2011 – Some Year-End Stats

I received my first iPod for Christmas, 2004. I’ve been working on building a good collection for seven years. In Sepetmber, 2008, I began to write about the process, and in September, 2009, I started writing short essays about the artists with the most songs. Right now, I’m plodding through Elton John, #45 in the big countdown.

Actually, there are only 44 artists left to do. I counted Eric Clapton twice (#15 and #26) in the original list of artists with ten or more songs. Perhaps this was understandable, since he had significant careers with several bands.

I’ve slowed down a bit, preparing two essays per month for the last few months. It can be a grind, but I’m compelled to finish what I started, sooner rather than later. These top musicians are complicated to evaluate; most have a long career, with as many as several hundred recordings. I don’t try to listen to every song; the best I can do is suggest a succinct collection of songs, based on what I already know, hoping to add a few gems by taking a last look at the reviews. Also, the number of artists that I expect to present a comprehensive list of songs has dwindled. The Beatles and possibly Creedence Clearwater may receive that treatment. It has become easier to have a sharp axe, and eliminate mediocre hit songs, or a pleasant album cut that does not augment the breadth of expression.

I usually spend a 5-10 days listening to each artist’s music before I begin writing. I like to get the ratings in order first. Some artists get old after a while, but I detour into other music often enough to keep my sanity. I organize the thoughts in my head, then hope it spills out OK.

I can’t imagine completing the 44 remaining essays this year. Two years sounds about right. I wish I could do it faster, but two per month appears to be the going rate; I’ve devoted a considerable amount of time this year. I have another nice writing project, a book about golf architecture, that is ready to pick up on a moment’s notice, but I move ahead with the blog, working towards the finish line. It’s a far more emotional project, and the only reason I would stop now is to take a sanity break.

The grand plan is to select 48 more artists to profile, for a round total of 200. The extra 48 profiles would be shorter, but might still take a year or more. Instead, I might eliminate two profiles for a total of 150. In either case, I will reorder the artists into a final countdown, perhaps using number of stars awarded as the ranking criteria. The rankings have moved around significantly since the project began. No matter how I order the list, it’s the artist selected, those that entered my life somehow, that matter.

As of August 27th, 2009, I finished rating all the songs in the original collection. Here’s how it broke down 28 months ago:

8244 songs
97 five star songs: 1.2%
915 four star songs: 11.1%
2615 three star songs: 31.7%
3492 two star songs: 42.4%
1112 one star songs: 13.5%
12 zero star songs: 0.1%

Today, December 27th, 2011, the collection looks like this:

9246 songs
98 five star songs: 1.1%
895 four star songs: 9.7%
2659 three star songs: 28.8%
4100 two star songs: 44.3%
1483 one star songs: 16.0%
11 zero star songs: 0.1%

Since August, 2009, I have added 1454 songs to the collection. 452 songs have been removed, though 100-150 of these are replacement versions of songs, with better sound quality. Today, songs are a bit less likely to receive a high or low ranking; after so much listening, more songs sound like twos or threes as I progress. Still, the 1%/10% distribution of fours/fives stays intact, and that’s without much forethought. Overall, the collection, though only moving from 8200 to 9200 songs, is much improved.

Happy New Year, everybody. Please know that I don’t promote or advertise the blog at this time. I appreciate my friends who check in periodically. It’s a five plus year project, after which I’d decide if and how I’d clean it up and present it. I’m one of the first guys to rate songs individually, which is how iTunes and other online music shops work. Some people find rating music abhorrent; please understand I am trying to honor the music, and offer suggestions based on what sounds best to me.

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