and since then, we’ve gone through 19 editions with a total of 287 submitted songs spanning several different genres, demonstrating the wide and varying musical tastes of students at Peabody High. You can read the first Songs of the Week by following the link under the “Featured” tab on the website, and you can submit songs for future Songs of the Week by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. With all of those editions, it’s easy to lose sight of the column’s roots and its development and contributions over time.
An Interview with the Big Wheel
Songs of the Week was created as a platform for Peabody High students to share and
develop their musical tastes. Every week, a call is put out for students to submit songs and the reasons why they submitted them, and these contributions are compiled by Connor Murphy to produce that week’s Songs of the Week article. To commemorate the 20th edition, which comes out on the 22nd, I interviewed Connor on his experiences running Songs of the Week. Among other things, he revealed that there’s upcoming playlists of the top contributors and he’s planning on running a college radio show later on:
Edgar Castro: What made you want to do Songs of the Week?
Connor Murphy: I wanted to be a part of the Tanner Times, and I figured that, of the things I'm passionate about, music would be the best to make weekly articles about. From there, I just had to figure out how best to help the school discover new music.
EC: Would you say that Songs of the Week has done a good job at helping the school discover new music? Is there anything that you would like to see changed?
CM: I have a lot more readers than I initially thought I would have. I've had quite a few encounters with people who ask me questions about Songs of the Week, or mention it when talking to me. I think the Tanner Times in general could use more publicity, and I wish my readers would submit songs to me, because I'd really like to represent the whole school rather than just those of us who write for the Tanner Times and a few people who are good friends of mine.
EC: Do you plan on doing a similar thing after you leave Peabody High, and if so, how far do you want to take it? A lot of popular music websites today started out with a format similar to Songs of the Week.
CM: I would very much like to do a radio show in college similar to Songs of the Week. I'm not sure that I would like to continue with the written format, though maybe that would be the best option to achieve more than a community following. Maybe something along the lines of a daily analysis of a song would be a nice way to get into the habit of writing and listening to new music, but I don't believe I will continue beyond either of those things.
EC: I'll be sure to keep on a look out for it next year. One last thing: what are your plans for Songs of the Week going forward? Are there any special editions coming out that we should look forward to?
CM: I've started working on individual playlists for our top contributors, which is anyone with more than twelve song submissions. I'm planning to do some big things with that at the end of the year, but until then I'll release the playlist links in every article and create new playlists every time someone reaches top contributor status. It will work as sort of an incentive for contributing, but also as a way for people to listen to music chosen by someone with a music taste they enjoy.
How do Songs of the Week Stack up?
So, Songs of the Week is a platform for music discovery and expression of taste. What does
the output of a project like that look like statistically? I gathered data from the past 19 articles using wget and ran the songs through the last.fm API to grab song tag info, which mainly consists of genre information, in order to answer this question. However, this question would not be solved so easily: because last.fm tags are user-generated and aren’t moderated as stringently as other user-generated content like the content of Wikipedia, some tags did not describe genres, such as, “a campire and a tent and a flashlight and some matches and a tree and that river and my glasses and a spaceship and a really really big bear but the bear is really really far away … luckily the bear just wants to dance, with you, with me, with E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E but a campfire and a tent and a flashlight and a secure connection with some matches and a tree and that river and my glasses and a spaceship and a really really big bear but the bear is really really far away and just makes everything that much enjoyable” (sic).
To mitigate this, tags that appeared less than 4 times or tags that were manually excluded
on the basis of not being genres (line 11 of gentagcsv.sh) were moved to the “other” category. This unfortunately made the “other” category ridiculously large, as seen in the following pie chart. To view the full size, view it in Google Drive and double click on it to zoom.
A more legible bar chart of the top 10 genres (excluding the “other” category) gives us a
neater picture of what were the most popular genres: “indie” and “rock” are tied for first place, followed by alternative, pop, and electronic. Post-rock and hip-hop barely made the top 20; next in line were folk and instrumental. Further down the line were more exotic genres like avant garde and psychedelic rock, tied with more conventional but still largely unpopular genres like country.
During the interview earlier, Connor also mentioned playlists for the top contributors.
Thanks to our data set, we can peer into the future a little bit and see who, if those playlists were to launch right now, would be given a personal playlist. Connor mentioned a 12 song minimum, so Demetri Cassidy would be the last one to receive a playlist as of right now, but Kyle Sousa, Meeghan Bresnahan, and Sean Cox, with 9, 10, and 11 songs respectively, could make the 12 song cut if they all submitted 3 songs to the upcoming 20th Songs of the Week.
Remember, it’s never too late to contribute to Songs of the Week! There’s still a few more
months of articles coming up, and it only takes a few minutes to contribute; just pick a few songs, do a small write up about why you like those songs (it can be a sentence or two if you want), and send them to Connor Murphy.