A Map of the Most Distinctive Bands In America…

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If you want a better idea of unique music tastes across the United States, then take a look at this map. Paul Lamere, Director of Developer Platform at The Echo Nest, created the map and posted it on his blog.

Lamere used data from Spotify and a “range of data services” to compare musical preferences by region, state, and across the United States. He compared differences across regional and state preferences to figure out which artists were uniquely popular in different locations. In his own words:

“For this study, I sampled the listening preferences of about a quarter million listeners that have a zip code associated with their account. I aggregated these listeners into regions (state, regional and all-US). To compare regions I look at the top-N most popular artists in each region and look for artists that have a substantial change in rank between the two regions. These artists are the artists that define the taste for the region.”

Lamere also built an app that uses his formula. You can enter in two different regions and compare how music preferences differ between the two.

47 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    B.o.B. in Iowa? This is why the EchoNest has no credibility. Saying a Rap/hip-hop artist is popular in Iowa is a joke and one no one would find funny. Iowa is a strong country state. It’s not uncommon for a country station to have 20+ on Arbitron or even be the only station in the market. Rap/hip-hop is at the bottom of the totem pole or non-existent.

    • Bobby

      …which is why they tend to go to streaming to find said music. The guy used a good model and probably the best source of random selection possible.

      • Anonymous

        If you are trying to create a meaningless chart of random artists, then yes.

        • Cameron

          If these results were taken from spotify, it means they were taken primarily from younger listeners. I’d say the data is credible being that it does not take samples of the population only willing to take polls, but anyone and everyone who uses this extremely popular streaming application. That means millions.

    • Anonymous

      I have lived in Iowa all my life and a lot of people like rap, including myself. Not so sure about B.o.B. though.

      • Ben

        The vast majority of consumers of rap are white males, with a larger percentage of that demographic in the Mid-West.

  2. jw

    I don’t really understand what “most distinctive” means. According to the data, Future is the #33 most popular artist in Georgia. He’s #15 in Mississippi. What on earth does it mean that he’s the “most distinctive musician” in Georgia?

    • Nina Ulloa

      “Using this approach we can pick a single signature artist for each state. I do this by finding the top most distinctive popular artist for a state that hasn’t already been selected for a more populous state.”


      “To compare regions I look at the top-N most popular artists in each region and look for artists that have a substantial change in rank between the two regions. These artists are the artists that define the taste for the region.”

      • jw

        Exactly. So what does “finding the top most distinctive popular artist” mean? Still gibberish to me.

        Seems totally arbitrary. Because Future certainly doesn’t define the taste for the state of Georgia. He’s just a nominally popular rapper in Georgia. And he’s more popular in Mississippi, according to the data, which means he defines their taste more than he does Georgia’s.

        • cf

          Yeah so “distinctive popular artist” doesn’t mean “artist with the most plays overall”, because that would be more or less identical state to state. Rather, it means popular artists whose popularity plummets significantly once you move away from that region.

          • jw

            But it doesn’t because Future is the #33 most popular artist in Georgia & he’s #15 in Mississippi. Which is the opposite of plummeting significantly.

        • james

          It appears the person simply…

          1. Created a “state” vs USA comparison
          2. Went down the ranked state list until he/she found the first entry whose total rank in that state was less than 50.
          3. That artist was then deemed the most distinctive to that state

          The fact that “Future” is the first artist under that criteria for Georgia and 7th for Mississippi means… I’m not sure. Mississippians listen overall to much more distinctive music as a whole than Georgians?

          • jw

            So essentially there’s nothing meaningful whatsoever to abstract from this map.

          • james

            I guess it depends on your perspective. Future is the #1,247 most popular artist in Washington State; the fact that Future is #33 in GA and #15 in Miss would suggest it’s a pretty distinctive artist in SEC country.

          • jw

            True enough.

            I suppose if he was not omitting artists who had already been selected in a more populous state, it would come across as being more about the population of the state, & less about the artist. I don’t see why it would be important that an artist be unique if the data is actually representing listening trends. Those two things seem to be conflated here.

            About specific artists, an artist could be more popular per capita elsewhere (like Future in GA vs MS), or outright more popular elsewhere (like Young Jeezy in MI vs GA). So an artist being named “most distinctive” in a state might not even necessarily reflect the surrounding region.

  3. jd

    I don’t buy into this data either. I’m in MN and today is the first I’ve heard of Metric so how accurate is it really?

    • amanda

      Same here! What does it mean if I’ve never heard of my states band!? And I’m in the cities none the less. This data and research seems a little sketchy.

    • Nina Ulloa

      your state is right next to their home country. you not having heard of metric only says that you don’t follow the canadian indie scene?

    • Joshua

      That’s probably my fault. Minnesotan here who loves Metric. I highly recommend them.

  4. Tune Hunter

    This absolutely brilliant!

    From now Pandora and Spotify (serviced by The Echonest) can deliver superb experience based on where you live and what you possibly like. Wow, I am impressed.

    Just one problem, WHERE IS THE MONEY?!

    Money is in discovery moment monetization – sooner we start – sooner we reach 100 billions in annual sales

  5. BC

    I’ve never even heard of the band for my state, and I listen to a ton of music. I just don’t listen on Spotify, because it sucks. LOL

    • PiratesWinLOL

      Yeah, yeah, all this new technology stuff really sucks.. I am sure you still look really cool down at the elder’s center, with your walkman or your ipod. I wonder though, how did you figure out to get online and use the keyboard? I suppose your great-great-grandson must have helped you.

      • Andew

        You dont have to be a computer expert to know that getting interrupted with advertising sucks.

  6. yes

    it’s distinct. as in, not the most popular, but something that’s more popular in one given state that in most other states it’s seen a lot less.

