The Data Analysis Behind Classic Rock

Walt Hickey:

It was my first time hearing a band I grew up with referred to as “classic rock.” Almost anyone who listens to music over a long enough period of time probably experiences this moment — my colleagues related some of their own, like hearing R.E.M. or Guns N’ Roses on a classic rock station — but it made me wonder, what precisely is classic rock? As it turns out, a massive amount of data collection and analysis, and some algorithms, go into figuring out the answer to that very question.

I don’t think anyone will be too shocked by Hickey’s analysis, but it’s still pretty interesting. Also—when do we stop calling it “classic rock” and start calling it what it really is—popular rock.

Sidenote—don’t miss maybe the saddest part of this piece near the end:

But do radio stations rely at all on the institutional knowledge of their DJs to decide what to play?

Nope. The role of the song-picking DJ is dead. “I know there are some stations and some companies where if you change a song it’s a fireable offense,” Wellman said, cavalierly ruining the magic.