Google analyzed our MP3 libraries to visualize the evolution of music

Google Play knows a lot about what its users listen to, and on Thursday Google shared some of those insights via a new tool called Music Timeline. It’s an interactive feature that shows the popularity of genres over time, as well as the popularity of subgenres and artists within them. It’s also a great way to show off Google Play as a worthy competitor to more widely used streaming services such as Spotify or Pandora, or more popular MP3 stores such as iTunes.

This type of knowledge is a big deal. As I explained earlier this month, the battle to become the world’s dominant streaming service is heating up as more listening goes digital. Google is a late-comer, but one with some serious potential.

I don’t know how Google Play’s recommendation algorithms work, but it seems like Google could make a pretty good first hack at classifying someone’s taste just by comparing his or her MP3 library against the aggregate data it has gathered as a part of Timeline. If the Metal line on my graph is disproportionately thick, it probably says something about what I like to hear. Add to that information about what I stream, and the picture becomes clearer.

Across all industries, companies are figuring out how to turn the data they’re collecting into better products. In fact, that’s one of the driving themes of our Structure Data conference in March.

Anyhow, here are some screenshots of Music Timeline to highlight the types of things it will let you dig into. Overall, rock and pop music are very popular.


In thrash metal, one of my favorite genres, Metallica dominates.


Here’s the career arc of one of my favorite bands, Corrosion of Conformity. I must be the only one who bought its last album.


Of course, this is what a long, successful career looks like. I only wish Music Timeline featured relative comparisons, so we could compare the Rolling Stone to less-popular artists like, well, Corrosion of Conformity to see how they stack up. I suspect even Voodoo Lounge is much more popular overall than COC’s most-popular album. Guess there’s no accounting for taste.