Happy Valentine's Day from Last.fm

Monday, 14 February 2011
by andrew
filed under Trends and Data
Comments: 24

We all know Last.fm listeners are achingly hip, resolutely individualistic, and far too cynical to be taken in by the annual cards-and-roses marketing-fest called Valentine’s Day, right?

Well… perhaps not. We wondered, with years worth of data at our fingertips, if we could see whether February 14th brought out the sentimental side of our listeners.

This Is Not A Love Song

In order to listen to love songs, you have to find them first. So we started our investigation with the tags Romantic and Love Songs. Tags are supplied by listeners, so their presence alone is enough to give away the fact that at least some of you are softies at heart.

Of course, ‘Romantic’ music can also refer to 19th-century pieces by the likes of Brahms and Schubert, so we went to our database and extracted the top-scoring tracks associated with both Romantic and Love Songs.

This gave us a stack of 30 songs by the likes of Lionel Richie, Barry Manilow, Bryan Adams and Ronan Keating.

What Time Is Love?

We wanted to find out whether there were specific times when our listeners were feeling particularly loved-up. So we scanned our scrobbling logs for 2010, and for each day counted the number of listeners who’d played at least one of the love songs in our test set. 30 songs is a tiny fraction of the millions of tracks scrobbled to Last.fm every day, but even so there’s a clear spike on February 14th:

Click image for full-size version.

Put It In A Love Song

But tags are only one way of looking at the data. They tell us what people say about their music, but we wanted to turn the question around: what artists do people listen to especially on Valentine’s Day?

To answer this question, you can’t just look at the top 10 or top 100 artists. After all, Last.fm listeners’ music taste is incredibly diverse, and for the most part the overlap is made up of the latest hits. For example, here’s the top 5 tracks played on Valentine’s Day 2010:

1. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance
2. Ke$ha – TiK ToK
3. Lady Gaga – Poker Face
4. Owl City – Fireflies
5. Lady Gaga – Paparazzi

Could be any other day in February 2010 really. But by comparing people’s listening habits on Valentine’s Day to another day of the year you can see what music becomes temporarily more popular than usual when people are in the mood for love.

So, we took the scrobbling logs for February 14th for the last six years and pulled out a shortlist of the artists who made it into the top 1000 that day but not seven days later (the 21st – a relatively unromantic day).

We added up the number of times an artist appeared in the shortlist between 2005 and 2010 and ranked them by this score, breaking ties by average popularity on Valentine’s Day.

So, after all the number-crunching, here’s the Top 10 Valentine’s Day artists for Last.fm listeners:

1. Barry White, the undisputed master of romance
2. BoA
3. Pete Yorn
4. Sixpence None the Richer
5. Tiga
6. Wire
7. Sam Cooke
8. Shania Twain
9. Mandy Moore
10. Daphne Loves Derby

So there you have it. The late and lamented Barry White, leader of the Love Unlimited Orchestra, melter of the hearts of housewives everywhere and crooner of the likes of Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe, You’re The First, The Last, My Everything and It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me, takes his rightful place on top of your Valentine’s Day chart.

The runners-up span a vast range of tags — from Romantic and Love of course (Shania Twain, Mandy Moore and Sam Cooke), to Electroclash (Tiga) and Post-Punk (Wire); what a diverse bunch you are.

For more technical details about this post, see Andrew’s journal.
Last.fm is hiring! If you like crunching big data, come and work for us as a Data Scientist.


  1. gone-insane
    14 February, 13:03

    I love you, last.fm :)

    gone-insane – 14 February, 13:03
  2. Tecfan
    14 February, 13:25

    Nice graphs :) stats <3

    Tecfan – 14 February, 13:25
  3. Dunduks
    14 February, 13:32

    why not.

    Dunduks – 14 February, 13:32
  4. Tommy
    14 February, 13:35

    I like it :-) But where is the data? Where is the track chart?

