Meme - Similar Artists Trail


Feb 21 2007, 20:31

I'm a bit of a techno-geek and really like the fact that gives me an objective data source on my music listening habits that I can then play around with in various ways to see if I can establish any interesting trends.

In that spirit, I got this meme from MacHenryVIII's journal yesterday that seems promising. The basic idea is that you start with any artist in your collection and then follow the top similar artist links to see how far you get and how truly related those artists are at the end of it all (and, by extension I suppose, how valid the similar artist offerings really are). MacHenryVII explains the process in his journal, so I won't repeat it here.

I started with Black 47, the artist that was playing at the time and came up with the following list:

2. The Pogues
3. The Clash
4. Ramones
5. Sex Pistols
6. Buzzcocks
7. The Damned
8. Dead Boys
9. New York Dolls
10. The Stooges
11. The Velvet Underground
12. Bob Dylan
13. The Rolling Stones
14. Led Zeppelin
15. Pink Floyd
16. Radiohead
17. Coldplay
18. Oasis
19. The Killers
20. Franz Ferdinand
21. Kaiser Chiefs
22. Arctic Monkeys
23. Bloc Party
24. Arcade Fire
25. Interpol
26. Modest Mouse
27. The Decemberists
28. Neutral Milk Hotel
29. Belle and Sebastian
30. Flaming Lips
31. Beck

A few comments on this list:

I was a little surprised at how quickly I went from Celtic-based rock music straight into punk. Granted, this may be inevitable considering Joe Strummer's brief sojourn in The Pogues, but I still would have expected a few more Celtic artists to turn up on my list. I think I'll do a little follow-up experiment sometime to see how long it takes me to get to The Clash by starting with any random Irish folk musician.

Similarly, I found the mid-list selection of classic rock heavy hitters to be interesting. Given the general ubiquity of these artists, I wonder how long it would take before you turned up at least one of them by starting with any current or past rock band? Kind of like a musical Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon....

Things went downhill for me after Coldplay, a band whose albums I do own, but which I rarely ever listen to (no plays on to-date). From there I went through a list of new, mostly indie bands who I may have listened to only a handful of times before getting tired of them (honestly, if I want to hear The Jam, I'll pull out Setting Sons or something before I play the Kaiser Chiefs).

While the starting and stopping points for the list don't really seem to be all that related to each other, it was pretty clear where the genre transitions took place and they do make some sense. Pogues to Clash I've already mentioned, but it's not that hard to draw the connection that led from UK punk to the NY Dolls and then to VU. VU to Dylan may be a little more unlikely, but once you're at Dylan, the rest of those 60s artists through to Pink Floyd follow. I was a little surprised by the Floyd to Radiohead transition, but latter-day Radiohead certainly shares a common sensibility with Floyd.

Radiohead set the stage for a number of UK bands (or US bands pretending to be UK bands) that have received a lot of attention either now or recently. Interestingly, the bands from Oasis through to Interpol seem to have made their name by aping music from the past (the Beatles in the case of Oasis and 80s post-punk in the case of the rest). That may even extend to Modest Mouse, too, now that they've picked up The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

The transition from Interpol through Modest Mouse to The Decembrists may be the most sketchy of the lot. As far as I can tell, the only thing they've really got in common is their status as buzzworthy US indie acts (but they aren't my favourite bands so I may be missing some deeper connection). From The Decembrists, the rest of the hardcore pop experimentalists in my collection kind of make sense.

And finally, Black 47 was part of a wider playlist of what I think are related artists, none of whom turned up anywhere during the course of this little experiment. These bands include:

Ewan MacColl
Nic Jones
Saint Bushmill's Choir
Steeleye Span
The Voice Squad
The Broadside Band
Richard Thompson with and without Linda
Jethro Tull
John Renbourn

One other quirk to point out, I suppose -- I own nothing by The Beatles and imagine that my list may have taken another turn entirely had I owned any.


  • harryhaller

    Well, if it walks like a meme and talks like a meme... I do have a pretty extensive collection, but one other thing that become clear to me as I did this was that I have way more music than I can really fully enjoy. With the exception of Arcade Fire and Interpol, everything from Coldplay down had total plays of between 10-13 songs. Which essentially means that I listened to albums from each of those artists about once and then never listened again.

    Feb 22 2007, 6:36
  • harryhaller

    Damn, that means I have to remember it ;-) Basically, the idea is that, starting with an initial artist, you pick the first artist from the related artists list whose music you have in your own collection and keep doing that for each successive artist. If you either don't have anything by the first related artist, or already have them on your list, you drop down to the next artist that you do have (but keeping within the default top eight that offers in the sidebar). The object is to see how far (and where) you get before you either have nothing by any of the related artists or have already got all the related artists on your list.

    Mar 7 2007, 17:54
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