It is difficult to predict which songs will become hits. It is even more difficult to predict which artists topping today’s charts will continue to record more hits and who will see their fame disappear.

Now an in-depth study of pop charts provides some tips on how not to be a miracle with one hit. Artists with more variety in their catalog are more likely to get repeat hits, says Justin Berg, a sociologist who studies creativity and innovation at Stanford University’s business school. But there is a dilemma for artists who want to be popular in the long term. Diversity is not what helps artists reach their first hit, Berg said on March 24 Quarterly for Administrative Science. This is the resemblance of a new song to the latest hits.

“There’s really no way to thread the needle,” says Berg. “You are facing a compromise as a new creator, between the probability of the original [or] sustainable success based on the novelty of your portfolio. ”

The new insights could help artists from different fields to better understand the social impact of innovation in art – in music, visual arts, books and beyond.

To find out if there is a formula that can help explain who turns into a flash in the pan and who becomes a major piece of music, Berg focuses on pop charts with their rich data collection. “I decided to start with the industry … where the term miracle with one hit was coined,” he says.

Berg uses a database of about 3 million songs from 1959-2010, released by record companies that produced at least one hit in the United States during that time. Of those songs, nearly 25,000 were included in the weekly Billboard Hot 100, which tracks the most popular songs based on sales data, radio playback and now online streaming. This provided Berg with a list of nearly 4,900 artists who had one or more songs on the list, his criterion for determining a hit.

Berg then turned to the Spotify system, which rates songs on 11 variables, including danceability, energy and tone. This system provides indicators of most hits and misses from the 1959-2010 time window. Berg then noted how closely the hit songs are related to the hits from the previous calendar year. He also compiled a portfolio for most of the artists who have at least one song in the Hot 100 to quantify the variety and novelty of the songs they released during their first hit. These wallets also allowed him to compare wonders to a hit with mega-hitmakers and those who never made it great.

The hits are rare, the data show. Of the 69,000 artists in the original database, 93 percent never had a hit, 3 percent had one and 1 percent had two hits. The success rate for additional hits decreases from there.

Berg found that musicians with what he called a low-key portfolio that closely resembled other existing music were about twice as likely to be initially successful. But those who have built a more innovative and diverse catalog before fame are more likely to generate a series of hits.

“The music maniac’s dream is to read something like this,” said Storm Glur, a researcher in the music industry at the University of Colorado, Denver. He says that puts some weight behind much of the intuition that artists and record artists have developed over the years.

As the data ends in 2010, the survey may not fully cover the current state of popular music. Musicians are changing the way they write songs to make them more appealing on Spotify or TikTok, says Noah Askin, a computer sociologist at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. “So much of it now is: How memorable is a song?” How much can you present it as a soundtrack to a short video?

Berg doesn’t want his research to belittle the achievements of miracles with a hit like Los Del Rio, which recorded the Macarena crashes of the 1990s. “Many of them were very famous and successful at the time,” he said. “You go out and try to make a song that captivates. It’s not an easy challenge. “

Why it’s so hard for a one-hit wonder to have a lasting music career

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