New math article shows songs spread like viruses

How do earworms spread? A to study published this week in the Royal Society uses epidemiology models to track the spread of music. The researchers use “data from MixRadio, including downloads of songs via Nokia mobile phones in Britain from 2007 to 2014”. Using mathematical tools typically applied to infection, the article finds that popular songs are indeed spread like viruses. Some genera are more “contagious” than others.

The most “contagious” genre was electronics, with a base reproduction value (R0) of 3430. That is, in a very sensitive population, one person sharing electronic music (in “Talking about the song, playing it, sharing it on social media or asking for it on the radio”) could influence 3,430 other people to download it. “This makes it about 190 times more transmissible than measles, which has an R0 of around 18 “, writes Linda Geddes in The Guardian. The article makes some guesses as to why electronic music is so contagious: maybe a lot of people are closed to it, therefore” immune “, or electronics fans are particularly well connected or passionate about their favorite songs.

The next most “contagious” genres were rap and rock, and the least numerous were dance and metal. Notably, most genera have shown great variability in contagiousness. Lead author Dora Rosati discussed the research team’s findings with The Guardian.

“This implies that many social processes that lead to the spread of disease, or analogues of those processes, could also be behind the spread of songs. Specifically, it supports the idea that music and disease infectious diseases depend on social ties with spreading through populations.

Dora Rosati in The Guardian

It is not known how the results, which are based on download data, apply to music streaming.

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