Well, it's finally happened. It's Over - and it appears that I don't listen to Level 42 the most these days; Paul Weller now sits at the top of my playlist history. So does this mean I don't love Level 42 anymore?
I love Level 42 - have done since I very first heard Hot Water. Ever since I first signed up to Last.fm back in 2007 and began to scrobble each & every tune I played via iTunes, Last.fm has been faithfully noting which tracks I played and when. Last.fm is great and besides building my playlist it'll suggest what other artists I might also like - it was Last.fm that suggested I might like Radiohead and indeed I did.
However, Last.fm also brings with it other insights and on 27th February 2012 Last.fm informed me that Paul Weller had toppled Level 42 as my most listened-to artist. Initially, I reacted a little badly and, perhaps, a little sadly by trying to turn the tide and make a conscious effort to play more Level 42 than I would normally have but, you see, the fact is simply that Weller has recorded so much more music than messers King & co.
No matter how much I tried to pervert the stats the tide had turned and Weller began to pull away in the popularity stakes and, on the face of it, appeared to have become the new Boy About Town. After a little while the feeling of guilt and shame that I initially felt began to ebb away as realisation dawned on me that blunt statistics can very often be misleading if viewed slightly out of context.
Yes, on the face of it, I was listening to more Weller than anything else but if I were to slice the stats another way and analyse my playlist by individual tracks I'd get a totally different perspective of my listening habits because, overall, it would appear that the stats tell a different story, one in which Level 42 dominate my listening with Starchild as my most listened-to and, therefore, favourite track. Weller's most frequently played track only reaches around half the plays of Starchild and there were still six other Level 42 tracks which out-perform Weller. However, given the wealth of material Weller has written and ripped to MP3 or burned to CD throughout his career the statisticians would argue that it's understandable why, with more choice, individual Weller tracks would find themselves being played less often. Slice my playlist by album, rather than artist or track and the story is much more eclectic with no clear winner.
Websites are completely digital and, as such, are capable of tracking many kind of activity and behaviour and, at Sub@omic, we're seeing many more Customers getting bamboozled by the wall of stats that hits like a tsunami. Google Analytics has become the tool of choice for many web design professionals and digital marketers yet just how much should we trust Google's extrapolations? Even though there's well over 100 reports available to the Google Analytics user it still only tells a portion of the digital story and, depending upon which report you choose to use in your management report, you can spin a website in any direction you choose. The trick to truly understanding how successful a website is is not to rely wholly upon Analytics but merely as one way of slicing the stats and beefing-up the reports with real data from server logfiles, conversion stats and internal KPIs.
You can't conclusively state what you love simply by the number of times you do it - just because I shop at Sainsbury's more than I shop at the Apple Store it doesn't mean that I love Sainsbury's more than Apple. The reality is way more complicated than the figures might have you think at first glance. The bottom line is, no matter what the stats may tell you an no matter how much I continue to play and grow to love Weller's work, the lesson is that I still love Level 42.