What makes a song, a book or a movie a hit?
Those top ten lists have more power than you ever guessed.
“…whether or not a song became a “hit” was determined solely by whether it was perceived as already being popular… whatever gains an early advantage in popularity will win.”
An intriguing study published in the journal Science shows just how well this can work. The researchers invited twenty-seven teenagers to visit a Web site where they could sample and download songs for free. Some of the teens were told what songs previous visitors had downloaded, whereas others weren’t. Indeed, those told what songs their peers had chosen tended to download those very songs. But part two of the study was even more telling. This time, the teens were divided into eight groups and told only what had been downloaded by people from their own group. The researchers found that not only did the teens tend to choose the songs that had been previously downloaded by members of their groups, but the songs that became “hits” varied across all the groups. The implications were clear: whether or not a song became a “hit” was determined solely by whether it was perceived as already being popular. This is what I mean about the two-tier system: whatever gains an early advantage in popularity will win. This may not seem so bad at first, but look at it this way: if we’re duped into buying something just because it’s popular (even if it isn’t), think about all the great books or songs or CDs we might be missing simply because they weren’t on that “top ten” list.
Next time you see authors doing big pushes to increase pre-orders of their book, well, now you know why.
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