Gold Standard Song ListRoedy Black Music

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   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    Top


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   The Gold Standard
   Song List appears
   throughout

   How Music REALLY
   Works!, 2nd Ed.

  
  
 

    Top
 

Only One Song In a Million Makes
the Gold Standard Song List

INDEX TO THIS PAGE

How Likely Is It?

National Populations and the Number of Potential "Songwriters"

Total Songs Composed Annually (On Average)

If You Create a New Song That Nobody Else Ever Hears, Is it Still a Song?

If You Write It Down and Play it for Others, They Might Consider You an Actual Songwriter

The GSSL: A Teeny Tiny Fraction of All Original Songs

Hypothetical Lists of Great Songs That Do Not Duplicate Any of the GSSL Songs

~ • ~ • ~ • ~

HOW LIKELY IS IT?

  • One song in a million? How so?
      

  • For the claim of “one-song-in-a-million” to have validity, the original pool of songs would have to number 5,000,000,000—that is, one million multiplied by 5,000 (the total number of Gold Standard songs).

  • Is it possible that the aggregate population of the main English-speaking nations of the world could have written 5 billion songs over a period of 100 years?
      

  • At first blush, it seems unlikely.
     

  • But when you consider variables such as:

              - the total population of the English-speaking nations

              - the definition of a “song”

              - the informal circumstances of most songwriting,

    then the one-song-in-a-million claim appears plausible. After all, a large proportion of the population—maybe even the majority—creates songs without even realizing it.
      

NATIONAL POPULATIONS AND THE NUMBER OF POTENTIAL "SONGWRITERS"  

  • First, consider the total number of people alive from 1900 to 1999 in the main English-speaking nations: USA, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Jamaica.
      

  • The population of the United States, for example, more than tripled between 1900 and 1999 (the growth factor was actually 3.6, according to census data):
      
           USA population in 1900:     76 million
           USA population in 1999:   273 million
     

  • Population growth partly accounts for the increase in the number of songs on the Gold Standard Song List (GSSL) from decade to decade. Other main factors include the appearance of new genres that triggered prolific bursts of songwriting at various times in the 20th Century, and the advent and technical evolution of music-distributing electronic media such as the recording industry, radio, movies, television, and the Internet.
      

  • If you sum the US population for the years 1900 to 1999 and divide by 100, you get an average population of 163 million annually.
     

  • The aggregate population of the other 6 main English-speaking countries amounts to the equivalent to about 42% of the population of the USA. This works out to an estimated average population of non-USA English-speaking nations of 68 million annually over the period 1900 to 1999.
      

  • Add ‘em up, and we have 231 million people annually, on average. Let’s round it off to 230 million.
      

TOTAL SONGS COMPOSED ANNUALLY (ON AVERAGE)

  • Residents of the English-speaking countries wrote all but a small number of the 5,000 GSSL songs. So, for the sake of this exercise, we’ll assume that all 5,000 GSSL songs originated in the English-speaking nations.
      

  • These 5,000 songs were composed over a period of 100 years, an average of 50 songs annually. The population averaged 230 million annually. That is, 230 million people contributed 50 tunes to the GSSL each year, on average.
     

  • Which means that, for “one-song-in-a-million” to be accurate, 230 million people would have to have written 50 million songs per year, only 50 of which made the Gold Standard Song List (on average).
      

  • How likely is it that 230 million people would collectively compose 50 million songs in the course of one year?
     

  • Hmmm. That’s one song per 4.6 people per year. That's sounding pretty reasonable.
      

  • Another way of putting it: 22% of the population (1/4.6) would have to write one song in one year, with 78% not writing any songs that year.
     

  • But what does "write a song" actually mean?
       

IF YOU CREATE A NEW SONG THAT NOBODY ELSE EVER HEARS, IS IT STILL A SONG?

  • Consider what constitutes a song and the circumstances of writing a song.
     

  • People create songs spontaneously all the time—but don’t write them down. You have probably done this. You might sing songs to yourself as you hammer nails into two-by-fours on a construction site. You might be a new mother who makes up songs to sing to your baby. You might work on a farm and sing songs as you feed the pigs and chickens.
      

