The Science of Pop


Armand Leroi (Author, Broadcaster and Evolutionary Biologist, UK) opened with a clear enthusiasm about pop music, and said that he thinks “the science of pop is going to be an evolutionary science.” 

Armand believes that data science can transform the pop world – and he has gathered together a team of scientists and researchers to analyse over 50 years of UK chart music.

Leroi said that “there’s a strong suspicion that music production is progressing in a random walk” but that his opinion is that consumers, radio people and other gatekeepers actually keep pop music on an equilibrium. Armand said, nothing about pop music consumption is a random walk. It might change over time, but it’s a “systematic change of people getting used to something new”.

He used his findings to run an experiment with the BBC – to see if an algorithm could pick out the next big hit. He proved that, whilst it’s not a romantic way of finding new music, a computer can do the same job. And he showed that in the future, he could turn his results into a potential chart-topper.

Maybe the next Ed Sheeran will come from a computer…?

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