2019-05-29 // Winner Wednesday: Does SoundCloud Have More Edge?

Who's happy and who's sad? On this Winner Wednesday, we're looking at song valence at the top of SoundCloud and QQ Music's charts....chartmetric.com @chartmetric #winnerwednesday #musicindustry #business #data #nerdout #analysis

  • It’s Winner Wednesday, and we’re scanning the top of the SoundCloud and QQ Music charts to see what moods are winning out on two very different streaming platforms. 
  • Good morning, it’s Rutger here at Chartmetric with your 3-minute Data Dump where we upload charts, artists and playlists into your brain so you can stay up on the latest in the music data world.
  • This is your Data Dump for Wednesday, May 29th, 2019.
Winner Wednesday:
  • Welcome back to this week’s Winner Wednesday, where we’re scanning the SoundCloud and QQ Music charts to see what song valences are winning out on those two very different streaming platforms.
  • First, what the heck is valence? Think of it as the mood or emotional quality of a track. With high valence songs, there’s going to be more positive or cheerful energy, and low valence songs are going to sound a bit more negative, sad, or angry. In other words, 100 percent valence suggests a song might be the happiest you’ve ever heard. 0 percent valence suggests it’s going to be downright depressing.
  • Note that we measure valence irrespective of lyrical content, so there’s plenty potential for a low valence song to have uplifting lyrics, but that’s not typically the case.  
  • Looking at the top of the SoundCloud charts for May 18-24, there’s a clear and unsurprising frontrunner when it comes to genre: hip-hop. In fact, the genre overwhelms the Top 100 consistently, making the Swedish-founded streaming service almost exclusively important to the rap scene. 
  • Why does this matter for valence? SoundCloud was crucial for helping niche sub-genres like emo rap and trap — both of which tend to be characterized by melancholy — go mainstream. So much so, in fact, that dark and gritty “SoundCloud rap” has become a genre altogether.   
  • So, is it borne out in the data? For the most part, yes. At No. 1, “Shotta Flow” by NLE Choppa has a 45 percent valence measurement; at No. 3, “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X is at 47 percent; and if we dip down to No. 4 and No. 5, “Pop Out” by Polo G featuring Lil TJay is only at 25 percent and Earfquake by Tyler, the Creator is only at 41 percent. The outlier here is “Suge” by DaBaby, which is at No. 2 with 85 percent valence.  
  • And that brings us to Chinese streaming service and Tencent subsidiary, QQ Music. 
  • Looking at the platform’s Western Music Chart behavior during a similar timeframe, pop and dance are the genre frontrunners, with 50 of 96 songs tagged with those genre identifiers. 
  • Here, hip-hop only accounts for eight. 
  • With pop and dance frontloading QQ Music’s Western Music Chart, you’d probably expect high valence songs at the top. Would you be right?
  • “Me!” by Taylor Swift featuring Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie, “Rescue Me” by One Republic, and “If I Can’t Have You” by Shawn Mendes hit the high notes here with 66, 64, and 82 percent valence measurements, respectively. But Carly Rae Jepsen and Lana Del Rey, at No. 4 and No. 5, bring out our sensitive side with 37 and 45 percent. 
  • Taking the average valence of the top five on each of these charts gives us a total score of 48.6 percent valence for SoundCloud. QQ Music, meanwhile, is a bit less moody at 58.8 percent valence. 
  • So, does SoundCloud have more edge? We can’t say that definitively across the board, but we can say that the top of the SoundCloud Chart is less positively valenced than the top of QQ’s Western Music Chart when it comes to mood — and it’s all in the genres each streaming service caters to, which might suggest something about audience geography. Does China have a bigger appetite for happy pop than Westerners with a palette more open to edgy rap?
  • That’s it for your Daily Data Dump for Wednesday, May 29th, 2019. This is Rutger from Chartmetric.
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  • Have a winning Wednesday, see you tomorrow!

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