  • You might go hiking along a path by a river, all on your lonesome, singin’ a song. An original song. A song no one else has ever heard or ever will hear. Nevertheless, it’s a real song, with an original tune and original lyrics. Artistically, maybe it’s dreadful, or maybe it’s pretty good. You don’t particularly care. You’re just singing some song you made up for your own amusement. When you reach your destination, you promptly forget the song. That’s the end of it.
     

  • Did you write a song, then?
      

  • Of course you did! During your hike (or your chicken-feeding), you created a real song, with words and a tune—something no other species on earth can do. Just because you didn’t write it down, that doesn’t mean you didn’t create a new, original song. You did exactly that.
     

  • In any population, this type of informal, unpremeditated, instinctive songwriting goes on ever and always.
      

IF YOU WRITE IT DOWN AND PLAY IT FOR OTHERS, THEY MIGHT CONSIDER YOU AN ACTUAL SONGWRITER

  • Some people go through a “songwriting phase” (especially young guys trying to impress girls) and write lots and lots of songs. “Write” means memorizing an original tune and writing down original lyrics. And maybe jotting chord changes above the words. Or thumping out beats on a cardboard box.
     

  • Those who take songwriting seriously enough to get called songwriters tend to write lots of songs every year and record at least some of them. Mostly, the recorded songs don't make it beyond the demo stage.
      

  • Recall, we’re attempting to account for just 22% of the population creating just one original song per year. (Which means 78% supposedly create no original songs at all—not even spontaneous little ditties for self-amusement that no one else will ever hear.)
      

  • Of the 22%, quite a few people write many songs in the course of a year, not just one song. Which means the percentage of songwriting individuals in a population (including those who make up songs for self-amusement only) could be significantly less than 22%, and still meet the GSSL one-song-in-a-million claim.
     

THE GSSL: A TEENY TINY FRACTION OF ALL ORIGINAL SONGS

  • All songs on the Gold Standard Song List have been recorded and commercially released. On average, every year from 1900 to 1999, record labels and independent artists released tens of thousands of albums (hundreds of thousands of songs) in the English-language nations. Many singles and albums had a distribution of only a few hundred or a few thousand copies for a small regional fan base. Not many had national or international distribution. Even fewer had any significant commercial success.
      

  • So, given all the different types of songwriting activity—the millions of spontaneous songs that non-songwriters (chicken-feeders, singin' moms, riparian hikers) create for their own amusement without ever writing them down, the countless songs amateur tunesmiths write when they get the songwriting bug, the thousands upon thousands of recordings of original songs released every year—given all this, it seems pretty likely that 230 million people would collectively create at least 50 million songs a year.
     

  • If this estimate is accurate—if 230 million people did in fact create 50 million songs (on average) annually from 1900 to 1999—then only one song in a million (50 songs a year, on average) made the Gold Standard Song List.
      

  • The correct fraction could be wildly higher or lower. For example, if 230 million people created 200 million songs a year (on average), instead of only 50 million songs a year, then just one in 4 million songs made the Gold Standard Song List. But if 230 million people created a mere 5 million songs a year (on average, including self-amusement-only songs), then only one song in 100,000 made the list.
     

  • Whatever the exact figures (which we can only estimate), the 5,000 songs represented on the GSSL amount to a teeny tiny fraction of all the songs composed in the English-language nations from 1900 to 1999.
       

HYPOTHETICAL LISTS OF GREAT SONGS THAT DO NOT DUPLICATE ANY OF THE GSSL SONGS

  • No claim is made that the 5,000 Gold Standard songs represent ALL of THE 5,000 GREATEST popular songs composed in the English-speaking nations from 1900 to 1999. That would mean all songs not included on the GSSL must be inferior—clearly an absurd proposition.
     

  • If you had the time and patience, you could probably compile quite a few lists of 5,000 excellent songs composed from 1900 to 1999, adhering to the selection criteria, without duplicating any of the Gold Standard songs. (Try it!)
      

  • However, the difference between such hypothetical lists and the GSSL is that other such lists, not having any GSSL songs, would necessarily consist mainly of obscure songs, however excellent. The GSSL contains the great majority of the best-known standards. Nearly all of the songs on the GSSL have some measure of familiarity, a recognized stature—at least among aficionados of the various genres.
     

  • The songs on the Gold Standard Song List have enough artistic and technical excellence, combined with enough public exposure, to have found a more or less permanent place in the public consciousness. Even though the majority were never big hits on the pop-song charts, most have become standards in the context of their respective genres.

 

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