Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Don’t Innovate, Create A Familiar Surprise

Despite the views on YouTube, it seems that lots of people aren’t too happy about the state of pop music. It all just sounds so samey.

These cranky Googlers aren’t wrong. A 2012 study found that today’s pop music is more repetitive than any of its predecessors in the past 50 years.

And it’s totally our fault.

Before the internet went mainstream, record labels had to find hit songs themselves. Which usually involved a lot of guesswork and paying radio DJs to play a record until people either loved or hated it.

But once everybody listened to music online, record labels could see exactly what songs we liked. Using iTunes purchases, YouTube views and Spotify plays, the record labels could accurately predict which song would be the next summer anthem.

So now it wasn’t the music labels who shaped the charts, but us.

And what do we like?

To hear the same music over and over and over again.

The most-streamed song of 2020 was The Weeknd’s Blinding Lights with almost 1.6 billion plays. That’s almost 3 times more than the most-streamed song of five years before, Lean On by Major Lazer.

Why do we like familiar music so much? Because it’s easier for our brain to process.

We don’t like new things. We like the same. And once we get tired of that, we like the same with a twist.

Do you want to improve the odds of success for your upcoming project?

Make sure it’s not too different from what already exists. 

Is your new project familiar? Make it surprising. Is your new project surprising? Make it familiar.

So don’t innovate, create a familiar surprise

P.S. For a more in depth look at creating hits, check out Derek Thompson’s book Hitmakers.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach