What Makes a Band a ‘Hipster Band’?

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Chart via Priceonomics Data Services

So what exactly IS “hipster music”?  Is Vampire Weekend cool?  What about Danny Brown or Haim?  Is hipster just a buzzword that doesn’t actually mean anything?  Nevertheless, this data is interesting…

Priceonomics has mathematically determined which bands are hip and which are not.

Pitchfork “best new album” scores were weighted against the amount of Facebook likes the Pitchfork post received.  Priceonomics defined a hipster band as having a high Pitchfork rating and a low amount of Facebook likes, indicating obscurity.

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The list of the top 25 hipster bands makes some sense…. Julia Holter, Autre Ne Veut, Waxahatchee… I can see it.   But the formula kind of falls apart when it comes to rap.  A lot of hipster-types listen to Drake and A$AP Rocky, but they’re not obscure at all.  Disclosure’s inclusion is questionable as well.  Maybe only hip people listen to them in the States, but they’re one of the biggest bands in the U.K. right now.

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Priceonomics also compiled a list of bands that might be perceived as hipster but aren’t because everyone knows about them.  If you were listening to Chance the Rapper, Haim, or Chvrches last year you could have been impressed with yourself, but not anymore.

21 Responses

  1. jw

    If you started listening to Chvrches or Haim last year, you were behind the curve.

    • Nina Ulloa

      they were both pretty unknown at the beginning of the year

      • jw

        True, but Haim released their Forever EP pretty early in 2012, & were touring internationally by the end of the year. And Chvrches released the Mother We Share later in 2012, but blew up pretty quick in Europe, & were on NME’s best of that year.

        My point is that “You Probably Haven’t Heard of Them” could just as easily be “You Probably Haven’t Heard of Them Yet.” In 2012, Haim was opening for Mumford & Sons, the least hip gig you could possibly take, but critical exposure early on. Even though they were relatively unknown at the time, I never would’ve called them a hipster band, because it was pretty clear they were going to end up on a Target commercial, & here they are.

        These charts purport to expose things about bands & about listening habits that they just don’t. Is it an interesting statistic, the degree to which readers agree with positive Pitchfork reviews? Sure. Is it enough to declare an act a “hipster” band? No way.

        I mean, just look at the data… Angel Olsen is #18 on the “not a hipster band” list. Her top track has 200,000 plays. Deafheaven is #24 on the “hipster band” list. And their top track has close to 600,000 plays. Of course, their critically acclaimed album has been out much longer than Angel’s, but they’re also a metal band, not a hipster band. Obviously they aren’t going to get a lot of likes on Pitchfork, despite their seeming popularity within the metal community.

        And this, of course, doesn’t even touch on the fact that Drake is on the “You’ve Probably Never Heard of Them” list. Give me a break.

        I just think these data plotters are oversimplifying things & giving themselves far too much credit.

  2. Willis

    Is “hipster” a word that most bands want to be associated with? Sounds like they should be playing a lounge in Vegas.

  3. Seth Keller

    Not sure how accurate the FB likes are if Disclosure’s on the list. Dudes have almost 800K FB likes.

    • jw

      They’re counting likes of the Pitchfork review. This data set is strictly based on the response of Pitchfork readers to the reviews.

  4. In General

    In general, Pitchfork has become mainstream media for music fans. The word Hipster is not perceived the same way by all music fans either, in general. Either way, it’s something to talk about, not in general.

  5. Deez

    Haim, and CHVRCHES were the biggest hipster bands of 2013. Not because they’re obscure, but because it’s mediocre bullshit that hipsters like, because they think they’re supposed to. That’s what hipster music is to me, it’s not just obscure, it has to also blow, and be liked for the wrong reasons.

  6. bigwullie

    What a load of self obsessed nonsense, oh im really cool, I like this or that new band and my jeans are skinny/baggy/upside down, Hipsters the true gods of musical fashion…jeasus , barff !!

  7. Karla

    Oh my god! You forgot “With Our Arms to the Sun” NOBODY has a bigger following of hipsters!

  8. Chrisucide

    the effervescence with respect to the apathetic modality of the “apropos non-sequiturishness” reminds me that there are certain music genre’s which should be “seen and not heard..” like little children with speech therapy issues

  9. HellaRAd

    you should listen to this mexican band called little jesus, theyre like the mexicans Two door Cinema CLub