2020 in Music (Last.FM and Spotify listening trends)


Thanks to COVID I missed out on the concert where I was going to see Paul and Storm and Jonathan Coulton. Compared to last year, I also barely bought any music.

This year I switched from using Ampache to listen to my music at work, to using Funkwhale. The more responsive interface has led to me playing a lot more albums as well as doing “artist radio” mode which plays all of an artists’ songs at random. This may have concentrated the scrobbles rather than having them be as random as in the past. That said, I did make good use of Funkwhale’s “Less Listened” radio to keep things fresh. At home I’ve been using Cantata’s “similar artists” dynamic playlists a lot which may also have contributed to a concentration of artists this year.

I mostly listened to my own library, but I did turn to Spotify a little this year. Mostly I used it for the Hamilton soundtrack, some Game Chops albums I didn’t have, and to rediscover MxPx after hearing Mike Herrera interview Reese Roper for the new Five Iron Frenzy kickstarter.

New albums in my collection this year included:

  • Helynt – Mario and Chill
  • Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep
  • Billie Eilish – don’t smile at me
  • Surrija – Surrija (which I kickstarted and reviewed)
  • Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
  • Some singles by The OneUps
  • Worms Under Siege video game soundtrack
  • Bee Gees – The Ultimate BeeGees
  • No Devotion – Permanence
  • Trio Matamoros – Serie Imortales
  • Stellaria EP (kickstarted)
  • I Fight Dragons started a new album adventure. They haven’t released the album yet, but they have released a lot of old EPs and demos
  • DJ Zog – Power 96 5 o’ Clock Traffic Jam
  • Run the Jewels – RTJ4
  • Bad Rabbits – Mimi
  • Bad Rabbits – Stickupkids

Last year I was listening to a lot of music while training for running races. But in 2020 I was mostly distance training at a much slower pace, so I listened to podcasts instead.

The confounding factor this time around was the fact that the last.fm Android app was updated so that it scrobbled from every sound-playing app, so I ended up with podcast scrobbles and some YouTube scrobbles, as we’ll see below.

This year I’ve included some graphs to help illustrate the data. I can’t believe that I’ve been using the last.fm API for a few years now and it never occurred to me to use it for this end of the year wrap-up where it has literally saved me hours on collecting and formatting the data. See my Python script so you can do it, too. You just need to sign up for an API key.

Without further ado, my 2020 Music Stats:

Top Artists for 2020

The graph is pretty typical of what goes on in my last.fm trends (and when we get to overall artists you’ll see a great example of a long-tail graph): a few outliers near the top and then clusters that are quite far off from those over-achievers.

1. Five Iron Frenzy (764) – perennially present, but they had a new Kickstarter this year (and I actually heard about it in time to participate this time) which set me on a nostalgia trip listening to the old stuff.
2. Billie Eilish (428) – Billie’s completely new to the library this year, as you saw above. I got her pair of albums for Danielle. Based on the covers, I didn’t think there was much I’d care to listen to here. But, I actually found quite a few of the songs addictive, particularly on don’t smile at me.
3. Relient K (381) – Not much to say here. I don’t particularly remember listening to a lot of Relient K on purpose.
4. Anberlin (354) – One week I decided to go through all of their albums again.
5. The PDX Broadsides (349) – These are mostly from random listens although there was one day at work where I just set it to “The PDX Broadsides radio”.
6. I Fight Dragons (345) – As I mentioned above, there’s a new album in the works. Not only did this trigger me to listen to some old songs, but they’ve also been releasing tons of new tracks that I’ve been checking out.
7. Vampire Weekend (307) – This is almost entirely on the back of Father of the Bride. I really enjoyed that album a lot and listened to it pretty continuously after buying it.
8. Bee Gees (293) – I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog that listening to the Bee Gees reminds me of my childhood as my mom often had Bee Gees records playing while she did chores. Once I got their greatest hits album (as a present), I listened to it pretty continuously for a while.
9. Childish Gambino (283) – Nothing huge to say here – just came up on random a lot.
10. HELYNT (268) – In addition to buying Mario and Chill, which I really enjoyed, when I was listening to Game Chops Spotify playlists, HELYNT came up quite a bit.
11. The Beatles (254) – They always find their way onto my top lists because I have all their albums.
12. Dj CUTMAN (247) – After listening to the Game Chops playlists, I regained an appreciation for DJ CUTMAN and played a bunch of his albums again. They’re also great at work when I need to REALLY focus and need music without lyrics.
13. Jim Guthrie (246) – Most of these came from my Cantata “Similar to Jonathan Coulton” dynamic playlist.
14. Lana Del Rey (206) – Mostly something I can listen to with the wife
15. Jonathan Coulton (205) – Nothing new here.
16. Bad Rabbits (204) – Some of these are from when I got the new album Mimi, but a lot of their songs can also be a nice boost in the morning to get me going.
17. Chance the Rapper (198) – occasionally, I throw on the second mixtape and just listen all the way through
18. Surrija (190) – As I mentioned above, I was part of the kickstarter for her latest album.
19. Ramin Djawadi (180) – listening to some Game of Thrones and some Westworld.
20. Louis Jordan (169) – I’m surprised I listened to this much Louis Jordan, but I do really like his music.

