How does terrorism affect Ariana Grande’s record sales?

As the smoke cleared on the terrible incident in Manchester and we were able to clear our heads, I began to reflect on the wider implications of what had happened. While such incidents are a tragedy that we would all would rather not have happened, it does provide us opportunities to study aspects of human behaviour we may not always have access to.

Take the adage, “all publicity is good publicity”, for example. It is often debated. Islam is the fastest growing religion in America since 9-11. Over a 6-week period, United Airlines share price actually went up after they got caught smashing up passengers luggage. So I wondered how this event would affect Ariana Grande’s record sales.

Hypthesis

If all publicity is good publicity, we should see Ariana Grande’s record sales increase. This is because the event would cue people to think of her. This would then remind them that they liked her music and go listen to her. Just like it being Friday cues people to go listen to Rebecca Black (sans the good music), as Johan Burger points out in his book Contagious.

So, I devised a very rudimentary experiment. I took the top five Ariana Grande songs on Spotify and recorded the number of listens they had. I then went back five days later and recorded the numbers again. To give us some control data to compare against, I also recorded the numbers for two similar artists: Bridget Mendler and Selena Gomez.

Results

Who Title Before After Change
Ariana Grande Side To Side 483,693,301 488,517,489 1.00%
Everyday 87,312,820 90,227,131 3.34%
Into You 402,080,468 405,415,980 0.83%
Beauty and the Beast 46,523,887 48,558,482 4.37%
Dangerous Woman 302,768,313 314,709,898 3.94%
Bridget Mendler Atlantis (Remix) 3,970,759 4,244,286 6.89%
Ready or Not 38,800,495 38,964,677 0.42%
Atlatnis 7,420,371 7,508,751 1.19%
Can’t Bring This Down 976,257 1,043,250 6.86%
Determinate 10,182,265 10,295,213 1.11%
Selena Gomez It Aint’e Me 370,200,812 391,055,885 5.63%
Bad Liar 15,302,371 33,020,985 115.79%
Kill Em With Kindness 272,322,569 274,388,836 0.76%
It Ain’t Me (Remix) 9,699,872 11,413,027 17.66%
Hands To Myself 336,994,943 338,569,152 0.47%

The average increase in the number of listens for Ariana Grande was 2.70%. This compares to 3.29% for Bridget Mendler and 28.06% for Selena Gomez. However, as there is such a huge outlier for Gomez, it may make sense to remove that, it comes down to 6.13%.

Discussion

Initial results would indicate that the incident has not had a positive impact on Ariana Grande’s record sales. If anything, it has had a negative impact.

However, there are some huge caveats to the whole experiment that mean we cannot draw any firm conclusions from it. First, we’re looking at a really small sample size. I only included two other comparison artists and Gomez has two large outliers in her results.

Doing a percentage increase comparison makes sense because this accounts for the popularity of the artist. A simple numbers game would not make sense because bigger artists are likely to increase much faster than smaller artists. However, the percentages are not perfect either.

For one, assuming we buy into the snowball effect, even in percentage terms, larger artists should grow faster than smaller artists. Grande has the biggest following of the three so we might expect her numbers to be bigger.

Nor does it take into account other factors such as the age of the song. A newly released hit, for example, it likely to grow in listens far quicker than an old classic because the existing listens on a new song will be far lower. Then there are other factors at work. Some of the songs are collaborations with other artists, for example.

All of this means that the results here are a very rough estimate.

Conclusion

Terrorism appears to have had a negative effect on Ariana Grande’s record sales. This refutes the adage that “all publicity is good publicity”.

There are a number of reasons this could be the case. First, the negative associations of the incident may be reflecting on Grande herself. Even though it is in no way her fault, we’ll be unable to avoid forming some association. Dan Ariely discusses this in his book Predictably Irrational. People blame weather presenters for bad weather.

Second, people may feel it was now inappropriate to listen to Grande or that doing so was tactless in the light of what had happened.

Or, it could be a statistical anomaly introduced by a small sample size and fundamental flaws in the experiment’s methodological design, and that it is not representative of the wider pattern.

Footnotes

Image courtesy of Melissa Rose via Wikimedia Commons.

Timeline

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 18th, 2017 at 11:00 am and is filed under Music. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.