Subtle criticality in popular album charts

R. Alexander Bentley, Herbert D.G. Maschner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Large-scale patterns of culture change may be explained by models of self organized criticality, or alternatively, by multiplicative processes. We speculate that popular album activity may be similar to critical models of extinction in that interconnected agents compete to survive within a limited space. Here we investigate whether popular music albums as listed on popular album charts display evidence of self-organized criticality, including a self-affine time series of activity and power-law distributions of lifetimes and exit activity in the chart. We find it difficult to distinguish between multiplicative growth and critical model hypotheses for these data. However, aspects of criticality may be masked by the selective sampling that a "Top 200" listing necessarily implies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-209
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Complex Systems
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1999


  • culture change
  • music albums
  • multiplicative process


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