Top Albums of 2020

No real surprises here if you look above with the exception of Thelonious Monk, Frank Ocean, Janelle Monáe, and No Devotion. Mostly it’s because I tend to listen to my music at random – either purely random or random by artist. So that’s going to favor artist accumulations vs individual albums. Frank Ocean’s Blonde is mostly one of convenience. I don’t like it nearly as much as Channel Orange, but in Ampache it was a lot easier to get to, and so I listened to it more before moving on to Funkwhale.

1. Bee Gees – The Ultimate Bee Gees (293)
2. HELYNT – Mario & Chill (241)
3. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride (238)
4. Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (235)
5. Billie Eilish – dont smile at me (193)
6. Surrija – Surrija (187)
7. Louis Jordan – The Best Of Louis Jordan (169)
8. Ramin Djawadi – Game Of Thrones (Music From The HBO Series) (169)
9. Five Iron Frenzy – The End Is Here (160)
10. Thelonious Monk – Plays Duke Ellington [Keepnews Collection] (Remastered) (160)
11. Frank Ocean – Blonde [Explicit] (126)
12. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book (98)
13. Five Iron Frenzy – All The Hype That Money Can Buy (94)
14. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer (94)
15. Five Iron Frenzy – Quantity Is Job 1 [Ep] (90)
16. Run the Jewels – RTJ3 (90)
17. Marketplace – Marketplace (89)
18. Five Iron Frenzy – Upbeats & Beatdowns (87)
19. No Devotion – Permanence (87)
20. Five Iron Frenzy – Live–Proof that the Youth are Revolting (86)

Top Songs of 2020

A couple oddities here due to the new last.fm scrobbler. I definitely did not listen to Freek’N You 78 times. I listened a couple times to try and find the song because I’m doing what I hope is the FINAL idv3 tag update of my music ever, using Picard MusicBrainz to add in album art, proper artist tags, etc. The badly tagged files don’t come from the bad old days of Napster and music sharing. They also come from bad or lazy tagging of albums I’ve purchased and ripped myself. The phone scrobbler went a little wild on Freek’N You while I had the Youtube page open. The same goes for the McDonalds ad, or maybe that’s from podcasts.

