Sunday 12 October 2014

Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014 - Who's The Most Popular?

As we mentioned last week, the nominees for the 2014 Northern Ireland Music Prize have been announced. To recap, here are the twelve albums to make the cut for this year's prize -

Alana Henderson - Windfall
Ed Zealous - Wired
Little Matador - Little Matador
Malibu Shark Attack! - Malibu Shark Attack
Mojo Fury - The Difference Between
More Than Conquerors - Everything I've Learnt
Rams' Pocket Radio - B├ęton
Robyn G Shiels - The Blood of the Innocents
Slomatics - Estron
Sullivan and Gold - For Foes
VerseChorusVerse - VerseChorusVerse
Wonder Villains - Rocky

Just like last year, I thought it would be interesting to do a little bit of number crunching to see just how popular the twelve artists nominated for the prize really are. Using data which I gleamed from the popular website, which records just how often artists are listened to digitally, I looked at how many individuals listened to each of them over a 4-week period. I then divided this number by four to give an average weekly listener figure, and ranked each artist from most popular to least popular.

Average Weekly Listeners On
(Time period covered - 31/08/14 - 28/09/14) 

  1. Alana Henderson - 699.25 w/a
  2. Wonder Villains - 84.75 w/a
  3. Ed Zealous - 73.75 w/a
  4. Slomatics - 66.75 w/a
  5. Little Matador - 51.75 w/a
  6. Rams' Pocket Radio - 23.5 w/a
  7. Mojo Fury - 23.25 w/a
  8. More Than Conquerors - 20.25 w/a
  9. Robyn G Shiels - 12.5 w/a
  10. VerseChorusVerse - 7.75 w/a
  11. Malibu Shark Attack! - 6.75 w/a
  12. Sullivan and Gold - 1.75 w/a
(For context, Two Door Cinema Club have an average weekly listener figure of about 29,500 p/w for the same period)

There are some interesting observations to be had from this information. The most striking aspect is that compared to the data we collated last year, the average weekly figures appears to be much lower. This year's #1 would have fitted in at #6 had it enjoyed the same amount of plays last year, whilst our #2 would have found itself down at #9 on the 2013 list. This seems to confirm our belief that this year's list is a lot less "mainstream" than last year's shortlisted acts.

In terms of the most listened to, the runaway winner by a country mile is Alana Henderson, no doubt given a massive boost through her membership of Hozier's live band, and is approximately 8 times more popular than the 2nd placed band, Wonder Villains. Slomatics are a lot more popular than I would have expected (they probably have a loyal following amongst devotees of the sludge-rock scene), whilst the only band signed to a major label, Little Matador, seem to be much lower than you might expect. And spare a thought for Sullivan & Gold, who bring up the rear despite "For Foes" being a rather lovely record.

Once again, I should stress that the data is not exactly scientific, and a few caveats should be noted. The data is based on users from, so unless the listener is a member of and listens to one of the artists' songs digitally, it wouldn't have been recorded. Therefore, artists who listeners prefer CDs or vinyl would not have the data collated. Also, the data is based on whether someone has listened to an artist over a 7 day period or not, and therefore a person listening to one track by an artist or a person listening to an entire album is treated equally.

I also thought it would be interesting to see which individual song taken from a nominated album is the most popular. In order to find this out, I used the data collated from Spotify, looking at the song with the most individual steams for each artist as of today.

Most popular individual track from each nominated album on Spotify:
(Snapshot from 12/10/14):

  1. Wonder Villains - Blonde - 67,108
  2. Alana Henderson - The Banks of The Roses - 48,065
  3. Rams' Pocket Radio - Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios - 46,865
  4. Little Matador - Stitch Yourself Up - 35,099
  5. More Than Conquerors - When The Well Runs Dry - 28,470
  6. Robyn G Shiels - Hello Death - 11,537
  7. Malibu Shark Attack! - Doing It Wrong - 6,233
  8. Ed Zealous - Diamonds For Eyes - 5,462
  9. Sullivan and Gold - Run Faster - 3,014
  10. Mojo Fury - Origami Bird - 3,010
  11. Slomatics - Troglorite - 3,000
  12. VerseChorusVerse - Our Truth Could Be Their Lie - 1,022
(For comparison's sake, one of the most popular songs of 2014, "Rude" by MAGIC!, currently has over 145,000,000 streams)

So well done to Wonder Villains and their song "Blonde", which is the most streamed song taken from an NI Music Prize nominated album, pushing Alana Henderson into 2nd place (although had all songs by nominated artists been included, Alana would have won hands down, as her "Song About a Song" currently has over 1.5 million streams, but wasn't included on "Windfall"). Both Ed Zealous and Slomatics appear lower down this list than the list, which could suggest that their listeners aren't big on using Spotify or listening to individual songs. And let's spare a thought for VerseChorusVerse, who brings up the rear with "Our Truth Could Be Their Lie".

Once again, this data is just a snapshot, so it should not be seen as scientifically rigorous, but it should give some general idea as to what are likely to be the most popular artists vying for this year's prize. Not that it's guaranteed to have any bearing on the final winner, any one of the twelve could come away with the award come November. It will be interesting to see which one claims the crown.

The Northern Ireland Music Prize will awarded at a ceremony in the Mandela Hall, Belfast on November 15th, Nominees Robyn G Shiels, Sullivan & Gold and More Than Conquerors will perform on the night, as will Therapy?.

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