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February 11, 2005

My Musical Top Ten

Was scrolling through my computerized music collection today and thought to myself: Which bands to I have the most music from on my computer? And now I know:

1. Depeche Mode -- 157 songs (lots of remixes in here)
2. The Beatles -- 137 songs
3. U2 -- 126 songs
4. The Cure -- 110 songs
5. Kate Bush -- 104 songs
6. Metallica -- 100 songs
7. Tori Amos -- 82 songs
8. Nine Inch Nails -- 70 songs
9. Journey -- 68 songs
10. Tie: Tom Lehrer and They Might Be Giants -- 67 songs

Artists also represented by more than 50 tracks include Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Sarah McLachlan, Neil Finn/Crowded House/Finn Brothers, Iron Maiden, Billy Joel (I don't know why I have so much Billy Joel), Waylon Jennings, Howard Shore (the Lord of the Rings soundtracks), Pink Floyd, Oingo Boingo and Yaz(oo)/Alison Moyet/Erasure (oh, come on. Like Alison Moyet and Andy Bell don't sound the same).

What does it mean? Uhhhh, that I like all those artists? However, some of my favorite artists aren't on the list, including Daniel Lanois (36 songs in my collection), Brian Eno (47), kd lang (44), fairground attraction/Eddi Reader (36), Emmylou Harris (16), The Pretenders (36), and the La's (a mere three tracks on my computer). So I wouldn't necessarily call that top ten entirely representative of my personal tastes.

It's also not representative of, say, my entire CD collection, since I have a tendency to rip only tracks I want, rather than entire albums. So some bands are underrepresented on my computer, relative to their presence in my CD collection -- and newer bands are overrepresented, since I've stopped buying CDs as much and started buying more music online.

But it is interesting. As I said, who knew I had that much Billy Joel? It's not like my iTunes ever seems to play any. What does it know that I don't?

Who is most represented in your music collection? Because, you know, now I'm curious.

Posted by john at February 11, 2005 04:07 PM

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Saundra Mitchell | February 11, 2005 05:33 PM

For some reason, I find myself really surprised that you have any Depeche Mode, let alone that much Depeche Mode.

(Then I remembered that we're approximately the same age, and all belief to the contrary, I am not sixteen anymore. Then I had to go have a drink.)

John Scalzi | February 11, 2005 05:38 PM

Yeah, Depeche Mode was *the* band in my Southern California private school back in the mid 80s. If you didn't own the "slavery mix" 12" of "Master & Servant," you weren't *cool.*

Brennan | February 11, 2005 06:02 PM

So, what software are you using that made it so easy for you to compile this list? I'm presuming that you didn't go through and count tracks or something so twentieth-century.

John Scalzi | February 11, 2005 06:05 PM

I actually scrolled through iTunes to see which artists took the longest to go by and then used its search feature to pin down the exact number of songs. Not exactly as high tech as it could be, I know. But it worked!

Jas | February 11, 2005 06:24 PM

Were I to begin ripping CDs onto my computer, as I intend to do this weekend, I suspect that a rather large subset of the songs I'd rip will be Foo Fighters and Bel Canto. This is because I never buy music for myself, and I got three or four CDs of each of these bands from my then-fiance-now-wife as gifts for xmas or birthday.

Byron | February 11, 2005 06:32 PM

You can also go to the Browser and scroll through the artist list. The number of songs appears at the very bottom of iTunes.

A quick perusal shows Tom Waits at 196 and KMFDM at 168 as the top two with TMBG at 86 in third. The Tom Waits tracks are probably inordinately high due to his propensity for 30 second interstitial tracks (his long ass career also helps)

Brennan | February 11, 2005 09:22 PM

Thanks so much, Byron, that was the tip I needed. I'm not going to do a complete analysis, but my high-counts look to be Concrete Blonde (110), Depeche Mode (98), The Offspring (76), and TMBG (218!), as well as big batches of AC/DC, The Clash, and Queen.

Ryan Freebern | February 11, 2005 10:02 PM

Muslimgauze is in the lead with 1273. Then Nobuo Uematsu, the composer of most of the Final Fantasy music, with 1087. Nine Inch Nails is in a distant third with 273, then Ani Difranco with 259 and They Might Be Giants with 250.

