Music streaming service Spotify currently has 232 million active users a month and hosts over
50 million songs.
And now that these hundreds of millions of people from all over the world listen to their songs on the same platform, a question arises…
What on earth are they listening to?
Well, Spotify gives us a pretty accurate idea of that. Because every day, for 60 countries, Spotify tracks the 50 favorite, well, tracks.
The Top 50 charts for these 60 countries are generated by
counting the amount of streams per song and connecting this to the country in which it is
At the same time, for every track on their platform, Spotify provides data for thirteen audio features. Of which the most independent measures are: Danceability, Valence and Tempo.
By bringing the scores for each feature together for each country, we might be able to identify their musical DNA.
Let’s get it started, what is Danceability all
Danceability describes how suitable a track is for dancing based on a combination of musical elements including tempo, rhythm stability, beat strength, and overall regularity.
From this dataset, this song scores highest for Danceability.
And this should be the least Danceable song.
Next up: Valence. Valence is a measure from describing the
musical positiveness conveyed by a track. Tracks with high valence sound more positive (e.g.
happy, cheerful, euphoric), while tracks with low valence sound more negative (e.g. sad,
This is the happiest and most euphoric tune from the list.
And this song is most likely to make you sad and angry.
And to finish it off, let’s raise the Tempo.
Tempo measures overall estimated tempo of a track in beats per minute (BPM). In musical
terminology, tempo is the speed or pace of a given piece and derives directly from the
average beat duration.
This is the song with the most beats per minute from this dataset (to be exact, it has a BPM of 214)
And this track moves at a lethargic 72 beats per minute.
So now that we know what the world is listening to. We can group the countries that listen to
similar music and share similar musical DNA.
Perhaps the world would be a little more in tune if its countries weren’t arranged by latitude but by la-ti-da…
When we lay out these countries we can see that countries that are close are not always
Let’s see what happens when we shuffle our countries and let our algorithm sort them according to their musical DNA.
Which new continents will emerge?
The first continent that appears consists mainly of Central American and South American
countries, a Caribbean island and two European countries: Italy and Spain.
From all countries, these listen to the most cheerful songs (Valence) with the highest Danceability. Tempo-wise they are moderate.
Apart from Italy all these countries are Spanish speaking. With the happiest musical DNA of all, we call this continent Alegria, meaning ‘cheerfulness’ in Spanish (Allegria in Italian).
Our next continent is made up of quite a diverse bunch of countries that stretch from Oceania, and Asia to Western Europe. We call this continent Middle of the Road. Given that their preferred music doesn't really stand out. They score reasonably high on Danceability, moderately on Valence and moderately on Tempo.
A smaller continent forms, consisting of South East Asian countries only. The music they listen to scores moderately on Danceability, low on Tempo but most strikingly: lowest of all on Valence. Making their music the saddest of all. Enter Sad East Asia.
Meet Japan. Nobody quite listens to music like they do in Japan (and by listening, we
definitely do not mean dancing). Songs most popular in Japan score lowest on Danceability
and lowest on Tempo (moderately on Valence).
We call this continent Akon because, well… ‘Lonely’.
This new continent features countries from all over the world be it countries with mostly Western styled cultures. They like their music to score high on Danceability, moderate on Tempo but low on Valence. Considering that they don’t want music that sounds all too happy but they do appreciate a good and danceable beat, we decided to rename this continent: The Kanye West.
Meet four countries from South America that just want it all. They enjoy high Danceability, high Valence and the highest tempo of all countries. We call this continent Ritmo. Meaning ‘Tempo’ in both Spanish and Portuguese. The two languages spoken in this new continent.