Monday, April 15, 2013

A network analysis of Simon and Garfunkel


Every decade or so a record company releases a compilation album from the best-selling musical duo of Paul Frederic Simon and Arthur Ira Garfunkel. There are currently five such albums that have been given a worldwide release:
  • Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits (1972)
  • The Simon and Garfunkel Collection (1981)
  • The Concert in Central Park (1982)
  • The Definitive Simon & Garfunkel (1992)
  • The Essential Simon & Garfunkel (2003)


This is not bad considering that the duo released only 5 original albums in the first place (Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.; Sounds of Silence; Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; Bookends; Bridge Over Troubled Water), plus one album shared with Dave Grusin (The Graduate). It also means that we are overdue for another compilation.

Each of these compilation albums has been released in a number of different countries, where they have had a greater or lesser success in terms of sales. Some of the relevant information about the resulting chart positions for these 5 albums is available from Wikipedia. This means that we could examine how the different countries compare in their enthusiasm for Simon and Garfunkel's songs.

Unfortunately, not all of the albums were released in all of the countries for which information has been compiled. For example, the USA has data for only 3 of the 5 albums, and Finland and Norway each has data for only 4 of them. Nevertheless, there is complete information for 8 countries, for which I can perform an exploratory data analysis using a network.

As usual, I have used the manhattan distance and a NeighborNet network to produce the graph. The proximity of the countries in the network shows how similarly the records sold — countries near each other had similar sales of the records, while distant countries had different sales patterns.


Only 1 of the 5 albums sold well in all 8 countries: The Concert in Central Park (the chart positions were 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 5, 6).

Sweden holds a unique position in the network because the populace did not buy The Simon and Garfunkel Collection (chart position 49) but did buy all of the other albums (positions 3-5).

The Netherlands and Japan are linked together in the network because they did not support The Essential Simon & Garfunkel (positions 64 & 104, respectively). Indeed, the Dutch did not like The Definitive Simon & Garfunkel (35), either, while the Japanese seemed to like only  The Concert in Central Park (2) and Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits (3).

Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom are linked by sharing their ranking of The Essential Simon & Garfunkel (20-25). France and New Zealand are linked by sharing their ranking of both Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits (16, 22) and The Essential Simon & Garfunkel (33, 38).

Note that it is therefore the sales of The Essential Simon & Garfunkel that has the largest effect on the network pattern:
    4 Sweden
20-25 Australia, Germany, UK
33-38 France, New Zealand
   64 Netherlands
  104 Japan

So, it turns out that the popularity of Simon and Garfunkel does, indeed, have a geographical pattern, although probably not an expected one.

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