Music training may not make children smarter after all and secrets to predicting the next pop hit


Music training does not have a positive impact on children’s cognitive skills, such as memory, maths, reading or writing, according to a study published in Memory & Cognition.

To get a hit to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100, you need to be different but not too different, according to a new study.

Researchers Giovanni Sala at Fujita Health University, Japan and Fernand Gobet at the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK examined existing experimental evidence regarding the impact of music training on children’s non-music cognitive skills and academic achievement.

“Our study shows that the common idea that ‘music makes children smarter’ is incorrect. On the practical side, this means that teaching music with the sole intent of enhancing a child’s cognitive or academic skills may be pointless. While the brain can be trained in such a way that if you play music, you get better at music, these benefits do not generalize in such a way that if you learn music, you also get better at maths. Researchers’ optimism about the benefits of music training appears to be unjustified and may stem from misinterpretation of previous empirical data.” (To read the full article click here)

Researchers at Columbia Business School and INSEAD business school in France analyzed 26,000 Billboard hits between 1858 and 2016 to figure out what makes a pop a song a hit. Their findings were published in American Sociological Review.

It’s been made a DB which examine whether the musical features of nearly 27,000 songs from Billboard’s Hot 100 charts predict their levels of success in this cultural market.

In this video from the BBC series The Secret Science of Pop, you’ll see that there’s already an algorithm that’s predicting the next chart hit. The scary part is that no human actually listened to the songs involved. The world has certainly changed from the old days when a hit could be picked by a local DJ who played a song until the rest of the world caught on.

Last year, HitPredicor accurately predicted 48 of the top 50 hits. Thanks to their algorithms, there is no longer a need for talent scouts to go crawling through bars, or even overly rely on their “gut.” Proposals are handed in attached to a real-world indicator of popularity (like Shazam search numbers).

After breaking down each song by key, mode tempo and time signature, it was assigned a “typicality” score — a number that measured how similar the hit was to other songs released during the same time period.

Contrary to the claim that all popular music sounds the same, we find that songs sounding too much like previous and contemporaneous productions—those that are highly typical—are less likely to succeed. Songs exhibiting some degree of optimal differentiation are more likely to rise to the top of the charts.

“We found that songs with a somewhat below average typicality score tended to do better on the Hot 100,” said Michael Mauskapf, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at Columbia University. “To have the best chance of reaching the very top of the charts, a song needs to stand out from its competition, but not so much as to alienate listeners.”

The “typicality” score also accounted for an artist’s previous successes, as well the popularity of their record labels and the labels’ marketing budget. Overall, the authors found that the biggest hits sound just different enough to make a song feel like something new, without sacrificing the familiarity of the culture’s current trends.

Adele is cited as an artist with a perfect typicality number.hit

“What becomes popular next is likely to be slightly differentiated from the last round of hits, leading to a constant evolution of what is popular,” said Noah Askin, co-author of the study. “Popularity is a moving target, but the context always remains relevant. This is at least as much art as it is science.”


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