As 2012 nears a wintery close, countless "end of year" lists and stats have started to hit the internet.
Among the charts of popular song streams, top selling singles and high earning artists are some clues about what worked for the most successful musical acts in 2012, and how the year might be remembered.
Let's start with the most-streamed tracks on Spotify for 2012:
Most-streamed tracks of 2012 (global)
1. Gotye featuring Kimbra - "Somebody That I Used To Know"
2. Carly Rae Jepsen - "Call Me Maybe"
3. Fun. featuring Janelle Monae – "We Are Young"
4. Flo Rida - "Whistle"
5. Flo Rida featuring Sia - "Wild Ones"
At the top is the inescapable viral hit from Gotye. It's been a success for a long time in certain other countries, but it was only when America woke up to the song that it became an internet smash, with thousands of parody cover versions being produced on YouTube. Besides the singalong chorus hook, I think listeners warmed to its refreshing vintage production style. Which is ironic, because it's probably the result of vintage digital plugins becoming so affordable in the past few years.
Similarly, Carly Rae Jepsen was another viral hit - again, a catchy chorus which people (think they) can sing along to is probably the golden ingredient, but the lyrics "Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy..." went viral in their own right and made Twitter almost unbearable for a few weeks.
The lesson: don't just write a great song - find an angle that makes you ripe for parody, then don't sue anyone who covers it. That kind of promotion is great. Just ask Psy, who now has the most viewed YouTube video in history.
Now for the top earning artists:
1. Dr Dre – £62 Million ($100 million)
2. Roger Waters – £55 Million (£89 million)
3. Elton John – £50 Million ($81 million)
4. U2 – £49 Million ($79 million)
5. Take That – £43 Million ($69 million)
Remarkably, Dr Dre has beaten some of the best known musicians in history to the top spot. But if you think Dre made all that money from rap alone, think again. Jay-Z was all the way town at no. 20 with £23 million ($37 million), so it looks like Dre's "side business" in making Beats by Dre headphones is making all that extra cash.
Maybe that's why Will.I.Am has just started getting into the tech business, with his new iPhone camera adaptor range. Uh, good luck with that Will:
If there were one big takeaway from these two charts, it's that musicians do better when they exploit technology.
With Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen, it was the social internet that propelled them from being relatively unknown to chart-smashing stardom. Dr Dre approached tech from an entirely different angle by making a product his own. Whether you like them or not, he's deservedly reaping the rewards for his efforts. Even Trent Reznor is getting involved in the Beats franchise.
How might smaller acts work with technology to improve their revenue and exposure? That's something I aim to discuss in future posts, but in the meanwhile, share your ideas and experiences in the comments.
Tom Davenport (@TomDavenport)
Thanks to NME for the charts (1, 2)