Mikhail Capone | February 11, 2005 11:32 PM

Any of you guys ever checked out MagnaTune (www.magnatune.com)?

Their motto, as a music label, is "We are not evil". I guess it is open source philosophy applied to music. They use Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org) licenses, and you can either buy a digital version of the album, a physical CD version that you order, or you can even license the music for commercial use -- and you can listen and download all the music in 128kbps non-DRM mp3s. Listen before you buy and all that..

Phillip J. Birmingham | February 12, 2005 02:50 AM

I'm not counting, but I'm pretty sure the top five are Guided By Voices, Husker Du, Belle and Sebastian, The Pixies, and REM.

Mark Ensley | February 12, 2005 04:02 AM

I looked at my computer-stored music, and would have to say that it really doesn't match up with my actual taste except in a few cases. Then again, perhaps a *portion* of that music is *cough* demo *cough* tunes I've sampled *cough* through various file sharing services and not burned from CDs. I've never found it that onerous to just put a CD in the drive and fire up CD-player.

And there are those over 500 vinyl albums I'm not sure what to do with as I slowly migrate to having my music on the box or at least digital. Still waiting on a good digitizing / hiss pop removal tool for vinyl. Anybody know of one?

REM is pretty near the top of my computer count, though, so that's at least accurate.

Byron | February 12, 2005 04:30 AM

Mark: I can think of one, but last I checked it was $15,000 (its a record player that uses 5 lasers to read the track optically) :-)

Of course, if we were doing this properly we should be looking at proportion of musical collection. For instance, if someone's top artist is, say, 40 tracks and they only have 150 tracks total its much different than 200 tracks for the top hit out of a 20,000 track collection (which is not entirely in the realm of exaggeration---I've got somewhere between 5000-6000 tracks in iTunes and I don't consider my CD collection to be particularly large).

Yes. I know. I'm a geek.

Sue | February 12, 2005 08:40 AM

I only have about 500 songs on my iPod so far, so my totals are fairly low.

Duran Duran: 19
REM: 36
Queen: 17
TMBG: 12 (only because I iTunes doesn't seem to have their new album yet)
Weird Al: 38

And, like John, I didn't realize how much Billy Joel I have on iTunes: 14

I haven't had my iPod all that long, so I haven't really taken the time to put a lot of stuff on it. And what I do have tends to be only my absolute favorite music from an album, unless I've downloaded the album from iTunes.

dave munger | February 12, 2005 10:12 AM

Okay, this isn't too embarrassing. I find it reflects my wife's tastes more than my own, since our music is on the same computer:

Ella Fitzgerald 119
talking heads 57
yo yo ma 54
Asleep at the Wheel 53
Keith jarrett 48
The Canadian Brass 45
Duke Ellington 42
menuhin and grappelli 41
Jewel 40
miles davis 38

John Scalzi | February 12, 2005 10:24 AM

Greta always was hip.

Pat | February 12, 2005 11:56 AM

My collection's really starting to pile up. I've got over 2000 songs now, guess I haven't been cleaning up often enough. Most of it consists of progressive metal or rock, (ie: Dream Theater, Symphony X, Pain Of Salvation, Opeth) along with various types of metal. Then there's your classic rock.

Christopher Davis | February 12, 2005 02:54 PM

I am such a geek. I exported the iTunes library info to a text file, changed the line endings from Mac-style to Unix-style, and then ran:

tail +1 Library.txt | awk -F" " '{print $2}' | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn | head -10

to generate the actual list.

This does mean that any spelling change (or "with Artist" or the like) will throw the count off slightly, but with these numbers, it doesn't matter.

407 They Might Be Giants
310 The Beatles
220 James Taylor
138 Barenaked Ladies
136 10,000 Maniacs
134 U2
130 The Corrs
129 "Weird Al" Yankovic
124 R.E.M.
110 Fleetwood Mac
and bonus 11 & 12 spots, just for the juxtaposition value:
107 Alanis Morissette
105 Simon & Garfunkel

Christopher Davis | February 12, 2005 03:08 PM

(That argument to awk is actually a quoted tab character, if anyone tries to duplicate this, it's probably easier to use \t.)

derf | February 12, 2005 04:19 PM

1. Dvorak: 25:48:18
2. Beethoven: 13:57:02
3. Mahler: 12:58:16
4. Prokofiev: 11:39:30
5. TMBG: 9:47:11
6. Shostakovich: 7:41:02
7. Tchaikovsky: 3:46:08
8. Sibelius: 3:31:46
9. Rachmaninoff: 3:29:34
10. Stravinsky: 2:26:21

Total Collection: 105:12:34

So my top ten make up about 90%. I have stacks of CDs I haven't gotten around to ripping yet, though.

