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Four Ways Developers Can Use Google Fusion Tables

This guest post comes from Mano Marks, lead Developer Advocate for Google Maps and Earth. He has been helping individuals and organizations integrate Google Earth, Maps and other Google developer tools into their sites for the last four years. You can follow Mano on Twitter.

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RADIOBUTT is Getting Gay with Statistics*

What do i do when i want to find a new cool underground band that would appeal to my emotional side? Easy. I draw a scatterplot.

Now let’s see. I take a sample of 215 bands including those on top of the Billboard 200 (who are these people?) and calculate an average number of plays per each listener (via last.fm data). All things equal, the higher the average, the the more devoted the band’s fans are. Like this:


Then i draw a scatterplot basted on the whole set of data:


Each red dot is a band. Y-axis represents the total number of the band’s listeners, the x-axis represents the average number of listens per each band’s fan, the blue line is the “alien average”. The swarm in the left bottom corner is the “moshpit of doom” – your band is nothing special in the public’s eyes if you are there.

Assuming music is able to arouse certain emotional states in humans, RADIOBUTT thinks that we can justly hypothesize as follows. If a band has a huge amount of listeners then it probably appeals to some common human emotion and everybody can enjoy their songs. If a band has little listeners, but plays per listener (PPL) rate is high, it must mean the band was able to appeal to some sort of less common emotion and the higher the PPL the harder it is to substitute the band by some other band. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

According to last.fm-ers, Coldplay digs their “common emotional” best, with Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The Killers, Nirvana (44), Muse and The Beatles not far behind. On the other end of the scattergraph are Porcupine Tree, Beirut, Brand New and Paramore (!?). They appeal to their respective subcultures in the way no one else can. Barbara Streisand is in the very bottom left corner which is a statistically significant proof that she must be an alien who does not get human emotions. Unlike aliens, humans like to categorize stuff, so let’s break our graph into quadrants:


Black Hole Corner: the existence of a completely substitutable yet extremely popular band is highly unlikely. This might be the end of music industry/human race in case one eventually appears.
One-Hit Wonder Quadrant: last.fm-ers do not respect these band’s albums but find a few songs digestible. The Verve (“Sonnet” case) and Black Eyed Peas (… … …) are the prominent inhabitants of this quadrant.
Moshpit of Doom: nobody cares about these people. Every band starts in this corner, but very little number of them will be able to leave it. Memory Tapes, Nurses, Fuck Buttons still have a chance to get away. Barbara, Whitney Houston and probably Foreign Born (PPL=9) are there forever.
Quality Common Band Quadrant: these bands can tap into our mass unconscious, they are too prolific to stay underground. Many people are pretending they don’t like these bands in accordance to the “bands-you-like-are-the-bands-i-used-to-like” principle. Coldplay, The Killers, U2, and, apparently, Portishead are all there.
Average Quadrant: these people are neither here nor there. It’s as if their music is so ambiguous general public cannot make their minds up. Placebo, Bjork, Modest Mouse, The Smiths.
Common Hip Quadrant: music of the people who consider themselves cool without realizing there are too many of them to be all cool simultaneously. A sweet place for indie labels to tap into. Mew, WHY?, Beirut, Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective.
Sweet Corner: the residence of a few bands with an enormous staying power. They’ve always been there and they always will. Every band wants to be in this corner and every major label wants to f**k them with a 360 deal. Radiohead, The Beatles.
Old Folk’s Corner: bands drift into this quadrant on the wave of their mediocre fame from the Average Quadrant. Nobody’s supposed to be here in a perfect world. Metallica.
Real Hip Corner: you can never know whether you’ll like a band from this corner. These bands build a very special relationship with their fans, employing subliminal messages, infrasound and Freudian psychoanalysis.

There’s still one question that begs to be answered: Where does an individual belong in this quantified universe? To illustrate a point, i plotted my musical preferences over the previous scattergraph. RADIOBUTT calls it the “alien test”:


There is an easily observable shift of the average “alien slope” down, toward the more hip bands. This means i like bands that don’t get common people’s emotions rather than otherwise. If your musical preferences drag the ‘alien slope’s” right end much below the Real Hip Corner, it must indicate your extraterrestrial origin; if the left end gets around or above the One-Hit Wonder Corner – you’re an emotional namby-pamby of exceptional mediocrity.

So, finding a new cool underground band that would appeal to your emotional side is as simple as one-two-three: collect a huge sample of all available to you bands, make a scatterplot, pick a quadrant that represents your musical preferences and enjoy. And of course, there are many more things you can do with statistics in the world of music. Which means RADIOBUTT is Getting Gay With Statistics might be back.

* Disclaimer: RADIOBUTT is Getting Gay With Statistics is completely gay and should not be taken too seriously unless you want to.

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