iTunes Wants You To Listen To Lionel Richie All Night Long

Mar 11th, 2007 | By | Category: General, iPods & Portable Media Players, Strange

Lionel RichieEver wonder why your iPod seems to play certain songs over and over?

According to recent research, Apple wants you to listen to Lionel Richie, but not Led Zeppelin or John Mayer, on your iPod.

Researchers set up Apple’s iTunes to create multiple random playlists of songs that were purchased from iTunes or ripped from CDs. Then they counted up how many times each tune was put on a playlist.

Here’s what they found:

  • Pop singles were rotated onto playlists far more frequently than would be expected. Some artists, having just one song in the iTunes Library, were played more often than the entire 5-song collections of other artists.
  • Artists and singles purchased through iTunes were played more frequently than those that were not.
  • Four songs — Christina Aguilera’s At Last, Creed’s What’s This Life For, Crowded House’s World Where You Live and Led Zeppelin’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine — were in the iTunes Library but were not chosen for any of the 40 playlists generated during this exercise.
  • Lionel Richie (Universal) was iTunes’ favorite artist.
  • Def Leppard (Universal) was iTunes’ favorite artist among songs ripped from CD.
  • John Mayer (Sony) was iTunes’ least favorite artist among iTunes downloads.
  • Oasis (Sony) was iTunes’ least favorite artist.
  • Songs from Universal and EMI showed up in more play lists than their share of the iTunes Library would suggest.
  • Songs from Warner and Sony showed up in fewer play lists than their share of the iTunes Library would suggest. The disparity was striking in Sony’s case, with the company’s songs accounting for 34.18% of the songs available, but chosen for just 18.8% of possible playlists.

Results like this seem to indicate iTunes favors music purchased through the iTunes store over music ripped from CDs. It also appears that iTunes favors Universal’s music over hardware rival Sony’s music.

Larger studies are probably needed to determine if these conclusions are valid, or if they are just random variations in a relatively small pool of data. .

No Responses to “iTunes Wants You To Listen To Lionel Richie All Night Long”

  1. P-Dub says:

    Two things wrong with the implications of this story. First the sample was way too small. The portion about whether one label is favored over another is based on a playlist of only 196 songs. The other, perhaps more important, thing to consider is what RANDOM means. For a selection to be truly random it means that any possible selection has the same chance as any other selection coming up any time a selection is made. That means that if you made a random selection of 50 songs from your ipod full of songs, that the odds that your iPod would select Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” all 50 times is just as likely as it picking 50 completely different songs. If every single selection is truly random, and not influenced in any way, there would be nothing to prevent this from happening. Most people don’t think of randomness in this way.

    Randomness does have a way of usually distributing itself more evenly the larger the number of selections (like bazillions). So according to my understanding of the mathematical concepts involved here… this article is pretty meaningless.

  2. info says:


    You could be right about the anomalies of randomness.

    Mamase mamasa mamakusa!

  3. Yomama say says:

    Say you, say me;
    Say us, say we……

    You just ruined my day!

  4. podcastmama says:

    No, Info, honey, “mamase mamasa mama kusa” is from a Michael Jackson song (You’re a vegetable, you’re a vegetable, a buffet (?!?) you’re a vegetable — remember?), not Lionel Richie.

    Lionel Richie was “ohhhh what a feeling…. when you’re dancing on the ceiling,” with a video that ripped off Fred Astaire.

    Perhaps this is just another example of the cruelness of randomness — like how our passport applications got processed in an out-of-order, random fashion.

  5. Murphy says:

    If iTunes was truly gaming the manner in which songs are chosen at random, why wouldn’t it be set to pick Steve Jobs’ favorite artists ‚Äî like Dylan and the Beatles ‚Äî after all, isn’t Jobs the Dark Overlord of digital music? (I’m kidding, Steve)

    P-Dub is dead on the money, by the way ‚Äî about the nature of randomness and the number of songs in the random sampling. There’s a chapter-long discussion of this “issue” in The Perfect Thing by Steven Levy that reaches the same conclusions.

  6. jzitt says:

    Well, podcastmama, Michael Jackson did quote “Mama ko mama sa mama makossa”, but it’s certainly not originally his — check out the much earlier “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango, which popularised this riff in the 60s.

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