Headphones on the wire Statistical patterns of music listening practices

Abstract : We analyze a dataset providing the complete information on the effective plays of thousands of music listeners during several months. Our analysis confirms a number of properties previously highlighted by research based on interviews and questionnaires, but also uncover new statistical patterns, both at the individual and collective levels. In particular, we show that individuals follow common listening rhythms characterized by the same fluctuations, alternating heavy and light listening periods, and can be classified in four groups of similar sizes according to their temporal habits-" early birds " , " working hours listeners " , " evening listeners " and " night owls ". We provide a detailed radioscopy of the listeners' interplay between repeated listening and discovery of new content. We show that different genres encourage different listening habits, from Classical or Jazz music with a more balanced listening among different songs, to Hip Hop and Dance with a more heterogeneous distribution of plays. Finally, we provide measures of how distant people are from each other in terms of common songs. In particular, we show that the number of songs S a DJ should play to a random audience of size N such that everyone hears at least one song he/she currently listens to, is of the form S ∼ N α where the exponent depends on the music genre and is in the range [0.5, 0.8]. More generally, our results show that the recent access to virtually infinite catalogs of songs does not promote exploration for novelty, but that most users favor repetition of the same songs. The reasons why human beings like listening to music , the variety of emotions music can arouse, its uses and functions in human societies: those are some long lasting questions which have been discussed by music critics and by scientists belonging to a wide range of disciplines. From the early musicology [1] to popular music studies [2] through sociology of cultural practices [3], geography [4, 5], music history [6, 7], cultural economics [8, 9], educational and cognitive psychology [10–13], physiology and neurosciences [14, 15], an eclectic scientific litterature has illuminated many different facets of music listening. At a collective level, it has been demonstrated several times that statistical relations between inherited social characteristics of individuals and their musical preferences exist [3, 16–18]. At the individual level, studies relying on questionnaires, interviews or experiments conducted in controled environments have documented both the functions attributed to listening and the emotions aroused, in various situations of daily life and in different contexts [10, 13, 15, 19]. The influence of the device on the listening practice [20], the effects of listening on a number of daily activities – e.g. performance at work [21], driving [22], coping and regulating emotions [12, 23] – or the rewarding aspects of music-evoked sadness [24] are other examples of listening-related research. Classifications of listeners have been proposed, with some authors concluding about the existence of a direct relation between musical preferences and cognitive styles [25], other stress-* Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to TL (email: thomas.louail@cnrs.fr) ing the uses of music and their self-declared importance as relevant classifiers [26, 27]. Statistical physicists also contributed by highlighting structural properties of artists and genres communities that emerge from the analysis of personal libraries of audio files [28]. However, relatively little is known about how precisely we listen to recorded music on a daily basis. By how we refer here to some kind of detailed, quantified radioscopy of our contemporary listening practices of recorded music, an important aspect of the relation we entertain with music. Until recently, any empirical research willing to answer to questions pertaining to daily listening practices had to rely on surveys and interviews. The technological and societal evolutions have sustained the development of new mobile devices, online tools and listening possibilities, as well as new actors in the music industry. Music-on-demand services have quickly gained in popularity over the last few years, and for example, according to a recent report of the French national syndicate of phonographic publishing [29], more than three million of French residents (ap-prox. 4% of the total population) were subscribing to an on-demand streaming music platform in 2016, and roughly 1/3 of the total french population regularly stream audio content. The data recorded by streaming platforms offer great possibilities to analyze and hopefully better understand individual and collective listening practices. Whenever an individual plays a song through such a service, with a web browser or dedicated application , online or offline, all known information associated with the stream are logged in the company's
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Pré-publication, Document de travail
2017
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Thomas Louail, Marc Barthelemy. Headphones on the wire Statistical patterns of music listening practices. 2017. 〈cea-01626088〉

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