The Straight-Through-In-Alpha-Order-Music-Listening Experiment Update – Wrap-Up
Well folks, that day finally came: I’ve finished the experiment. 18 1/2 months and some 10000 songs later, I’ve completed a journey that started out as a whim, to listen to every single song in my collection in alphabetic order (according to iTunes).
This also means the Facebook contest is officially over. Here’s the results of the contest:
- First Winner: Angie Newman Hull (Drowning Pool)
- Last Winner: Jason Chappell (ZZ Top)
- Most Wins: Jenny Kulland (9)
- Total Unique Winners: 16
- Total Rounds Won: 41
- Total Rounds: 320-ish
- Winner Details:
- Jenny Kulland, 9 wins (Quiet Riot, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Savage Garden, Seal, Spin Doctors, Supertramp, Tesla, 3 Doors Down, Violent Femmes)
- Tonia Snow Fraser, 6 wins (Queensrÿche, Theory of a Deadman, Toto, Trapt, Twisted Sister, U2)
- Pammy Cochran, 5 wins (Genesis, Kansas, KISS, Live, Nirvana)
- Tad Thorley, 5 wins (Erasure, Europe, Faith No More, Hurricane, Iron Maiden)
- Jason Chappell, 3 wins (REO Speedwagon, Rush, ZZ Top)
- Alison Tate, 2 wins (Megadeth, The Who)
- Mike Moore, 2 wins (Foreigner, Whitesnake)
- Angie Newman Hull, 1 win (Drowning Pool)
- Bret Dayley, 1 win (Foghat)
- Curtis Meek, 1 win (Stevie Ray Vaughan)
- Jaci Ashdown, 1 win (Stone Temple Pilots)
- Jeff Carroll, 1 win (Mötley Crüe)
- Jeremy Stanley, 1 win (Guns ‘N Roses)
- Justin Dye, 1 win (Faster Pussycat)
- Ruth Jex, 1 win (Huey Lewis)
- Alen Peacock, 1 win (Paul Oakenfold – this seems suspicious though)
That last one I’m not sure about. Alen pretty much always guessed Barry Manilow so I don’t know how it could be that he guessed correctly. It was almost definitely on accident.
By the way, it should be noted that Jenny only started playing somewhere around P or Q. Who knows how many she might have won if she’d joined Facebook earlier!
In seriousness, I’m surprised at how pleased I am that I did this. It didn’t give me a new outlook on life or anything, but it was certainly more interesting than I thought. Here’s some of the key insights I got from this experiment.
Really Great Music Is Rare
There’s lots of music out there, but finding truly great music is difficult. It’s why we cherish our favorite bands so much. If just anyone could create good music, we would all have 50 favorite bands.
I recall some time ago reading an interview with Eddie Van Halen in a magazine where he discussed this. I don’t remember exactly what the full context was, but it probably had something to do with a discussion of his incredible guitar playing ability. Then he said something like this: “Writing a really good song is incredibly difficult. It isn’t hard to write a song, but to write a song that appeals to people is hard. Writing a song that appeals to a wide audience and can endure for generations? Very hard.” I’m definitely paraphrasing, but I really liked the point he was making: As good as he is at playing music, he wanted to point out how much more talent it takes to create music.
This is why I say he’s the best guitarist of our generation. Satriani, Vai, SRV, Petrucci, Malmsteen, Eric Johnson, and a host of others have incredible guitar talent, but how many of those have that level of talent AND have also been able to write so many incredible songs? Like I said, there’s a lot of music to choose from, but it is a treat to find really good music because it isn’t that easy to do.
Really Great Music Is Becoming Harder To Find
Ironically, it seems that today there is more music than ever, and yet there is less quality in the music of today, overall, than in the past. For example, as I was listening to Staind’s covers of “Nutshell” by Alice in Chains and “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd, all I could think of was how much I wished I was listening to Alice in Chains or Pink Floyd instead. When I start thinking of really great artists, artists that write really great music, I start thinking of groups like Alice in Chains, Journey, New Order, Pink Floyd, U2, Van Halen, Rush, Collective Soul, REM, Coldplay, Led Zeppelin, and Stone Temple Pilots. I know many of you are going to say that most of those are bands I grew up with, and that is true. But consider the set. There’s bands from the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s in there, and music of a variety of genres. But this set is definitely skewed toward the pre-21st century era. I’ve got a lot of music in my collection that is recent (within 10 years), but there’s not a lot in that category that I think is all that interesting.
Even for bands that have older albums that I like, their newer stuff is completely forgettable. Metallica and Mötley Crüe are perfect examples of this: Great stuff from the 80s, but when it comes to the most recent stuff they have to offer, I feel like asking for that portion of my life back.
The music industry laments the fact that people are sharing MP3s among each other and downloading them from the internet for free (for the record, I do not do this). Maybe it is time they quit blaming society and start taking a look at themselves. Have they ever considered that the market is simply expressing the general sentiment of value for the music being offered today?
I Did Find Some New Favorite Bands
There weren’t many of these, but I did end up finding a much greater appreciation for some bands that I only previously sort-of liked or was only somewhat familiar with. Included in this list are:
- Foo Fighters
- Iron Maiden
Some Obscure Rock Bands Are Really Great
As I was saying before, today it seems that just about any group of people can put a band together and get signed by a major label. This was not the case when I grew up, when rock was at its best. As a result, there were a number of great rock bands that are mostly unknown, but worth finding if you can. In this list are:
- Kane Roberts
- Lillian Axe
- Mr. Big
- Roxy Blue
- Saints and Sinners (possibly simultaneously the best and most obscure)
Do Not Judge An Album By Its Cover Art
I once thought of doing a whole post on this, and thought better of it because I would probably regret having the pictures in my blog postings. So I’m going to write about it now, but no pictures. Anyway, the key learning here is this: There is no demonstrable correlation between having an attractive woman on the album cover art and having great music in the album itself.
I conducted a very scientific study, wherein I made a list of all the albums in my collection and then hired someone from western China via eLance.com to rate all the album art according to the following scale:
- Has an attractive woman
Thus we see here, demonstrably, that having an attractive woman on the cover is merely another bit of information and has nothing to do with whether the art is “cool” or “lame”; rather, it means the most immediately apparent feature of the album art was this, and not the coolness or lameness of the album art.
Using this information I then rated all of my music where the album was categorized (not by me, remember) in the third category above. Then I averaged the rankings of all those albums.
The results of my very scientific study are clear: The average ranking was 2.75, which is somewhere in between “Meh” and “Okay”. Not “Horrible” (level 0), but not “Awesome” either (level 5).
So, all in all, it was an excellent experiment and a totally fun contest, at least for me. Here’s the key takeaways:
- Jenny Kulland either has great taste in music, is clairvoyant, or is a cheater (depending on who you ask)
- Alen Peacock still doesn’t understand alphabetical order
- There’s some really great music out there and it is worth finding, BUT
- Most music these days is really lame, and the lameness seems skewed toward modern music
- The album art offers no indication to you of the quality of the album’s music
Sigh. Now what am I going to do?