Music never stops evolving, borrowing from the past as it forges the future. Every so often, a mutation occurs, leading to a never-before-heard style, which spreads around the world to various extents, depending on how the music resonates with people in other places.
We’ve seen it happen countless times. In the early ‘90s, a grungy Seattle upstart genre changed the way the the world listened to heavy guitar music, driving once-powerful hair metal bands to extinction overnight. In the ‘60s, British musicians “invaded” many areas of the world. And we all saw what happened when a Korean sensation called “Gangnam Style,” replete with its own signature dance, broke out on a global level.
We wanted to further examine how music spreads, and to understand the unique influence different cities exert around the world. To that end, Ajay Kalia, Product Owner of Taste Profiles at Spotify, examined genres that originated in three great European cities: Berlin, London, and Paris.
Spotify and The Echo Nest understand the most essential, popular, and emerging artists who make up each genre. By grouping each genre’s artists by their city of origin, we can calculate where each genre originated. After identifying the types of music most strongly associated with each origin city, Kalia then looked for destination cities where listening to each genre was disproportionately high.
Some of the results are expected. Of course Germans listen to the most German Indie. Others are a bit more surprising; Bass Music, created in London, is embraced most heavily by the music fans of far-off Auckland, New Zealand.
We calculated how many genres invented in Berlin, London, or Paris had migrated to each destination city, to determine which one had the strongest influence there. Here’s how new types of music created in these cities spread, much like migrating species (click the maps for the animated versions)
Musical styles created in Berlin have spread mostly throughout Germany and Europe, as well as points southeast across the Atlantic.
London, the European metropolis that has spawned the most genres, invented new kinds of music that mostly went to America and Australia, with no small degree of impact in Europe either.
Paris-invented genres are quite well traveled, appreciated by people in a really wide variety of places. To take just one example, French Pop’s top destinations are Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, Taipei, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Madrid, Valencia, Warsaw, and Bogotá.
Kalia found that while genres from London have spread to the highest number of destination cities, genres from Paris have spread to the most geographically dispersed cities, giving either city a claim to having the most musical influence.
“In particular, music from Berlin tended to stay close to home,” explained Kalia. “The cities that over-index on Minimal Techno, which originated there, are mostly other German cities — Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Hamburg — or nearby locales like Amsterdam and Paris.”
“Genres from London and Paris strayed further,” he added. “Pub Rock comes from London, but the genre has migrated to both nearby cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well further out to Madrid, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Portland.”
We decided that genres were created in a certain city if a large portion of the canonical artists for that genre were located there. By this metric, Grime was created in and around London, whereas French Pop was created in and around Paris. We then determined the top 50 destination cities for core songs from each genre. To normalize this data, we looked at how often those songs were played relative to how many total plays occurred there.
Finally, for each destination city, we determined whether Berlin, London, or Paris was the most influential city based on the number of genres from that origin city that had migrated to the destination city. If two origin cities had an equal number of genres that migrated to the destination city, both were given credit.
Here are some of the top destination cities for each origin city:
|Amsterdam (tie)||Bristol||Amsterdam (tie)|
|Barcelona (tie)||Edinburgh||Barcelona (tie)|
|Bergen||Amsterdam (tie)||Bogotá (tie)|
|Brussels (tie)||Austin||Cincinnati (tie)|
|Fort Worth (tie)||Brisbane||Istanbul (tie)|
|Frankfurt Am Main||Bronx||Lima|
|Munich (tie)||Fort Worth (tie)||Milan|
|Puebla (tie)||Las Vegas||New York|
|Rome (tie)||Leeds||Oakland (tie)|
|Rotterdam (tie)||Liverpool||Puebla (tie)|
|Stuttgart||Los Angeles||Rome (tie)|
|Tampa (tie)||Manchester||Rotterdam (tie)|
|Salt Lake City|