Gracenote is in the unglamorous but critically important business of providing metadata for music files — song titles, artist names, album cover art, and so on.
The company claims that it serves “billions of searches a month from thousands of products used by hundreds of millions of consumers.”
It was bought by Sony in 2009 and is used in many Sony products, but also by Apple’s iTunes, Google’s lyric search, and many other services.
So that gives Gracenote a pretty good look at what people are actually listening to and interested in, unlike sales charts or analysts like Big Champagne, which measures songs that are downloaded from file-trading networks.
The other night, an executive revealed to me the three artists that consistently get the most lookups in Gracenote’s database. They are:
- Michael Jackson — particularly after he died in 2009
- Bob Marley
- Tupac Shakur
This exec said that The Beatles are popular in North America and Europe, but less so in the rest of the world.
That rings true to me — I’ve had a kid in Indonesia quote back Bob Marley lyrics to me, and Marley and Jacko are played in almost every corner of the world I’ve visited. (Tupac is a more recent development, I guess.)
But I have never once heard a single Beatles song played outside the U.S. or British Commonwealth countries.