David Beer, a senior lecturer at the University of York, wrote an interesting article analyzing the statistics of one hit wonders in the music realm and concluded that 2014 was the year with the most number of one hit wonders.
It's been 40 years since any new artist had a number one debut single and in 2014, there were 14 different artists achieving that. The difference is staggering to say the very least.
How was 2014 any different than the 40 years before? As Beer noted, it partly stemmed from the myriad of ways that music are now consumed and the changes to chart rules. In 2014, the chart changed significantly in that it incorporated streamed music as part of sales (100 streams = 1 sales). Naturally, this changed the chart positions dramatically.
The change was not only in chart positions, but also the speed by which these changes took place. Previously, music charts were measured on a weekly basis. Internet 1.0 did little to change that glacial pace.
Social media though, accelerated everything. Social media is tied extensively into marketing and so artists are extremely reliant on it. The nature of social media is fast-pace and real-time. Given the variety of social media platforms and its ability to generate buzz, it's no wonder that some artists are well known way before they even release their debut single. With a large fanbase prior to their release, it makes sense that these new artists can quickly climb the chart to number one, constant streaming of a new song can easily push it up the chart.
This rapid change is important because the buzz dies out fast. In the 50s and 60s, the number one single usually changed less than 20 times a year. In the past few years, the number one slot is changed so often that it's hard to keep track of who's currently at the top. Last year, the number one single slot changed 41 times. 41! Only six of the singles last year managed to stay in that position for longer than a week.
If this trend continues, we'll see more one-hit wonders than ever before, but we'll probably forget about most of them too.
Why is this important?
To know that it's easier to be popular now than it was previously in the past, but it's harder to stay popular. In other words, it's no longer 15 minutes of fame, it's more like 15 seconds.