  7. Aimee

    How is Linkin Park even relevant? Do they have an album after 2001? They suck. Love, Arizona.

  8. I-DEFY

    Whats a Miguel? I have lived in NC for 14 years and I check out a lot of bands and venues and I have never heard of this guy.

  9. 40 Year Radio Vet

    ROFLMAO .. .hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha … love it … love it … love it …

    DISTINCTIVE = adjective
    1. characteristic of one person or thing, and so serving to distinguish it from others. “juniper berries give gin its distinctive flavor.” Synonyms: distinguishing, characteristic, typical, individual, particular, peculiar, unique, exclusive, special

    Nowhere is popularity or familiarity indicated as being distinctive. In fact, exactly the opposite would be true. Everything about this map is distinctive by virtue that a) the data is pulled from pure-play and on-demand listening sites (not terrestrial radio … where country music formats dominate) and b) the results seem to measure the broader aesthetic qualities of a region, the “taste,” as opposed to the popularity of any single band/artist.

    I can easily see that there is a HUGE difference between the popularity of an act in a state and the “taste” or aesthetic value that defines “taste” for a region.. “These artists are the artists that define the taste for the region.” One does not have to look the same as the other.

    The vast majority of people can’t name more than a handful of acts as it is. So the name of the act mentioned is only an indicator of the broader aesthetic quality the act represents for that region – so defining “taste for the region.”

  10. Danwriter

    This is little more than a graphical listicle. Empty calories worthy of Buzzfeed.

  11. Charles Atlas

    Aggggkkk. GAAAG. Snurp! This makes me soooo angry. Your so-called ‘DATA’ completely fails to represent my opinions!!! I don’t know what the word ‘distinctive’ means — and I am SOOOO confused why MY favorite artist wasn’t selected for MY state. Why is that? I have all my radio stations programmed to Tim Mcgraw 24/7, and yet there is a rapper listed for my state? WTF??? A rapper? I don’t even like rap – so how can this map/info-graphic explicitly and definitively state that RAP is the coolest/best music ever? And how is it that SOME of these artists are Canadian??? This smacks of the early-nineties conspiracy to legitimize The Tragically Hip within US borders. This is making my head hurt. While I do not have the time or patience or intellect to understand the purpose of this study, I just CAN’T resist taking the time and energy to comment on how completely useless it is. Is Obama behind this? He must be. I’m sure this has something to with gays getting married (yuck!) or taking my guns away (yuck).

  12. Frank Rizzo

    Hey Fruitcake, Your telling Young Sleazy Beat out Kid rock Or Eminem in Michigan Fuckface?! Shut da fuck up!

  13. cjhoffmn

    I don’t see how any conclusion being drawn here is supportable by this data or approach.
    Here’s the conclusion: “It is pretty clear that people in different parts of the US listen to different kinds of music. These regionalisms can be used to help recommend music for people when you otherwise might not know anything about their music taste.”

    I don’t see how this approach or this data supports this – selecting the act in the top 100 of a state that has the greatest difference with its ranking in the US simply tells us that it was ranked relatively higher. Nothing more.

    First off, a ranking is nearly a useless measure for this type of analysis.
    It could be that in the top 100 there are 10 songs that dominate and 90 songs that are hardly listened too at all. If the 99th most listened to track in the state is the 20,000th most listened too nationally, but was listened to 5 times in that state – it is completely irrelevant and tells us nothing about listening habits, taste or choices in the state.
    It could be that in the top 100 there are 100 songs listened to 10 times. Selecting the one with biggest difference to its national rank is again completely irrelevant to the listening habits, taste or choices in the state.

    Secondly, by taking out prior names, from a RANKING, the same problem above is made worse. In a ranking, it could be that the 33rd most played track was played 50,000 times, but the 34th most played track was played 25 times. There is no “normal” curve to this – especially since selecting data from those listening, who provided zip codes is likely to have tremendous selection bias as well. So by removing a prior name, you could be sliding down the scale considerably, and you simply don’t know, because it’s only a ranking.

    I think if you were to run analysis based entirely on play counts rather than ranking, you might start to get to some interesting data. For example, from the approach he’s taken, we learn that Ginger Kwan is ranked 33rd in AK by 12,062 in the US. We simply don’t know if it was played 3 times or 500 times in AK. Might be that it was played 3 times, in which case it tells us absolutely nothing about the listening habits or interest there.

    Might be that Ginger Kwan was played 3 times there and ranked 33rd, and 100 times in OK, but ranked 34th in OK. It’s clearly more interesting data in OK than AK, but we simply don’t know because of this approach.

    If he instead said that an act was played 500 times in a state and 700 times nationally – NOW we’d learn that well – yes, that act is very distinctive to that area. It’s basically not played anywhere else. I think choosing the act from the top 100 who’s play count was the greatest % of the national playcount for the act might by useful. Except for the fact that this is just spotify users, who provided zips.

    I love data and unique analysis – but I just don’t see how this tells us anything useful.

    Also – who doesn’t know that different regions play different music?

  14. William Wallace

    Who is Bruce Springsteen and why does he over index in NJ? I thought NJ was all about Beyoncé since that’s all I hear on Pop radio here. The rest of America can’t be playing her at this level, can they

  15. princesean06

    Having lived in Boca Raton for several years, listening to the 103.1 WIRK has become a daily ritual for me. I start my day with a cup of coffee and a side of the WIRK ‘Morning Show’. WIRK is a stay at home mom’s best source for great entertainment. Tune in today or stream online at http://www.wirk.com!

  16. Jordan

    I think it’s hilarious and also pretty sad how crazy people are getting about this map. Just because it says your state listens to it doesn’t mean YOU have to. This isn’t the end-all-be-all as far as information about what people are listening to, so RELAX.