Talk Is Cheap: Average Statistical Band


Many years ago, the combined lights of maths and physics were brought to bear on music, with the result that we can now draw diagrams of the vibrations in a string and relate these diagrams to the sounds that we hear while listening to heavy metal guitar solos. Since then, these sciences have been very light in their involvement. Physics has at least proved a rich source of lyrics for They Might Be Giants, but what of maths? Has the science of numbers shot its load, musically speaking? Or does it still have something to offer? Is it time, indeed, for a comeback for this venerable institution, complete with tour shirts and sold-out stadiums?

Since the old days, sad to say, one thing has become more important in music than anything else: it is, of course, no longer about experimentation, about soundscapes and art and expression. No. These days, it's the money. A band doesn't need to know their arias from their allegros to be successful - they just have to be able to follow one of the formulas:
  • A white girl, a black girl, an asian girl. Their clothes match without being identical.
  • Five teenage boys with spiky hair, no instruments. They dance.
  • Three 20-something guys, grungy clothes. Shaggy hair optional, but 50% of their videos must be in monochrome.
These are the species of bands that the music industry is willing to put its weight behind, and therefore these are the species of bands that will be successful, and that will bring in the profits. Over the last fifteen years these various formulae have been tested and refined by the big labels, and they seem to be reaching their optimal structures.

But there is one area in which very little research seems to have taken place - the naming of bands. Many bands still seem to be named almost at random, with various superstitious practices. Bands are named after their founder, after a quote from a beloved book, as simple or elaborate puns, even in an attempt to confound disk jockeys. None of this is in the slightest bit scientific, and therefore a new approach is needed.

A quick survey of the names of existing bands has shown us that there is one very rich vein of tradition running through the strata of band names, and it is fortuitously one in which maths can make a contribution: the band with a number in their name. In the search for a band with universal appeal, what could be more useful than a method by which we could calculate the most average band number.


Before starting our calculation, it was decided that the simplest reckoning of band numbers would be the most useful, although there were several alternative options available. The first question was whether to include roman numerals in the final outcome. Clearly, bands like Boyz II Men and Liberty X could hardly affect the end results in any great degree, but it was brought to our attention that MC Hammer might produce a very noticeable effect.

Secondly, it was decided that all numbers should be counted as positive integers. We briefly contemplated counting Blink-182 exactly as it appears, but it was considered undesirable for the final number to come out negative. It may be argued that the numerical validity of this study is being compromised for the sake of public relations, but we prefer that our results have some utility and have focused our efforts accordingly. It may be that future researchers will have the freedom and funds to explore both this issue and that of the inclusion of other numbering systems.

List of Bands (arranged ordinally)

  • 2 Unlimited
  • Reel 2 Real
  • The Three Degrees
  • Four Non-Blondes
  • MegaCity 4
  • Five Star
  • Five
  • Maroon 5
  • 30 Odd Foot Of Grunts
  • Sum 41
  • Blink-182
  • 808 State
  • 10000 Maniacs

Band Total: 11081
Number of Bands: 13
Average Band Number: 852.384


As demonstrated in the table, the average band from the sample available should be called Something-852, 852 Things, or possibly Something 852 Whatever (rounding to the nearest integer). It is our contention that this would be the most statistically successful band of all time.


Naturally, since we were working in the area of popular music, we gave precedence to the popular usage of "average" - that is to say, the mean. For the completist, the most median band would be the same as the most modal band, which is to say Five. Whatever else you have to say about them, at least they have that.


Not that it matters, but I think your list is out of whack -- 30 Odd Ft. Of Grunts should be before Sum-41, I think. Also, if you accept Blink as being negative, the number works out to 825.153846153846. So, perhaps a math-off should be in order -- we need two bands, one Something 852, and one Something 825, and see which of the two has a higher chart position and/or which one reaches #1 on the singles chart first.
Kludge said…
You're exactly right, and I knew that and kept meaning to sort it out. But for some reason I didn't. Oh well - fixed now.

We could also test arabic numerals versus roman numerals versus the sum of both.

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