Pat | February 12, 2005 06:46 PM

Alright, since I couldn't exactly tell you earlier...

Pain Of Salvation 67
Dream Theater 62
Symphony X 49
Yngwie Malmsteen 47 (don't ask why)
Virgin Steele 44
Opeth 44
Porcupine Tree 43
Beatles 32
Megadeth 38

In the next few months, Zappa should be at the top of the list, along with Yes and Rush.

John H | February 12, 2005 08:47 PM

With only 1300 songs in iTunes, I have a large number of Beatles (167). The next highest are REM (56), Pink Floyd (45), Chicago (49), Offspring (39), Wynton Marsalis (32) and U2 (31).

Of course, this doesn't reflect the large amount of classical that show up under different composers.

Amitava D. | February 12, 2005 09:05 PM


To derf, I'm just curious, what is TMBG stand for?

John Scalzi | February 12, 2005 09:08 PM

They Might Be Giants.

Steve | February 13, 2005 03:36 AM

Strange exercise, but compelling nonetheless. (Definitely makes me feel my age.)

Beatles: 355; Joni Mitchell: 213; Neil Young: 209;
Frank Zappa: 204; Elvis Costello: 202; Philip Glass: 172; Bob Dylan: 175; Peter Gabriel: 173;
Led Zeppelin: 170;Pink Floyd: 169.

Again, numerous artists far lower on my list receive significantly more attention lately: Tori Amos: 110; Dead Can Dance: 103; Wendy Carlos: 60; Tool: 44 / A Perfect Circle: 36; Brian Eno: 43.

Seems we have a lot of folks born from the fifties through the seventies here...

Tim Walters | February 13, 2005 04:44 AM

Many thanks to Christopher Davis!

158 The Beatles
153 June Tabor
147 Steeleye Span
132 John Hartford
130 Pere Ubu
130 King Crimson
127 They Might Be Giants
126 Richard Thompson
118 Fred Frith
116 David Bowie

Also note:

113 The Loud Family
94 Game Theory

(which should arguably be added together, making Scott Miller the champeen)

107 Mill Run Dulcimer Band

(my dad's band)

103 Various Artists

(some folks doing data entry into CDDB aren't too clear on the concept)

100 Slaw

(my band--but it's only one album!)

100 Nic Jones

(pretty good for a guy most of whose catalog is not on CD due to being trapped in legal limbo)

97 krop-er0m

(also all from one album)

I also enjoyed looking at the list of artists I only have one song by, although I discovered, to my distress, that I have a Sting song on my hard drive. Maybe it's a Christmas song or something.

Matt McIrvin | February 13, 2005 05:38 PM

I listen to so much They Might Be Giants that I'm embarrassed to answer these iTunes polls. Even a shuffle-play sampling would reveal the extent of my preoccupation. Most people with this much TMBG have proportionally much more other music as well. The expanded "The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads" has been getting heavy rotation lately, though.

Bill Peschel | February 13, 2005 06:30 PM

Since I don't have an iPod, I had to do this Old School style (fingers and toes), but this is how the collection breaks down:

Beatles: 208, although there's a lot of "rare" (which nothing is in this digital age) oddities -- Christmas Club tracks, alt tracks, interview snippets. Still, in terms of albums, they're No. 1 in da house, followed by

Louis Armstrong: 120, including box sets with Ella Fitzgerald.

XTC: 113. I love creative snappy pop muzik.

Goon Show: Only 22 shows, but they make up a big part of the collection

Elvis: 100. No indicative, since that's from the Platinum box set.

U2: 82

Johnny Cash: 80, including tracks with Willie Nelson ("Storytellers") and Bob Dylan. Listening to them singing "You Are My Sunshine" is a hoot.

