OK Music Fans! The challenge is over and the votes are in! What have we learned? Read on!
First of all, I wanted to say thanks to everyone who participated. It was a fun distraction for the month. The conversation on a separate thread about whether or not we look forward to new music, or backward to our old standbys was the germinating seed for this contest and we’ll see if we can provide an answer to that question. But hopefully I can provide a few other useful observations.
About the Data
34 Albums in the challenge. 11 Genres covered (several albums represented overlapping genres). 7 decades spanned (see graph below). 460 votes.
A Note About Stats
Statistics get a bad reputation because it seems like one can say whatever they wish (e.g. the famous book: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics), but the truth is somewhat different, and stats are used in all walks of life to better inform companies, governments, and the public. At their root, stats are used to determine whether or not the patterns we observe/perceive are likely to be real. One of the obvious things about the Music Challenge, is that we don’t have a huge sample. Therefore, observable differences in the results may or may not be statistically relevant. To test this, without going down a rabbit hole of analysis, we keep it simple.
One final note. The stats are run on the group results not on your individual preferences. When you read the results, you might consider how the group varies from your own opinion. Perhaps there are new things worth exploring?
Statistical Test Used (skip this section if you don’t care)
I used a Chi-Squared test of independence, a test basically designed for the kind of data we have here. In this test, you hypothesize that the differences you percieve are not statistically different from one another. If the Chi-Square value exceeds a critical value for your given degrees of freedom (df), the test is rejected. Each test is taken at a confidence level, the p value. A typical p value is 95% (0.05). Should the Chi-Square (the X^2) exceed the Critical Value at a given confidence, then we can, for example, be 95% sure that it is not due to chance.
For example, looking below, the orange box shows that the BeeGees (Spirits Having Flown) scored lower than average at the 95% confidence level; green box shows Muddy Waters (Folk Singer) scored higher than average at the 95% confidence level; and the blue box shows that Pink Floyd (Meddle) was NOT significantly different than average (though it was close and scored higher than the average at the 90% confidence level where the critical value was 4.6 (not shown)):
By the Numbers
5 Star reviews: 7.03
3 Star reviews: 4.15
1 Star review: 2.35
Average number of voters: 13.53
Range in number of voters: 7-23
Average album score (%): 72
The Basic Stats
Q. Are we less likely to enjoy new music than old?
A. No. While there are observed differences, statistically speaking, no decade was preferred! No decade was statistically different from average (first column on graph above) or from one another. In fact even the difference between 1960s and 2000s (the largest spread) was not statistically different (in the test below, this is shown by the Chi-Square value being less than the Critical Value):
Discussion: This was different than I expected, however, I interpret this to mean that while there are differences in our appreciation of new vs. old, they are sufficiently similar to suggest that people are finding great music in any decade.
Q. Are we more or less likely to enjoy a specific genre?
A. No (except disco). While there are observed differences, no genre (except disco) was significantly higher or lower than the average. The same was true between genres (Consider Hard Rock which scored an overall approval of 80%, compared to country which scored an overall approval of 64% - the difference is not statistically valid at the 95% confidence level).
Disco, on the other hand, was significantly lower than average (see the orange table in the Stats section above). In fairness to the genre, however, we only had the one album (BeeGees: Spirit’s Having Flown).
Discussion: Once again, I was surprised by the result. I interpret this to mean that while there are differences in our appreciation of genres, they are sufficiently similar to suggest that people are finding great music in any genre. Except disco… If, like me, you actually like the BeeGees, you might think twice before playing them at a dinner party. I suppose to give disco a fair shake, we’d need to play more albums in the genre, but I didn’t want to lose everyone. In contrast I was surprised by how popular the hard rock albums were. Again, the sample size was small, but they were well received.
Q. Do we prefer female singers to male singers?
A. No. Enjoyment of music by gender was virtually indistinguishable. See the graph in By the Numbers above.
Discussion: Not much here except that as an individual, I obviously have much more music with a male lead than a female lead (all albums but three came from my existing library, and were generally albums that I like a lot). Given that the group clearly enjoys both, perhaps I should expand my musical repertoire.
Winners and Losers
While genres or decades of music didn’t have clear winners or losers, there were certain albums that definitely did.
The orange bar on the graph is the average score of all albums. 68% of all albums fell between approval scores of 59% - 85%. So which ones stood out?
- Pink Floyd: Meddle
- Muddy Waters: Folk Singer
- Beatles: Abbey Road
- Masaaki Suzuki/Bach Collegiate Japan: Mozart - Requiem in D Minor
If these aren’t in your library, consider listening again and try to understand what people loved about them.
- Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones
- AC/DC: Back in Black
- Sade: Love Deluxe
- The Mavericks: Music for All Occasions
- Neverending White Lights: The Blood and the Life Eternal
- Galactic: Into the Deep
- BeeGees: Spirits Having Flown
- Koop: Koop Islands
- Simply Red: Picture Book
- Jamestown Revival: San Isabel
What We Were Passionate About
There were several albums that didn’t get much attention, and others that, however we voted, we voted en masse:
With the average number of votes at about 13, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, AC/DC, and Jascha Heifitz got us involved. As did Alan Parsons and Simply Red, if only to say that we weren’t impressed.
By Group (decade or genre), the 1950’s, 1980’s, Hard Rock, or Disco got us off the couch. In the case of Disco, it might have been to leave the room.
Where we were Reluctant to Participate:
I think that a reluctance to participate (the UK music limitations notwithstanding) is in and of itself a vote, and worth taking a look at.
Music since 2000 received somewhat fewer votes than average. While not statistically significant, perhaps this silent vote does suggest that we are slightly less willing to explore new music. Given my interpretation above (good music found in every decade), consider whether or not we are individually missing out on something great!
By genres, country, jazz, and reggae/soul received somewhat fewer votes than average. Again, I propose that there’s good music in every genre and perhaps we are missing out on something great. Perhaps not, and tastes may vary, but worth consideration. Jazz appears to be a bit of a struggle for people, with (anecdotally) three groups. Those who love it. Those who don’t. And those who love it but have moved on to experimental jazz and nothing else will do.
By albums, the one that stands out for me is Mozart’s Requiem. Not a lot of voters, and almost a perfect score (91% approval). If you don’t know this piece, consider listening to it.
Well there’s a bunch, but notably Rap and Hip/Hop, the worlds most popular music form right now did not feature in this challenge. There were several reasons.
- I don’t have a lot of music in that genre. While I’ve tried to relate, there’s not a large percentage of that music that I really like.
- When I look on the forums, it doesn’t seem like this genre is frequently represented, and I didn’t want to alienate participants.
Electronica was largely not represented here either. I don’t have a reason except perhaps that, while I sincerely enjoy it, I personally find it hard to rate relative to much of the music that I posted. To me it’s a different animal altogether.
Metal was under represented with just a careful sample of hard rock/metal here. This was also about not wanting to alienate participants. I was genuinely surprised by the positive comments regarding AC/DC and Tool.
That’s it guys! Thanks for participating! I had fun and it was interesting, and somewhat surprising, to cobble together the results. Hope you enjoy the analysis. Your comments throughout the month, despite not responding to all of them, were read and appreciated.