Sleuthing Spotify

It is really a love-hate relationship.  The idea of Spotify is so intoxicating!

What are Spotify users – across the globe – listening to?  How do tastes change across the continents.  With one simple little query, the world will have an answer.

But, wait, what is this?  This data doesn’t make sense?  What does this all mean?

Let’s walk down this dark stormy path together, I need the company. Spotify leaves me so empty.

It all starts with the glorious idea that one can simply “Get Spotify catalog information about an artist’s top tracks by country.”  This is literally the words from the Spotify API page.

You may recall, that I did this for the US a few weeks ago.  

U2’s With or Without You had a popularity score of 79 around mid-march. And Pride (In the Name of Love) had the lowest popularity score of the Top Ten Songs, at 58.  At the time, when I was only looking at the US market, I didn’t really think anything of this data.  Seemed logical.  At that time, there were so many other things that bothered me about Spotify data, but this data set wasn’t one of them.

With the excitement of a tour that looks to be happening in Asia, New Zealand and Australia late fall 2019, I wondered if there was anything unique to these countries as it pertains to U2.  Do the Japanese have songs that they prefer over Americans?  Well, let’s see what Spotify says.

Going back after a breakup is never a good idea.

I went BIG.  I pulled the Top Ten songs for Spotify listeners in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.  Much to my surprise, Spotify was not operating in South Korea.  Interesting.  Of course it downed on me that these countries could have their own native streaming services.  Hmmmm.  How good would the Spotify data be, what level of selection bias was there?  
Very quickly, my spidey data senses were triggered.  The first graph I tried to create kept looking odd…I was plotting popularity data for the 4 countries I had, but I only got two lines.

Why would Australia, New Zealand and Singapore all have the same popularity scores?  And why do these countries have the exact same Top Ten Songs?  

But a BIGGER question, Do the Japanese even like The Joshua Tree album? The differential in popularity for TJT songs is pretty big.  Why are these songs even in the Top Ten for the Japanese market?  There have to be other songs more popular.

Well, there was something unique.  Back in late March, Vertigo was on the Top Ten list for the US market, but it was ‘replaced’ by “Stuck in the Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”.  Well at least there might be a minuscule difference in the markets.  

The low popularity numbers in Spotify’s Top Ten Songs for Japan is enticing us to go down a different path.  And there is a way to do this.  Spotify has a database of tracks by albums, and in this database, there are track level popularity scores.  Spotify also allows us to choose the Market for an album, and there just so happens to be 2 albums that are only available in the Japanese market.  These albums are Songs of Experience and The Joshua Tree.  Of course, more questions and concerns.  Are these albums only available to Spotify users in Japan, or are these albums available to all Spotify users.  Ugh…Spotify…what do you really mean to me.

Do you see it?  Even though it is only a few days since the Top Ten pull of data, “You’re the Best Thing About Me – U2 Vs. Kygo” has a higher popularity score than “Sweetest Thing” and “Where the Streets Have No Name”, but it is NOT on the Top Ten List that Spotify offers!  
Just for giggles, here is the Top Ten for 6 Countries, US and UK added this time.

UK joins Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.  The US has slightly different popularity scores, but AGAIN, why do these countries all have the same songs in the top ten list?

Again just because…here is the same graph, but 5 days later.  Some changes in popularity, but same 10 songs, same overlap for 4 of the countries.

It doesn’t make sense.  What is Spotify doing to their data, and why? Why force the Top Ten songs to be the same across countries?

But back to the original reason for creating this analysis:  Should U2 be playing The Joshua Tree in Japan?  

U2 Love and Logic

One thought on “Sleuthing Spotify

  1. Brett

    I foresee opportunity for varied set lists once the tour moves beyond Australia. Evidence of this possibility is that opening act for the Asian cities has yet to be revealed. It may not be Noel Gallagher or Snow Patrol, but perhaps a younger act with regional appeal, such as Vampire Weekend.


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