My comments on a few of the tracks below:

1. Jodeci – Freek’N You (78)
2. McDonalds – Advertisement (74)
3. Five Iron Frenzy – See The Flames Begin To Crawl (Live) (38)
4. Billie Eilish – my boy (33) – My favorite Eilish song due to the word play in the lyrics.
5. HELYNT – Overworld (33)
6. Billie Eilish – bellyache (28)
7. Vampire Weekend – Harmony Hall (28) – My favorite song. It’s also the reason I bought the album. I heard a Song Exploder episode about it that intrigued me.
8. Billie Eilish – bad guy (27)
9. HELYNT – Odyssey (27)
10. Billie Eilish – party favor (26) – Another great bunch of lyrics here, much cleverer than it sounds on first listen
11. HELYNT – Rainbow Road (26)
12. Surrija – Nothing Love (26)
13. Thelonious Monk – I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (Album Version) (26)
14. Billie Eilish – idontwannabeyouanymore (25)
15. Billie Eilish – wish you were gay (24) – I don’t know if the chorus is woke or offensive, but it’s certainly a clever expression of a spurned attraction
16. Paul Simon – Kodachrome (24)
17. Billie Eilish – ocean eyes (23)
18. Billie Eilish – watch (23)
19. HELYNT – Dire Dire Docks (23)
20. HELYNT – Game Over (23)

Top All-Time Artists

I let this one go to 100 artists for the graph to illustrate the “long tail” graph. It’s a phenomenon I heard about in the early 2000s that describes the statistics that some things are VERY popular and most things are barely popular. It shows up in a lot of statistical places, see the link above. You can see there’s a HUGE dropoff between my top 10 most listened artists and the next 90. I’d noticed this over the past few years as I did these writeups, but I think a graph really does illustrate it quite well. It’s hard for any other artist to overtake the top 10, which is why it’s always been a big deal when someone has jumped onto the top 15 that I track annually or has overtaken an artist in the top 10.

1. Five Iron Frenzy (3977) (up from ) – holy moly! In all the time I’ve been keeping track of the top overall artists (I’ve been scrobbling since 2006 and writing these blog posts for at least 5 years), no one has been able to surpass Fantastic Plastic Machine. Finally, Five Iron Frenzy has climbed that mountain and started to pull away. I tend to listen to FIF way more than Fantastic Plastic Machine. So unless I do an FPM marathon, I don’t see it ever rising back to the top spot.
2. Fantastic Plastic Machine (3732) – (dropped from )
3. Anberlin (3380) – (no change) – That said, it’s just a couple Anberlin nostalgia-fests away from getting to .
4. The Beatles (3096) – (no change)
5. Relient K (2528) – (no change) – but an almost 400 increase in scrobbles)
6. I Fight Dragons (2151) – (no change) – still has a long way to go to overtake Relient K
7. “Weird Al” Yankovic (1857) – (no change)
8. Fall Out Boy (1644) – (no change) – Another example of the stability of the artists at this level. I’ve done a LOT of days where I’ve listened to a good chunk of the discography. Their first three albums have really grown on me. Yet, they still cannot pass Weird Al, who I rarely listen to nowadays.
9. Jonathan Coulton (1556) – (no change) – Last year I prediced it would close the gap with Fall Out Boy and it, indeed has. It goes from a 150 scrobble gap to a 90ish scrobble gap.
10. The PDX Broadsides (1431) – (up from #11) – Last year it emerged onto the top 15. Now it moves up even another spot. I think, potentially, due to having more tracks than JoCo, The PDX Broadsides could challenge him for the #9 spot next year! (especially if their remaining kickstarter bonus is released)
11. Gnarls Barkley (1208) – (drops from #10) Drops two years in a row. Perhaps saved from dropping 2 spots when I gave them a big listen a couple months ago.
12. Chance the Rapper (1157) – (up 2 spots from #14) – Pretty decent jump in a mostly stable lineup of artists. Hurt a little by the fact that I don’t like Coloring Book as much as Acid Rap and I still don’t have the fourth album.
13. Tom Lehrer (1067) – (up 2 spots from ) – I’m very shocked to see Tom Lehrer jump back to his 2018 spot. I don’t remember doint a lot of listening, but it was just enough. If you look at the numbers here or the graph above you can see that there’s a cluster of artists around this range, so the position is not stable.
14. Lana Del Rey (1041) – (new to the list) – beating out a few other contenders, LDR joins the list. Given how close she is to and within spitting distance of , she’s clearly hurt by once again being late on her latest album. (NFR was also very late)
15. Lostprophets (1033) – Yes, it’s problematic because of what the lead singer did. But the songs are still good and I’m listening to my own personal collection, not Spotify, so it’s not like I’m giving him money.

