30 January 2008

I, Portal

I'm being a lazy sod today and simply directing you to articles I'm finding interesting, we'll call it portaling, but now if I were British and rich and possibly a biologist or a psychologist, I'd write a very long and verbose book which would pose the intricate question "Why Do We Like What's Popular?". It would be a huge hit and years later would be used as a textbook at places like Dartmouth and Cornell. I'd wear +1.50 reading glasses constantly and I'd prefer a talented Cutty Sark over a di Saronno with ice.

I've always believed that people will like what you tell them to like. People will "get into" whatever you're selling them as long as you completely inundate them with it. Sort of like how politicians can buy their way into office. If you've got the cash, you can create the trends.

Let's talk a band like Cannibal Corpse. They're probably one of the most abrasive and least "accessible" bands on the planet. However, if I had a few million to burn, I could have the white- Gamecocks-hat-crowd loving Cannibal Corpse. Cannibal Corpse would headline all those alt-summer festivals, radio stations would play them once an hour and MTV would follow them around.

If you've got the money, you can dictate whats popular. It's simple. The guy with the biggest oar stirs the sea and makes the waves.

It's all about inundation and ubiquity. Deluge the "target audience" with your product and they'll be forced to like it. They'll have no choice but to play along because once the train starts rolling, its on auto-pilot. It doesn't matter what it looks or sounds like, it just needs to silently start somewhere and it'll pick up steam like a snowball in an avalanche.

The dog pile mentality is absolutely rampant in music. Most people like what's cool. Most people like what other people like. But what came first, the chicken or the egg? Who cuts the barber's hair? Who made it cool before the bandwagon started rolling? The guys with the money, that's who, motherfucker. The rest is completely psychological. Leave it alone and let the human gang mentality do its job. It's a nature thing, we all do it. Humans, monkeys, fish, giraffes, goats, its hard wired.

The days of payola and Top 40 Wolfman Jack may've passed but that's doesn't matter. There are new routes, new avenues, new ways to scientifically and psychologically make you like something.

So buried in the bottom of Clive Thompson's interview with the man who rebutted The Tipping Point (I just wrote about this dolt the other day actually, Malcolm Gladwell) is a description of a neat little study of how music catches on in subcultures.

Research scientist Duncan Watts gave eight online groups of people the same collection of songs and let them rate and discuss them. As people rated and talked in each group, certain songs became popular hits — but each time it was different songs. But wait, it gets worse.

Watts also set a control group, who rated the songs on merit without knowing anyone else's ratings. Ratings were much flatter in this group, with a few songs recognised as especially bad or good.

Meanwhile in the social groups:

"Nor did there seem to be any compelling correlation between merit and success. In fact, Watts explains, only about half of a song's success seemed to be due to merit. "In general, the 'best' songs never do very badly, and the 'worst' songs never do extremely well, but almost any other result is possible," he says. Why? Because the first band to snag a few thumbs-ups in the social world tended overwhelmingly to get many more. Yet who received those crucial first votes seemed to be mostly a matter of luck."
I'll leave you with, as I've oft before, some wise words from D.Boon and The Minutemen:
let the products sell themselves
fuck advertising and commercial psychology
psychological methods to sell should be destroyed
because of their own blind involvement in their own conditioned closed minds
the unit bonded together
let yourself be heard!
Science Proves You Just Like Music Because It's Popular {Gawker}

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

do you know the guy with the biggest oar?

if so, give him my numbah.