention has gone into it, I think it’s actually pretty cool. I applaud the ambition to see how detailed mathematics can be applied to, however the cynic in me is phobic of what such knowledge could be exploited for in the wrongs hands. Though I think we’re a good ways away from it being that refined, I am still anxious to see what comes of it in the future.
If you’re interested in seeing just how the results have panned out they have documentation on the website at scoreahit.com. The results are pretty cool to see and if you understand mathematical equations (which I have a vague grasp of at best) then there’s some extra interesting reading. If you’re like me and you say you’re into mathematics to just sound interesting and smart then you’ll do a lot of smiling and nodding.