Off the list this year: DC Talk (dropped to #17 from last year). Gwen Stefani (dropped to from last year)

On their heels for next year: Childish Gambino (#18), a return by Andrea Echeverri (#19), or a new appearance by Thousand Foot Krutch (#20).

All-Time Top Songs

A slight violation of the long tail here. I think this is because we’re talking about songs, not artists or albums, leading to a greater clustering when only looking at 15. Mostly the same old crowd, but some places have shifted.

1. Jonathan Coulton – The Princess Who Saved Herself (123) – (no change)
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood (122) – (no change)
3. Fantastic Plastic Machine – Steppin’ Out (107) – (no change)
4. Fantastic Plastic Machine – Take Me To The Disco [Malibu Mix] (104) – (no change)
5. Gnarls Barkley – Who Cares (104) – (no change)
6. Gnarls Barkley – Just a Thought (103) – (no change)
7. Anberlin – Audrey, Start The Revolution! (96) – (up one spot from #8)
8. 4minute – Cut it Out (92) – (drops one spot from )
9. Gnarls Barkley – The Last Time (92) – (up one spot from #10)
10. Gnarls Barkley – St. Elsewhere (91) – (drops one spot from #9)
11. Five Iron Frenzy – Blue Comb ’78 (88) – (new to the list) – OUT OF NOWHERE, one of my favorite FIF songs joins the list
12. Five Iron Frenzy – Handbook For The Sellout (87) – (new to the list) – OUT OF NOWHERE AGAIN; FIF KILLING IT! An oldie, but a goodie.
13. Gnarls Barkley – Smiley Faces (87) – (no change)
14. Andrea Echeverri – Quedate (86) – (dropped from #11)
15. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy (86) – (dropped from )

Off the list this year: Fantastic Plastic Machine – Love Is Psychedelic and Andrea Echeverri – Amortiguador.

Scrobbles at end of 2020: 158,261

Scrobbles IN 2020: 21,579 (about the same as last year)

Spotify Stats

I don’t know how long this playlist will be valid, but here’s my top 100 Spotify listens in a playlist:

In case that playlist goes away or the embed stops working, my top 20 were:

  1. Tudd, GameChops – K.K. Cruisin’
  2. Mikel, GameChops – Ocarina of Time
  3. Chjolo, GameChops, Smooth McGroove – A Bell is Tolling
  4. DJ Cutman, Noisepop – Late Nite
  5. DeFalco, JMKM, GameChops – Saria’s Song
  6. Jonathan Goff, Hamilton Cast – You’ll Be Back
  7. Chjolo – Dub Splat!
  8. DJ Cutman, GlitchxCity – New Horizon
  9. Mikel, GameChops – Title Screen
  10. Daveed Diggs, Lesli Odom Jr, Okieriete Onaodowan, Hamilton Cast – What’d I Miss
  11. MxPx – Let’s Ride
  12. DJ Cutman, AZODi -Aerith
  13. Chjolo, GameChops – Hip Shop (From “Deltarune”)
  14. Leslie Odom Jr, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Renee Elise Goldsberry (and others) – Non-Stop
  15. Jonathan Groff – What Comes Next?
  16. Chance the Rapper, En Vogue, Ari Lennox, Kierra Sheard – I Got You (Always and Forever)
  17. Coffee Date, GameChops – Beneath the Mask (Persona 5)
  18. Renee Elise Goldsberry, Hamilton Cast – Satisfied
  19. Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Okieriete Onaodowan – Cabinet Battle
  20. Chance the Rapper, Death Cab for Cutie – Do Your Remember

And that’s a wrap for 2020! If you’re still reading this far into it – thanks for reading! I’m excited for what 2021 may bring with new albums by Five Iron Frenzy and I Fight Dragons, among others.