A study by the Polytechnic University of Valencia shows that the list of hits on Spotify grew by 18% during the worst months of the pandemic and generated 8% more traffic.

While people around the world stopped, music didn’t: a new study by the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV) shows that during the worst months of the pandemic, the list of the Top-200 hits on Spotify, produced from the streams registered on the popular app, had 18% more songs. The most played songs worldwide, during the months studied, were Dance Monkey (Tones and I), Blinding Lights (The Weeknd) and The Box (Roddy Ricch).

This means that, regardless of whether record companies published new material or not, listeners changed their preferences more often during the pandemic, thus causing an increase in the number of songs that made the lists. Thus, the first quarter of 2019 registered 474 songs on the Top 200 list, whereas in the same period of this year, the number of hits was 557, which represents an 18% increase. This figure reveals a significant increase when compared to the 1% decrease that took place during the same period from 2018 to 2019, or the 9% increase from 2017 to 2018.

“It seems like it has all happened very fast during these months of COVID-19 and our preferences have changed at the same pace. This turmoil has also been seen in music. Maybe this type of studies are a way of detecting the internal turmoil that society is subjected to,” explains Alberto Conejero, researcher from the University Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IUMPA) of the UPV and one of the authors of the study, together with Francisco Pedroche, from the Institute of Multidisciplinary Mathematics (IMM) of the UPV.

This work covers the months of January to April of this year, and takes into account both the songs involved on the lists as well as their movements on the latter, in other words, the change in the positions that the songs hold on the lists. According to the authors, in the first four months of the year, the movement of songs on the lists grew by 8% compared to the same period of the year prior. As explained by Francisco Pedroche, Spotify has grown regarding the number of users in recent years, in part due to the new features such as podcasts, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into more movement on the lists of hits measured by this study. Thus, it turns out that in the years 2018 and 2019, the movement on the Top 200 lists during the first quarter decreased by 2%.

Dance Monkey, Blinding lights and The Box, the most listened to

According to the study, the most popular songs in the world in the first quarter of the year were Dance Monkey, Blinding lights and The Box. The song Dance Monkey was number 1 in January and half of February; Blinding lights was number 1 from the last week of February until the last week of April; and The Box was in first place during the week of February 7 to 14, although it remained in second place for nine weeks, when it took the spot of The Scotts by The Scotts.

Throughout the 18 weeks studied there is only one Spanish artist: singer Rosalía, with Highest in the room (with Travis Scott and Lil Baby) which reached spot 16; Yo x ti, tu x mi (with Ozuna, at 95) and Con altura (at 101) remained on the Top 200 list in January and the first two weeks of February.

The scientific interest of the study lies in the fact that the developed method can be applied to rankings that vary their elements in time (like hit lists), unlike in sport rankings, where the teams that take part are the same throughout the competition, like in the football leagues.

The study has been presented at the “Mathematical Modelling in Engineering & Human Behaviour 2020” conference, organised by the IMM Institute of the UPV, held this week.

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