Here’s an oddity.
Music Week has published a list of albums that Google Play Music says represent the volume of streams that albums eligible for the Mercury Music Prize have achieved.
So they’ve looked at acts that released albums between September, 9 2014 and September 25, 2015. The official shortlist is published in a couple of days.
Google Play Music says it’s not trying to predict the outcome of the nominations but is looking at what’s popular on its service. But I find the list a little curious.
I should say up front that I’ve only personally listened to one of the shortlisted albums (Jamie xx). But the list seems very heavily skewed. So I thought I’d add the album release dates to the list. Here’s what you get.
|Artist||Album||% of Streams||Release Date||Eligible Days|
|Bring Me The Horizon||That’s The Spirit||24.16%||11 Sept 15||14|
|Jess Glynne||I Cry When I Laugh||17.95%||21 Aug 15||35|
|Foals||What Went Down||11.33%||28 Aug 15||28|
|Years & Years||Communion||10.32%||22 Jun 15||95|
|James Bay||Chaos & The Calm||8.62%||23 Mar 15||186|
|The Libertines||Anthems For Doomed Youth||5.29%||11 Sep 15||14|
|Krept & Konan||The Long Way Home||5.02%||3 Jul 15||84|
|Catfish & The Bottlemen||The Balcony||4.69%||15 Sep 14||375|
|Mumford & Sons||Wilder Mind||4.16%||4 May 15||144|
|Florence & The Machine||How Big, How Beautiful, How Blue||3.28%||29 May 15||119|
|Jamie xx||In Colour||2.63%||29 May 15||119|
|Everything Everything||Get To Heaven||2.56%||22 Jun 15||95|
A couple of things immediately jump out at you. The sum of the percentages comes to 100% (100.01%, but that’s rounding error). So these percentages are within the universe of these albums only. I imagine this is to hide the relative sizes of these albums to others.
It also seems very curious that the albums released most recently have the highest percentage of streams. That’s The Spirit apparently achieved a quarter of all streams, yet was only available for two weeks. Whereas Mumford & Sons’ Wilder Mind has been out for a good 6 months yet only got 4%.
That means either those most recently released albums have achieved astonishing playback in a short period of time, or someone has only sampled data from the very recent past, and unsurprisingly, the newest music got streamed the most.
If you chart these figures it becomes a little clearer
It’s by no means a perfect relationship, since popular albums will do well, but it’s clear that the most recent releases get the most plays.
In other words, Google Play Music used a very recent sample to determine its list, which hardly seems a fair way to produce a list as it skews the data towards recent releases that have lots of buzz.
Oh, and of course the Mercury Music Prize is judged on slightly more than popularity, or (I would hope) albums with the biggest marketing budgets. But hey, any PR is good PR right?[Update 16 October: In completely unsuprising news, the actual Mercury shortlist looks nothing like this list, with only Florence & The Machine and Jamie xx appearing on the real list, and five of the shortlisted albums not having charted at all, which is probably part of the point of the awards.]