World & Nation

The United States of Music: Who listens to what, where [Map]

A new map tries to predict what you like to listen to based upon where you live in the USA. And it’s a bit more complicated, and controversial, than New Jersey = Bruce Springsteen. (Although, that is true.)

The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company that provides data for the likes of music delivery services such as iHeartRadio and Rhapsody, has taken on the daunting task of mapping the most distinctive artists, state by state.

Paul Lamere, director of developer platform at the Echo Nest, compiled the map using a complex aggregation of data from online music listeners, combined with lots of math. His goal was to go beyond the musicians and groups that were simply the top sellers.

PHOTOS: The United States of Music: Who listens to what, where


“If you made a map like that, it would be very boring. It would be Jay-Z. Macklemore. Lorde. All across the United States, the same artists are popular,” Lamere told the Los Angeles Times. “I was looking for the regional variance in artists.”

So he set out to find which artists are proportionately listened to more in one state than another. The result is a compelling breakdown that might have you reaching for your favorite online site to listen to artists you might have never heard of before -- and many that you have.

If you’re from Michigan, you like Young Jeezy. Washington, the Head and the Heart. Florida rolls with rapper Rick Ross. California? Bonobo.

Lamere said artists rose to the top based upon a variety of variables, including where an artist was born or raised, or currently lives. (Springsteen, of course, is New Jersey’s favorite son, so it’s a no-brainer that he’s ranks highest for that state.) 


Lamere compared his map’s approach to food. All across the United States, people love pizza and hamburgers. But the Philly cheese steak rules in Pennsylvania.

It’s a nuance that Lamere has spent the last few days defending online. The map gained widespread exposure after it was picked up by Digital Music News and Business Insider, and has been shorthanded as “favorite groups from each state." 

If you look at the comments on Lamere’s blog, Music Machinery, you can see where many people take issue with the findings, arguing that the map must be wrong because they’ve never heard of the artists who ranks highest for their state.

“People have had a pretty visceral reaction to it, especially if it’s an artist they don’t like, or if it’s someone they haven’t heard of,” Lamere said.

What state are you from, and what are you listening to? Tweet me @ReneLynch


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