Tracking trendiness | Inquirer Business

Tracking trendiness

“Popular/I know about popular,” sings Glinda in the Broadway show “Wicked.” To learn more about the role of consumers in determining popularity, both individually and as a group, two studies published the week of June 18 relied on online media sites.

In the first study, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA journal, British and Japanese researchers demonstrated the influence of the public in determining how a style of music can become popular and spread to a wide audience with the help of a computer generated music database called DarwinTunes.

Those who’ve used the online music service Pandora know that the listeners may hear new songs and artists based on the rhythms and instruments used in songs they’ve selected, approved or skipped. DarwinTunes, the researchers noted, is different in the sense that this database was seeded with much shorter, computer-generated music tracks.


Nearly 7,000 study participants listened to and rated thousands of these tracks, deciding which ones they loved and which ones they couldn’t stand to hear. These ratings determined which music pieces then produced similar, but not identical “daughter loops” through more computer algorithms, allowing the tracks to evolve over several generations.


Creative role

“Our experiment demonstrates the creative role of consumer selection in shaping the music we listen to,” the researchers wrote in their paper. “However, the evolution of music in human societies is certainly shaped by other forces as well…. Consumers do not choose the music they like entirely on the basis on aesthetic quality but are also influenced by the preferences of others.”

The researchers pointed out that social networking now allow consumers to do more than just listen to a piece, remixing, promoting and even sharing it with their peers. In opting to be more than just a consumer, that person’s ability to influence others to agree with his or her choices becomes crucial. A separate study from American researchers used Facebook demographics to learn more about the spheres of influence a user of this social networking site might have.

As published ahead online June 21 in Science Express, the team used a film industry application in Facebook, which has more than a million users worldwide, to promote a particular product. When Facebook users adopted the product, the team generated a message about the item to a random sampling of each user’s connections, tracking this group’s demographics to find out how many opted to also adopt the same product based on the message they’d received.

Most influential

Based on the results, the team found that certain factors played into whether or not a Facebook user was likely to either influence others into adopting the product, or else was influenced to adopt the product themselves. For example, people over the age of 31 were more likely to influence others to adopt the product in the application, and while men might be more influential than women, the women were less inclined to give in to peer pressure based on the messages from their friends and adopt the product.


The researchers also sorted results based on relationship status category. “Single and married individuals are the most influential,” they reported. “Single individuals are significantly more influential than those who are in a relationship (113 percent more influential) and those who report their relationship status as ‘It’s complicated’ (128 percent more influential). Married individuals are 140 percent more influential than those in a relationship and 158 percent more influential than those who report that ‘It’s complicated.’”

E-mail the author at massie@

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