Story at a glance:

  • Researchers analyzed how music spreads within a community.
  • Electronica is the most infectious music genre.
  • The study analyzed song downloads from 33 countries.

Published Wednesday in The Royal Society journal, the study highlights how the pattern of music sharing and downloading among a group of people matches the way a virus spreads and infects a community. 


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Dora Rosati and a small team of researchers based in Canada used a standard model for mapping endemic diseases, an SIR model, to find trends in song downloads over time. They traced downloads on Nokia cell phones in 33 countries from 2007 to 2014. 

“There are many similarities between the release of a new hit song and the outbreak of an infectious disease. When an infectious disease first enters a population, it is transmitted from person to person via social interactions,” researchers wrote in the study. “After a new hit song is released, it also ‘spreads’ rapidly through a population, from person to person and through various media, eventually reaching some peak popularity and then diminishing in appeal.”

The model for endemic diseases fit the trend for how songs rise in popularity and are shared in a community. The results, researchers say, offer new insights into our social interactions.


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“It implies that a lot of the social processes that drive the spread of disease, or analogues of those processes, might also be driving the spread of songs,” Rosati told The Guardian. “More specifically, it supports the idea that both music and infectious diseases depend on social connections to spread through populations.”

“With a disease, if you come into contact with someone who is ill, then you have a certain chance of catching that disease. With songs, it looks very similar. The big difference is that for songs, it doesn’t necessarily have to be physical contact – it could be that my friend used this cool new song in their Instagram story, so now I’m going to go and find it,” she added.

The researchers also analyzed how different genres of music can spread faster or to a wider population. They found that electronica songs had a “faster spread” than other types of music, implying that there’s a stronger connectivity within the community compared to a larger and broader community that listens to more common genres, according to the study.

According to The Guardian, electronica is roughly 190 times more transmissible than measles. 


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Published on Sep 22, 2021