    Tommy – 14 February, 13:35
  5. Matt Sheret
    14 February, 13:37

    Hi Tommy,
    Andrew has the list over on his Last.fm journal (link at the end of the post).

    Matt Sheret – 14 February, 13:37
  6. Gaya
    14 February, 13:49

    Love how Barry White is #1.
    My favorite love song artist for sure.

    Gaya – 14 February, 13:49
  7. ticcy
    14 February, 14:07

    Nice to see that anyway lastfm listeners are romantics ^^
    nice graph :)

    ticcy – 14 February, 14:07
  8. pfranks
    14 February, 14:59

    just a question:
    with the public API, is there any way to know how many scrobbles has a track/artist/album had on a given day?

    pfranks – 14 February, 14:59
  9. Andrew Clegg
    14 February, 15:17

    pfranks: we have a new Realtime Stats API in the pipeline which can answer questions like those, for recent time periods anyway.

    It’s just undergoing internal testing at the moment, and should be public within the next few weeks. Watch this space :-)

    Andrew Clegg – 14 February, 15:17
  10. pfranks
    14 February, 15:59

    great, thanks

    pfranks – 14 February, 15:59
  11. Filmai
    14 February, 18:55

    I love last.fm :)

    Filmai – 14 February, 18:55
  12. ndoslvrclbmbr
    14 February, 20:56

    Fucking TIGA at #5?? Hell yes!! Was not expecting that!!

    ndoslvrclbmbr – 14 February, 20:56
  13. Andrew Clegg
    15 February, 10:04

    ndoslvrclbmbr: Yeah, Tiga and Wire in particular were both a bit of a surprise to us too!

    Andrew Clegg – 15 February, 10:04
  14. Roger Witte
    16 February, 00:14

    I don’t know whether either of them would be interested in being ‘data scientists’ but you should talk to some of the experts on last.fm tags like maz35 or egg21 to help with choosing appropriate tags for this sort of project. Remember last.fm has the benefits of a huge community of active interested users as well as a huge amount of data. Their has to be a way to harness both together, rather than have them pull separately.

    Still its a sweet idea and a good blog post, many thanks

    Roger Witte – 16 February, 00:14
  15. miniclip
    16 February, 15:54

    Listening to Pokerface and Paparazzi on Valentines? What is the world coming to..

    miniclip – 16 February, 15:54
  16. fucklastfm
    17 February, 06:21

    Hey fuck you guys. Why is there not last.fm on Iphone or xbox in Canada? Are you spending too much time rolling in our the money we have to pay you for something people living a 20 minute drive from me get for free?

    fucklastfm – 17 February, 06:21
  17. Fetp
    17 February, 06:59

    Mandy Moore is a singer?? o.O

    Fetp – 17 February, 06:59
  18. staples
    17 February, 23:29

    BoA was number 2!!! Yay for nonAmerican artists topping charts ^^

    staples – 17 February, 23:29
  19. Will
    19 February, 10:34

    I loved last.fm.

    But it didn’t love me back.

    It made me pay for its mobile service, and we had to break up. </3

    Will – 19 February, 10:34
  20. Elliot
    23 February, 16:10

    Dear last.fm, Thanks for the Valenties gift. I once loved you for your personalized services, but ahhh no longer…I must pay for your services. I am not into that. Its time we break up.

    Elliot – 23 February, 16:10
  21. çizgi film izle
    25 February, 21:22

    I have read a great article approvingly.

    çizgi film izle – 25 February, 21:22
  22. nedim
    26 February, 23:54

    I like last fm

    nedim – 26 February, 23:54
  23. WordPress
    28 February, 23:49

    I like it. Thanks again Last.fm

    WordPress – 28 February, 23:49
  24. vanessa kwon
    18 March, 17:58

    BoA was number 2!!! Yay for nonAmerican artists topping charts ^^2

    vanessa kwon – 18 March, 17:58

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