What happens after you die as a musician?

If somebody points a gun towards my head and asks me to draw a picture of the event “death”, this is what I would come up with:

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It doesn’t look like a very disturbing picture to depict death, isn’t it? This graph is taken from our Weekly Artist Charts, which show the weekly number of listeners change for artists in Last.fm. Amy Winehouse, who has already reached 82M scrobbles in Last.fm, unfortunately passed away on 23rd of June 2011. Apparently number of her listeners jumped from 27,218 to 99,245 after her death, indicating a 264% increase.

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A very similar jump is seen for the Argentinian rockstar, Gustavo Cerati, who recently passed away on September 4th. His listeners increased from 2,286 to 7,264 (218% increase) in two weeks. He also spent a considerable amount of time in my top weekly artist list during September and October.

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For Michael Jackson we see a slightly different picture. His listeners quadrupled after his death like Gustavo’s and Amy’s. But, those new “commemorating” listeners do not give up listening easily! They continue mumbling things like “so beat it! just beat it!” for a couple of weeks longer. I was one of them. Michael Jackson’s listeners skyrocketed by 298% (from 40,649 to 162,155) after his decease, which is the most among all three.

When we take a quick look at other artists, we all see the same: increases around 200% – 400% listeners. This discrepancy in human behavior can be best explained by the Turkish proverb: “Kör ölür, badem gözlü olur.” If we do a direct translation, it would mean something like “After the blind guy dies, he becomes almond-eyed”, meaning people will become much more valuable after they die.

Among all, the lowest increase in listeners is Gustavo Cerati’s. Poor guy was in a coma for 4 years due to the stroke he suffered after a show in Caracas, Venezuela. This pretty much explains why his listeners only increased by 218%. His death was unfortunately expected, and people were already not hopeful about his return.

All of the musicians analyzed in this post are solo artists, and do not belong to a band. So another interesting question at this point would be “how does the member death affect the band listening?” My first guess is the front man’s impact would be very similar, probably increases around 300%. But how about the unknown drummer of a rock band would affect? Or would death of Lars Ulrich or Kirk Hammett would be more brutal for Metallica? I am planning to leave this topic as the subject of another blog post, but before that I want to show one last thing. The below graph shows the Rock Argentino genre listening change at the end of this year. Do you think Soda Stereo is linked to Gustavo Cerati somehow?

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So, if you are a musician, do you want to magically increase your listeners by 300% in a week? I guess you don’t.