Last week, I found this interesting website called Music Timeline by the Google Research group “Big Picture”. They explore how information visualization can make complex data accessible, useful, and even fun.
Their work includes public and Google-internal projects.
You can reach it here: http://research.google.com/bigpicture/music/#
What is the Music Timeline?
The Music Timeline shows genres of music waxing and waning, based on how many Google Play Music users have an artist or album in their music library, and other data (such as album release dates).
Each stripe on the graph represents a genre; the thickness of the stripe tells you roughly the popularity of music released in a given year in that genre. (For example, the “jazz” stripe is thick in the 1950s since many users' libraries contain jazz albums released in the '50s.)
Click on the stripes to zoom into more specialized genres.
Where does the data come from?
The Music Timeline is based on album and artist statistics aggregated from Google Play Music — we define popularity by how many users have an artist or album in their music library.
What do the colors mean?
Colors are used to visually separate genres and group sub-genres, but have no other meaning.
Is this data normalized?
Yes. There's lots of data about recent music, but the information about older music is more sparse; shown directly, even major changes in the '60s are dwarfed by tiny twitches in the '90s.
Additionally, there's simply more music published now! To keep the visualization legible, the overview data is normalized by the total number of albums from that year — this way, you can see and understand the timeline across all the decades.
Why does the timeline start in 1950?
The data from earlier than 1950 is too sparse to visualize in this way.
As you can see, the timeline doesn't start before 1950 which is too bad especially for us who are interested in the music before that time.
However, you find some great albums when you click the Jazz stream and then either “Vocals”, “Swing” or “Big Band” (all above “Bop”).
What do think about Music Timeline? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.