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What the punters like best

Started by Colin Pykett, June 12, 2011, 11:26:41 AM

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Colin Pykett

My website ( has been live for nearly 12 years now, and it has included recordings of a wide range of music for some years.  The download statistics might be of interest because they reflect, presumably, the tastes of a global audience to some extent.  Such information is hard to come by elsewhere because, although record companies must log their sales and regard the info as important for commercial purposes, they are hardly likely to put it into the public domain for their competitors to see.  Therefore I thought it might be useful for performers and others when drawing up recital programmes etc to have a taste of what my web stats are suggesting.  In other words, what do the punters most like to hear at concerts and recitals?

Some points to bear in mind:

1.  The music on the site represents a wide temporal repertoire from pre-Sweelinck to the 1930's.  The hard cut off at this latter date is because of copyright considerations.  No doubt this skews the stats to some extent, but it's unavoidable.

2.  Although the pieces are performed entirely on electronic organs, I assume the way listeners choose the music they prefer is not unduly influenced by this.  Those who don't like electronic organs will probably not download anything at all.

3.  Eleven simulated organs are represented, ranging from the 17th century (Arp Schnitger) to more or less the present day.

4.  65 tracks representing over 3 hours of music are currently available.  This is equivalent to several CD's worth of recordings.

For the 11 days of June which have elapsed so far the 'top ten' downloads in terms of gigabytes are:

1.   Andante in D (Hollins) 
2.   Adagio in E (Bridge)
3.   Chorale Prelude on 'Eventide' (Abide with me) (Parry)
4.   Chanson de Nuit (Elgar)
5.   Monologue in F sharp (Rheinberger)
6.   Berceuse (Vierne)
7.   Cantabile (Franck)
8.   Andantino in G minor (Franck)
9.   Pastorale from sonata no. 1 (Guilmant)
10. Holsworthy Church Bells (Wesley)

Although this period is short - less than two weeks - the stats do not seem to vary much when taken over much longer ones.  So the selection above is probably robust enough to warrant a bit more analysis.

The main conclusion is the apparent and obvious preference for romantic works ('tuneful', 'hummable', 'easy listening' maybe?) over those from any other period represented on the site.  Bach hardly ever appears at all despite him being the predominant composer on the site.  Some of the works above have been pirated by audio 'karma', 'zen', 'feng shui', etc type websites.  Ignoring the copyright infringements here, it's interesting that the pirated tracks have been selected by humans rather than automatically by web bots of some sort.   So these sites also select music of this type themselves, even though it's 'classical' organ music.  In other words, there is some sort of market for it, and this is the preferred type (i.e. not Bach etc). 

Another point, probably of less importance here, is the style of organ these tracks are played on.  There are two types of electronic organ on my site - an analogue one (deliberately simulating a 'warm' romantic 'Edwardian' sound if it simulates anything at all), and a digital one simulating ten other instruments spanning 300 years from Schnitger to HN&B.  To me, the strange issue is the apparently overwhelming preference for analogue sound even in today's digital era.  This is probably not because the digital sounds are intrinsically awful, because it would be unlikely that all ten simulations are considered equally dire by listeners.  Moreover, some of the analogue recordings go back to the 1980's and they were recorded acoustically with microphones, with all the associated extraneous noises that implies (stops thudding when the pistons are used, traffic, etc).  Worse, the earliest recordings used analogue tape decks with audible hiss, wow and flutter (the Hollins 'Andante' above is an example, yet that tops the list of favourites!).

I find the whole thing interesting, and thought I would share it with the forum.

Best wishes

Colin Pykett