A pot of gold for us all In Rainbows

(Sorry for using that pun, which has now been used by precisely 118,837 people.)

Still biding my time before I write my review of Radiohead’s new album, In Rainbows. In the meantime, a bit of number crunching.

One of the interesting things about this has been the hype in certain quarters about how high Radiohead will be in the Last.fm charts. Nobody seems to care about the official charts any more, but the Last.fm charts are another matter!

Here are the results:

The track hype list was annexed by Radiohead last week. This was predictable enough.

Radiohead were the world’s most popular band last week. Perhaps this isn’t a surprise. What is really shocking is the scale of their popularity. Radiohead had 118,836 unique listeners registered on Last.fm compared to 73,373 listeners for The Beatles.

By way of comparison, this time last month Radiohead were third with 59,618 listeners and 541,263 plays.

In terms of tracks played, Radiohead made The Beatles look like a footnote. Radiohead songs were played 3,308,175 times last week. Songs by The Beatles reached a meagre 844,600 — just a quarter of what Radiohead had.

Last.fm Tracks Played chart The top ten tracks of the week are all from In Rainbows. As you would expect, they are neatly in order of their position on the album.

The leap from number 10 to number 11 is huge. Number 10, ‘Videotape’ by Radiohead had 211,332 plays. Number 11, ‘Stronger’ by Kanye West, had only 49,293.

Interestingly, older Radiohead songs occupy four other spots in the top 20. In fact, old Radiohead songs were boosted all round (with tracks from Kid A typically climbing between 150 and 300 places each on the previous week).

This time last month, only one Radiohead song appeared in the top 20.

Perhaps one shouldn’t read too much into it. The sample size is huge, but of course it is also self-selected. Nevertheless, I doubt any other reliable music popularity data has ever shown one band to be so dominant.

Although the hype surrounding it was mega, the immense popularity of In Rainbows is clearly unprecedented. This is all the more astonishing given the fact that nobody even knew the album existed until this month. And a record label didn’t have a say in any of it.

The internet has dramatically decreased the costs of distributing music. The record companies might hate the fact that they are now out of a job. But it has undoubtedly made us all richer.

Update: Just thought of another way to look at the numbers. As I said, the first track had the most listeners, and the final track had the fewest. But which tracks lost the most listeners?

‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’ was the least popular song, losing 2,381 listeners. This is a surprise to me at least. The track that follows is actually the most popular. ‘All I Need’ lost only 53 listeners out of the 61,800 who sat through ‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’!

The next least popular song was ‘Bodysnatchers’, which lost 2,020 listeners right at the start of the album. Perhaps this is to be expected in a way. It is very early on in the album, so people with a low amount of patience will give up early on. Having heard ’15 Step’ and the start of ‘Bodysnatchers’, many people probably decided not to bother with the rest of the album.

The next-biggest stinker is ‘House of Cards’.

83% of listeners lasted all the way through to the end.

Track title Listeners lost
15 Steps n/a
Bodysnatchers 2,020
Nude 921
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi 2,381
All I Need 53
Faust Arp 1,136
Reckoner 1,135
House of Cards 1,792
Jigsaw Falling Into Place 847
Videotape 812

Looking at the ratio of the number of plays to the number of unique listeners is possibly a good way of telling which tracks will have the most staying power. They are the ones that have merited the most repeat listens so far. Looking just at the number of plays might not capture this, because people who didn’t listen to the later tracks don’t know whether they are worth listening to again or not.

‘All I Need’ once again comes up top, with a ratio of 4.02. I would certainly agree that it is probably the best song on the album. Next comes ‘Reckoner’. Once again, the least popular song is ‘House of Cards’.

Track title Plays / Listeners
15 Steps 3.92
Bodysnatchers 3.80
Nude 3.94
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi 3.83
All I Need 4.02
Faust Arp 3.80
Reckoner 4.01
House of Cards 3.69
Jigsaw Falling Into Place 3.81
Videotape 3.77

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