Music Makes the World Go ‘Round

For my first viz on my new shiny blog I wanted to dive into something that I care passionately about. There were many possibilities, including but not limited to:

  • Music
  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Something Science-y
  • Something regarding my awesome hometown of KCMO (Gotta rep the town!)

I settled on doing a music viz because I love music. There’s a line in the John Cusack movie, High Fidelity where he proclaims himself a professional appreciator of music. When I first heard this title I thought, “YES!!! That describes me perfectly. I shall forever be known as a professional appreciator of music.” To date, the distinct number of people who have called me that is two…my friend, Lee, from high who I saw the movie with & fellow prof. appreciator and myself. Oh well.

It should be noted that this movie came out in 2000, when I was junior in high school. At the time I thought I was at the height of my music discovery. Oh, how naive I was; but isn’t that what the formative high school years are for?

So I was searching through Socrata‘s massive collection of open data sources and stumbled upon a list of songs that you should hear before you die published by The Guardian in March of ’09. The data set is currently the 17th highest viewed on Socrata. I wonder what the other 52k+ people have/are doing with it?

The reason I felt this data was good for visualizing is because, besides having the song, artist and year; they also included the song’s theme. There were seven themes these songs could fall into.

Click here for the interactive dashboard

1k songs


According to a 2008 blog entry by Britannica (yes, the encyclopedia giant has gone digital…and they are blogging!) rock n roll was born in 1948 for several reasons including:

  • WWII was winding down and, as a result, when the soldiers came back communities became more diverse than ever so pop began mixing with the rhythm & blues.
  • A fellow from California, Leo Fender, would forever change the music landscape when he started mass producing the first electric guitar.
  • The invention of 12″ LP record. Artists could now have more room to experiment with their music.

If you look at the distribution of songs by single year (n=1), one can see that the line really starts in 1949, one year after the birth of rock n roll!

In my personal opinion, the 1960s was the best decade for music. Our data set would say otherwise (n=10), though not by much – only 15 fewer songs than the 1970s. There are many factors in our data, which could lead to swings in the number of songs per decade. Needless to say, I am standing firm that 60s were better.

So play around with it. Listen to some songs if you wish. In fact, an awesome chap by the name of Andrew Chadwick has compiled Spotify playlists for each of the theme’s in this list. You can check out his blog and links to his playlists here.

Are there any other trends you recognize or anything else you find interesting? Be sure to drop a comment below!

Are you a fellow Tableau user? I’d love to hear your thoughts and any ideas on how to make it better.

Until next time!

Download the Raw Data


7 thoughts on “Music Makes the World Go ‘Round

Add yours

  1. Hey Sean…Really nice viz. Kudos to your work..There's a small flaw though. The third song in the list should be “Kehna hi kya” and not “Kehma hi kya”..Being a hard-core follower of the composer, A R Rehman, I would love to see the correct song title, if it's a possibility 🙂


  2. Good work Sean. One thing I noticed: Madness: Baggy Trousers, the artist/title is flipped.
    Also: do you happen to know if this is a youtube playlist or similar anywhere?
    Some criminal omissions & odd choices here but everything's subjective.
    Nice charting!


  3. Hi Si,

    Yes, I am aware of some of the errors. This was my first ever Viz and I simply found this data source on the internet. I didn't do as much scrubbing as I probably should have.

    As far as the playlists goes, near the bottom of the post, I linked to blog post by Andrew Chadwick in which we had already separate spotify playlists for each theme.

    Thanks for the feedback!


  4. Very nice – good remembrance 🙂
    Only Thing I miss is attribution of each single song…
    But wait! Just detected the great feature “Clicking on a year will filter the list of songs below and the distribution of theme.”.
    And even more: Clicking on a year's attribute like “1968 Sex” gives you the 5 belonging songs!


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