The latest set of online music research reports has just been released by We Are Hunted, an online music chart. We spoke to We Are Hunted co-founder and CTO Stephen Phillips to identify the overall trends.
A big mover over the past 6 months has been Arcade Fire, which Phillips said is "a masterclass in the use of social media." More intriguing though is who the number 1 most talked about artist in social media was over all of 2010. It wasn't Lady Gaga, or Kanye, or Arcade Fire. Who could it be then? Read on to find out!
We Are Hunted uses semantic technology to aggregate and analyze data about popular music from social networks, Twitter, blogs, forums and more. Every six months it releases a set of reports for music acts such as Radiohead, Katy Perry, Arcade Fire and many others. Last October, we analyzed the report about Lady Gaga's social media performance for the first half of 2010.
The reports for the the second half of 2010 are based on We Are Hunted's analysis of 486,631 music articles and 16,063,656 "music related Twitter messages." Note that the music articles are from specialist music publications and blogs, not mainstream press.
Who's Popular in Social Media
The top 4 artists in We Are Hunted's popularity chart for July-December remained the same as in the previous 6-month period. Surprisingly, English band Muse was number 1. That seems a little odd, given that the likes of Lady Gaga and Kanye West seem to generate much more chatter in social media. We analyze why Muse is number 1 below. Radiohead and The xx were numbers 2 and 3, respectively. Lady Gaga was the 4th most popular, slipping from number 2 in the first half of the year.
Why did Lady Gaga drop a couple of notches? We Are Hunted co-founder and CTO Stephen Phillips replied that "the industry is very fragmented."
"At the height of her popularity, Lady GaGa seemed to be everywhere. But in reality, only 7 in 1000 people were listening to her each day."
It's not only current artists that feature in the charts. Classic artists like The Beatles, Nirvana and Pink Floyd are still hugely popular, according to Phillips. "They have remained in the top 20 artists listened to overall since we started measuring it 2 years ago."
One interesting finding from the research is that the music press - traditional magazines as well as online sites like Pitchfork - have a lot of sway in generating social media buzz. While that's not a surprising finding, We Are Hunted was able to identify specific publications who are influential in social media.
"Pitchfork, Prefix Magazine, NME, Hipster Runoff, Clash Music and Spin can blow up a new artist," Phillips told ReadWriteWeb. "If they give coverage, the blogosphere follows," he added.
Phillips pointed to the trendy alternative band Deerhunter, which "was nowhere in our top 200" in the first half of 2010, but was 3rd in the Emerging chart for the second half of the year. According to Phillips, this was "on the back of a great album launch and strong press." He noted that BBC 6 Music in particular gave great support to Deerhunter.
Who Went Mainstream in Second Half of 2010
The only new entrant to the top 5 for the second half of 2010 was Arcade Fire, which wasn't even in the top 10 six months ago. As Phillips put it, "Arcade Fire went mainstream in a big way in the last half of 2010."
Others who went big over this period, according to Phillips, were Florence and the Machine and Mumford And Sons.
Was Arcade Fire's social media activity really that good? We did our own analysis of Arcade Fire's web presence last August, when the band released their critically acclaimed album The Suburbs. Our conclusion suggests that it was:
...the online promotion of Arcade Fire's new album is comprehensive. Both Facebook and Twitter are well used for promotional purposes, although the band members don't appear to be active on these social media sites. And the band is pushing into new social media services - it has a new YouTube channel and Vimeo too.
We Are Hunted's report shows that Twitter activity for Arcade Fire peaked over July, in anticipation of the album release on August 3. This suggests that the band was very well hyped prior to the album's release.
It's interesting to compare that to another well-hyped album release, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - released on November 22, 2010. West only comes in at #47 on We Are Hunted's popularity chart, suggesting that prior to November was relatively quiet for him on the social media world (musically, at least).
West's Twitter popularity spiked in late November (note that the scales are different between the two charts listed here). The difference is that Kanye peaked on his album release date and continued to have high Twitter popularity leading up to Christmas. Whereas Arcade Fire actually peaked before their album release. One reading of the difference is that Kanye's album generated more interest among the Twitter chattering classes, than Arcade Fire's managed to do post album release.
I posed that question to Stephen Phillips. He firstly noted that "there are are a few artists like them (MGMT, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead) who are at the top of our popularity charts while not getting the press of Bruno Mars or Lady GaGa."
He speculated that "maybe the demographics are different, or maybe bands like Radiohead and Muse have more cross over appeal?"
"Because we focus on what people are listening to and talking about, and ignore mainsteam press, maybe we are getting a measure of dedicated music fans than the general populace."
That seems a likely explanation, that bands like Muse and Radiohead have a large number of dedicated fans who talk about them regularly - not just when they release a new album or do something newsworthy.
Let us know your thoughts on why Muse is number 1 in social media.
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