Why Fandom Matters For Artists (Outliers, Pt. 2)

In my previous blog post, we learned why it’s important to focus your attention outside the box in order to identify talented artists who don’t quite fit the industry standard. We used boxplots, a statistics graphing method, to allow us to easily spot those outliers. The results ended up confirming that Olivia Rodrigo is an outlier in terms of audience growth, measured by Spotify listeners.

But how did Rodrigo’s fanbase grow so rapidally to extraordinary numbers? It’s widely accepted in the music industry that having a small but loyal army of listeners is what allows emerging artists to “break-through”. In fact, Zoe Scaman does a superb job of explaining the critical role that Fandoms play as “the new dominant cultural and commercial currency.” In other words, Olivia Rodrigo’s launch to fame could be attributed to her massive fanbase of evangelical followers.

But just how massive is her fanbase, and how do they compare to those of her contemporaries?

The rest of the article with examine Rodigo’s audience across 3 popular social media platforms, and we’ll use some visuals to help us identify where her data stands relative to the rest of the observations in the dataset. If you’d like a detailed description of each variable that I’m using or want to see my source code, feel free to checkout my Github repository.


The Data Set

The data set that I’m analyzing consists of the top 100 trending audio tracks for the week of January 21st, which aggregates data for the previous 7 days. After filtering the data down to only tracks with isrc’s, I ended up with 87 unique records. For each artist, I collected the number of followers across 3 popular platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok) for two dates: January 21st and December 31st so that I can compare the differences between a week before and a week after Olivia Rodrigo’s release of Drivers License.


Twitter Followers

Min: 0 / Mean: 1,496,840 / Max: 25,555,887 / 25th percentile: 2,028 / Median: 21,915 / 75th percentile: 1,025,623 /  Interquartile range (IQR): 1,023,595
Min: 0 / Mean: 1,496,840 / Max: 25,555,887 / 25th percentile: 2,028 / Median: 21,915 / 75th percentile: 1,025,623 / Interquartile range (IQR): 1,023,595

Looking at the boxplot distributution of Twitter followers before and after Tiktok, we learn that Olivia’s fanbase is average at best. The median number of followers on December 31st is 21,915 and the average is 1,496,840 (the outliers is what’s distorting the average number so median is the best measurement to capture the majority of our data). Even though Olivia’s 127,746 fans on Twitter is more than the median, she still falls within 1 standard deviation on a normalized distribtuion.

Standard deviation is a measurement of dispersion that indicates variation of a set of values.

After the observation week, Rodrigo increases her Twitter fanbase by 270% to nearly 500k, which is still within the interquartile range (IQR) and not significantly better than the rest of the artists in the set. However it is worth noting she is the only artist in the group to increase followers by more than 50%.

Min: 0 / Mean: 1,515,665 / Max: 25,536,399 / 25th percentile: 2,030 / Median: 26,522 / 75th percentile: 1,042,067 / Interquartile range (IQR): 1,040,037
Min: 0 / Mean: 1,515,665 / Max: 25,536,399 / 25th percentile: 2,030 / Median: 26,522 / 75th percentile: 1,042,067 / Interquartile range (IQR): 1,040,037

Insights

  • No artist in this data sample moved from the middle 50% to the top 25% of total followers
  • Olivia Rodrigo is the only artist in this sample to double their followers from Dec. 31 – Jan. 21

Instagram Followers

Min: 419 / Mean: 5,210,209 / Max: 125,577,146 / 25th percentile: 76,247 / Median: 285,188  / 75th percentile: 2,678,490 / Interquartile range (IQR): 2,602,243
Min: 419 / Mean: 5,210,209 / Max: 125,577,146 / 25th percentile: 76,247 / Median: 285,188 / 75th percentile: 2,678,490 / Interquartile range (IQR): 2,602,243

Data from Instagram provides more useful insights that explain where many of Olivia’s fans spend their time. On December 31st, 9 days before the release of Drivers License, she has 2,361,247 followers which is right on the cuff of the upper quartile (75th percentile), which is 2,678,490. Technically, she is still in within the IQR, but with just a nudge, she can propel herself to the top 25% of artists. A week after her big release is just what Olivia Rodrigo needed to make herself standout from the rest of the pack. By January 21st, her fanbase increases by 111%, doubling the number of followers again but on a completely different platform. This time, however, the latter value deviates enough from the middle 50% that she is now in the top 25% of artists for number of Instagram followers.

