The Importance of Outliers in the Music Industry

In statistics, an outlier is a data point that differs significantly from other observations. An outlier may be due to variability in the measurement or it may indicate experimental error; the latter are sometimes excluded from the data set. So the type of data should always be taken into consideration when deciding whether to keep or omit outliers.


In the music world, outliers play a critical role in determining which artists stand out from the pack. Since these breakout artists are not average, if you’re looking to find the next Billie Eilish, you’ll have to look outside the box and find examples with extreme values. Olivia Rodrigo is the most recent musician who fits this description. Rodrigo’s latest release, “Drivers License“, has broken multiple records in its first week. According to Spotify, the song had set the platform’s record for most streams in a day for a non-holiday tune on Jan. 11. It then beat its own record on Jan 12. And if you compare all the artists who reached the top 100 tracks on Tiktok from January 15th to January 21st, Olivia Rodrigo differs significantly from the other observations in terms of Spotify listener growth.

But, just how special is she?

In order to find out, we need to compare the data point against the interquartile range(IQR). IQR represents the majority of your data; it includes everything between the 25th(first quartile) and 75th percentile(third quartile) of the dataset. If one were to sort all the values in chronological order, the median is the value right smack in the middle. In this particular case, the median value for the number of listeners gained or lost is approximately 12,000 in one week; the IQR is 113,708, which means that 50% of the values lie between -473 and 113,235.In other words, 25% of the artists in our sample lost at least 473 listeners wheras 75% percent are below 113,235 listener gain. So, looking back at Rodrigo’s performance, which indicates an increase of 10 million listeners, she is in the top 1% of artists.

All Data Acquired via Chartmetric
All Data Acquired via Chartmetric
Tiktok Trending Artists - Summary Statistics of Spotify Listener Growth (January 15 - January 21)
Tiktok Trending Artists – Summary Statistics of Spotify Listener Growth
(January 15 – January 21)

In my opinion, the boxplot(above) perfectly captures the significance of “Driver’s License” as one of the biggest songs in the world right now. When you take a step back and look at the most popular songs on the most popular social media app, the majority of the artists don’t even double their listeners. Yet, here comes a 17 year-old girl who exceeds everyone’s expectations; she even runs circles around the top 25% most viral tracks when it comes to audience growth. Erica Banks, who released the viral, dance-hit “Buss It“, actually experienced the second biggest listener growth on Spotify; but her 872k additional listeners, is dwarfed by Rodrigo’s 10 million-and-change.

Olivia’s ability to create a powerful, breakup song connecting millions of people so rapidly is a testiment of her unique talent, best summed up as an Outlier.


INSIGHTS
  • Olivia Rodrigo is a true outlier as indicated by the boxplot shown above
  • The majority of the artists experienced listener growth within the range of -473 and 113,235
  • Recognizing real outliers can help identify promising emerging artists for future investment

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