A Data Visualization Blog by Kyle Biehle (on twitter @kbiehle2)
Friday, October 8, 2010
Austin City Limits Popularity Contest
The Austin City Limits Music Festival is taking place this weekend. Browsing the list of performers, a few questions came to mind. First, what were The Eagles doing there? And second, why was Richard Thompson so far down the list? How is the billing order established when there are 125 bands to sort? As it turns out, Richard Thompson probably got better than he deserved.
As is the case with all mega-festivals and Hollywood blockbusters, the billing order is determined by the perceived "StarPower" of the artist. This ranking may also influenced by the demands of the artists, unless you're Spinal Tap, in which case your billing will forever follow the "Puppet Show".
A nice feature for the ACL Festival attendees is the ability to create custom online schedules, filling in the bands they plan to see. The number of fans who are planning to see each artist is visible on the line-up page when you mouse-over the artist's name. So, with a little elfin magic, we can see how the billing order established by the festival organizers matches up with an artist's actual popularity, as voted on by the 40,000 plus attendees (or wannabe attendees) who have taken the time to fill out a custom schedule.
This viz plots the ACL organizers' rank along the X-axis and the Fan rank along the Y-Axis. If the ACL rank and the Fan rank are in agreement, the artist's name should fall on the superimposed trend line. If the artist is more popular than ACL figured, they will be to the left of the line. If they don't have quite the draw that the artist's agent had hoped for, then they will be to the right of the line. The color coding follows the text sizing on the line-up page where Blue are the big names, Orange are the mid tiers, and Grays are everybody else.
For the most part, the organizers got it right. You can see how the tiers of artists are grouped together: blue on top, orange in the middle and gray at the bottom. When you see the colors overlapping (e.g. When gray is above orange), this is where the billing doesn't match the fan votes.
The most popular artist based on schedule adds is the one closest to the top, which turns out to be the Black Keys. Despite their billing of 18th (Following top/bottom left/right ordering), 53% of of the attendees are planning on seeing them. Unfortunately, Richard Thompson is pushing left. ACL have him 45th - the fans have him at 90.
The biggest outlier is The Verve Pipe who were billed 118th out of 125, but ranked 36th by the fans with 6,120 schedule adds. You may not remember The Verve Pipe's hit from 1996 The Freshmen, but clearly 15% of the ACL attendees remember it (or at least recognize the name). Or maybe half of those people are getting the Verve Pipe mixed up with The Verve. I know I always did.
So with the added benefit of double name recognition/confusion, why are the Verve Pipe so far down the bill? Well, it turns out they've just recently re-formed and are now playing children's music. They are actually performing at the Festival-within-a-Festival: Austin Kiddie Limits. So if the 6,000 fans who are planning on seeing them are disappointed, or if all of the little tiny chairs are taken by the time they arrive, you can't blame the Pipe: they "Won't be held responsible".
And going forward, if you get the two bands confused, you can keep them straight by remembering that the Verve PIPE play children's music, and the Verve were sued by the Rolling Stones.