Min: 425 / Mean: 5,338,401 / Max: 127,943,242 / 25th percentile: 81,253 / Median: 298,477 / 75th percentile: 2,711,238 / Interquartile range (IQR): 2,629,985
Min: 425 / Mean: 5,338,401 / Max: 127,943,242 / 25th percentile: 81,253 / Median: 298,477 / 75th percentile: 2,711,238 / Interquartile range (IQR): 2,629,985

Insights

  • Olivia Rodrigo is the only artist in this sample to move from the middle 50% to the top 25% of total IG followers
  • Olivia Rodrigo is one of two artists in this sample who doubled their IG followers. The other artist is Papu DJ & L-Gante whose song, L-Gante Rkt, spent 35 days on the chart versus just 12 days for Drivers License.
  • Despite Papu DJ and L-Gante doubling their followers to 17k, they still fall short of the median value (298k)

Tiktok Followers

We see a similar pattern with data from Tiktok. December 31st, Olivia has 1.4 million followers, which is just a hair above the 75th percentile (+75k) for the rest of the data points. Leveraging the power of Tiktok’s viral-hit machine, her fanbase increases by 197% to 4.1 million followers on January 21st.

Min: 493 / Mean: 2,582,710 / Max: 33,300,000 / 25th percentile: 361,975 / Median: 956,750 / 75th percentile: 1,475,000  /Interquartile range (IQR): 1,113,025
Min: 493 / Mean: 2,582,710 / Max: 33,300,000 / 25th percentile: 361,975 / Median: 956,750 / 75th percentile: 1,475,000 /Interquartile range (IQR): 1,113,025
Min: 17,100 / Mean: 2,803,232 /  Max: 34,800,000 / 25th percentile: 396,200 /  Median: 1,027,850  / 75th percentile: 2,075,000 /  Interquartile range (IQR): 1,678,800
Min: 17,100 / Mean: 2,803,232 / Max: 34,800,000 / 25th percentile: 396,200 / Median: 1,027,850 / 75th percentile: 2,075,000 / Interquartile range (IQR): 1,678,800

Insights

  • Olivia Rodrigo is the only artist in this sample to move from the middle 50% to the top 25% of total IG followers
  • Olivia Rodrigo is one of two artists in this sample who doubled their Tiktok followers. The other artist is Erica Banks whose song, Buss It, spent 33 days on the chart versus just 12 days for Drivers License.
  • Despite having doubled her Tiktok followers, Banks still falls short of the median value (1 million followers) with only 55k Tiktok followers

Final Insights

  • Prior to the release of Drivers License, Olivia Rodrigo dominated the majority of her contempories in terms of Instagram and Tiktok followers
  • Unlike Erica Banks and Papu DJ & L-Gante, who were the only other artists to double followers on Tiktok and Instagram respectively, Olivia Rodrigo was the only artist to double their fanbase on all 3.
  • Papu DJ & L-Gante don’t have Twitter or Tiktok accounts, which can hurt their streaming performance overall. Their 17k IG followers is less than the median value (298k)
  • Erica Banks’ followers on Twitter is equal to the median value on Dec. 31st; also her 126k IG followers is less than the median value (285k)
  • Olivia Rodrigo’s unprecedented success can be partially attributed to her huge fanbase, relative to the other artists, on 2 out of 3 social platforms.
  • I think being just a singer or a musician in this day and age isn’t enough to make a career out of music. One of the components that made Rodrigo so successful is her ability to have a back-and-forth dialogue with her fans, even if she’s not releasing hit singles. If you want to be a successful artist today, you have to do more than just create an account to post your music. Anything other than genuine connections with fans will be snubbed by the Gen-Z audience and tossed to the curb.

Further Analysis

In my next post, I will investigate the following questions. What social platforms have the strongest relationship with streaming activity? Does it matter for an artist if they don’t have a Tiktok account? What matters more: being on Tiktok, Instagram, Twitter, or all 3?Hope you all enjoyed this article. Feel free to comment with any ideas that my research might have ignited in your head.


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