Jimmy Buffett: 70, nearly all of them "Cheeseburger in Paradise"

Enya: 66, nearly all of them "Orionco Flow"

TMBG: 59, followed by Dylan (58), Zappa (58), Eno (56), Talking Heads (46) and Liz Phair (44).

Unfortunately, I haven't spent much time with any of them lately, since the library just got in the Arkangle Complete Shakespeare, and I've been working my way through it. Man, that Richard 3 was one bad mother.

Richard Jones | February 13, 2005 10:46 PM

Jimmy Buffett, followed closely by Indigo Girls and then by U2. Those three lead the rest by a substantial margin.

Mark Ensley | February 14, 2005 07:18 AM

Thanks, Byron, but I was more hoping for some software fix I could use when plugging in my very good (but not $15K!) turntable's output into my sound card's input. Digital filter is what I'm really seeking, actually. I don't mind vinyl's quirks when actually playing vinyl, but on the computer I'd like a cleaner listen.

Interestingly enough for me, favorite doesn't seem to correspond to amount.

I get fascinated by certain artists, and accumulate a lot of their work in a short period of time, but in the long term my favorites are those which seem to include fewer more carefully chosen pieces.

Cool thread.

Henry | February 14, 2005 05:38 PM

Bach 333
Tom Waits 289
Beethoven 123
Jawbreaker + Jets to Brazil 112
Mozart 108
Modest Mouse + Ugly Cassanova 103
Bob Dylan 98
Nirvana 98
TMBG 87 (Wasn't sure how to count the one track I have of TMBG covering "Smells Like Teen Spirit" but it doesn't seem to have effected the ordering.)

Ryan, color me impressed with the muslimgauze collection. I'm still at 18.

rick mcginnis | February 15, 2005 09:31 AM

I have a lot of Germs tunes. And Motorhead. And Buck Owens.

John C. | February 15, 2005 10:37 AM

I have 6,683 tracks in my Nomad Jukebox. The top ten most represented artists are:

Elvis Costello - 403 Tracks (6%)
Stephen Sondheim - 401 Tracks (6%)
Ella Fitzgerald - 250 Tracks (4%)
U2 - 248 Tracks (4%)
John Williams - 217 Tracks (3%)
Benjamin Britten - 186 Tracks (3%)
Bob Dylan - 164 Tracks (2%)
Mandy Patinkin - 155 Tracks (2%)
Danny Elfman - 149 Tracks (2%)
The Who - 140 Tracks (2%)

Dan H. | February 15, 2005 01:13 PM

261 The Velvet Underground/Lou Reed

196 Dwight Yoakam

149 Cracker

143 AC/DC

125 The Who

122 Johnny Cash

75 Steely Dan

These are the top in both CD and mp3 collections. I'm listening to more AC/DC and the Who at the moment.

Annie | February 16, 2005 02:20 PM

And the votes from the other side of the ocean...
The top of my iTunes list is not extensive as I mostly prefer to play the CDs, but it looks like this:

Mathilde Santing 45 (Dutch singer/songwriter)

The Real Group 34 (Swedish group)

Simon & Garfunkel 33

Hanne Boel 31 (Danish singer, sounds like Tina Turner)

Lighthouse Family 30

Andrew Strong 22

Wilmer X (Swedish group) 22

Ella Fitzgerald 18

Norah Jones 11

Angelique Kidjou 8 (African singer)

rayyy | February 20, 2005 12:53 AM

iTunes says I have 1916 songs by a new artist called "Compilations". Never heard of them!

A n y w a y, in alphabetical order; Annie Lennox, Beach Boys, BBC Radio 4 (not really "songs"), Billy Connolly (ditto), Billy Joel (Hmmm, no comment), Blur, Bruce Springsteen, Deacon Blue, Eagles, Elton John, Enya, Erasure, Eurythmics, Kate Bush, Michael Nyman, The Pet Shop Boys, Phil Collins, The Shamen, Sting and (ta-da) Travis eat up a good share of my hard drive.

carly | June 5, 2006 06:17 AM

does any1 out there like 'dani california' by the red hot chili peppers?i reckon its a totally mad song LOL

CRIS | June 5, 2006 06:18 AM

why hasnt any1 been on this blog 4 like ages?

Anonymous | June 5, 2006 06:20 AM

is this thing like american or something coz in australia the times 8:19PM so i dunno wat country this is in but whatever!

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