Wednesday, December 30, 2015

An Empirical Look at 2015's Top Metal Releases

2015 is over, and the many year-end "best metal albums of 2015" lists are an easy way to discover new bands. To get a better sense of the big picture though, I gathered data from 47 different year end lists and put the results of that data into the graphs below. Like last year's article, I'm not pretending that this is scientifically rigorous. But since it combines lists from 47 different authors and polls, this is probably the most representative and objective information available about what are considered to be 2015's top metal albums.

Top 2015 Metal Releases:


This graph shows the top 18 metal releases for 2015, based on what percentage of lists the release appeared on in the data. Only bands clearing the 10% threshold are shown. These 18 bands made up 32% of the top ten list occurrences. In other words, they showed up 151 times out of the 470 potential slots (47 websites with 10 entries each). The top 6 bands made up 16% of the top ten list occurrences.

Ghost's Meliora took the top spot, appearing on 29.79% of the lists. Interestingly, last year, four bands were higher than this percentage and Behemoth's The Satanist appeared on 37.5% of the 2014 lists. This year the leading bands weren't quite so dominant.

Here are the top releases in list format:

Ghost - Meliora 
Deafheaven - New Bermuda
Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls
Tribulation - Children of the Night
Mgła - Exercises in Futility
High on Fire - Luminiferous
Baroness - Purple (Abraxan Hymns)
Cattle Decaptitation - The Anthropocene of Extinction
Horrendous - Anareta
Paradise Lost - The Plague Within
Panopticon - Autumn Eternal
Between the Buried and Me - Coma Ecliptic
Enslaved - In Times
Intronaut - The Direction of Last Things
Lamb of God - VII: Sturm Und Drang
Myrkur - M
Royal Thunder - Crooked Doors
Slayer - Repentless

Top 2015 Metal Sub-Genres:


This graphs shows a breakdown of the same data while looking at the sub-genre of the entries. The numbers add up to over 100% because bands can have more than one genre. In fact, having multiple genres was the most common arrangement this year by a fair margin. This 41.7% is a jump from last year's 30.25% rate for what I've labeled as hybrid genres.

In pure genre terms, black metal was the most popular this year. You'll also notice that non-metal releases were more popular than almost all of the sub-genres. Non-metal releases also jumped from 2014's 12% to 17% this year. As I explain in the methodology below, genres information, including metal versus non-metal, was decided using the Metal Archives.

Top 2015 Record Labels:

1/13/2016 Update: The Prior Version of this Chart Inadvertently Omitted 20 Buck Spin

The third and final graph here shows which record labels were most common on the year end lists. Like last year, Nuclear Blast Records and Century Media Records are basically neck and neck and are the clearly the most dominant labels in these lists. An interesting tidbit from that data that isn't shown here is how labels vary in how many bands contributed to their success. Loma Vista Recordings is here only because of Ghost, where a more diversified label like Napalm Records had nine different bands contributing to their success.

I did not attach label data to non-metal bands because this graph is intended to illustrate the degree of record label dominance in the world of metal. The above 22 labels together took up 60.43% of the 470 available year end list slots. Nuclear Blast and Century Media consisted of 16.8%, down from last year's 20%. The cut off here is at the .85% level to keep the graph reasonably readable.

For those interested in economics, if you were to view the top-ten releases as their own separate market, the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index for the above labels would be .0254, indicating a competitive market, and one that is more competitive than last year's.

Notes on My Methods:
  •  Information on genres, whether a band was metal or not, and label data were pulled from the Metal Archives.
  • In an attempt to avoid imputing my own taste biases, the vast majority of the websites were selected from the top google search results (with cookies/tracking disabled) for terms like “top/best 2015 metal” and the like.
  • I excluded mid-year lists, sub-genre lists, worst-of, and “most underrated” type lists.
  • I accessed 47 websites because this was about as many as I could find by using the above method and by adding lists from websites I personally read.
  • No bands were excluded for not being metal. If a list included a band, I included it.
  • Only the top 10 from any list were included. This was done to have some continuity across websites in terms of the weight of their data. I excluded sites with lists of less than 10; this way each website is on equal footing.
  • Since different websites can have in-house tastes, websites with multiple lists were selected only once, and at random.
  • Other than looking at only the top 10, rankings were not considered or averaged. Rankings like these are what is known as ordinal data and typically cannot be averaged in a meaningful way.
  • As a quick example, suppose List 1’s author thinks we had a weak year and would rate their #9 album at 73/100 and their #2 spot only 75/100. We can’t meaningfully compare this with List 2’s author rating their #9 album a 80/100 and their #2 100/100 because we have only rankings, and not ratings.
  • No individual website’s list is reproduced here, neither is the entire dataset.
  • I gathered label data only on metal bands. It’s also important to keep in mind that not every label releases music every year.
  • The list of websites accessed is in the spoiler tag below. Yes we know that many of them are awful websites with even worse taste, but there are a lot of good ones in there too.

1 comment:

Big D said...

That looks pretty comprehensive. Interesting reading.