Iggy Azalea is the artist on everybody’s radar right now, but did you know that she is as popular as the word “apparent”?
The Australian rapper currently has a hand in the two top tracks on the Billboard Hot 100, a feat that no one has managed since the Beatles back in the 60s. With both “Fancy” and “Problem” as likely candidates for song of the summer, Azalea has catapulted into the mainstream in the past year, hitting the Billboard 200 with her debut album The New Classic. Azalea currently has about 2 million Facebook page likes, 1.4 million followers on Twitter and more than 2.5 million followers on Instagram. But just how popular is Iggy Azalea, and how can word frequency help us better determine what those numbers mean?
The landscape of online popularity can be murky. There are hundreds of thousands of artists struggling to launch a career in the music industry today, and have at their disposal social media tools to reach an audience. But artist popularity increases by the rule of proportionate growth and the distribution of online fans is heavily skewed. About 80% of artists see less than one Facebook page like a day, and close to 90% of all the new page likes and followers in 2013 on Facebook and Twitter, were snagged by the top 1.1% of artists.
Once artists start reaching the kinds of numbers that Iggy Azalea sees, or the millions of fans that Katy Perry, Shakira, Rihanna, or Eminem can boast, it becomes difficult to really process the magnitude of scale. Luckily, we have another tool in our arsenal that can aid with this. In a recent post on the Next Big Sound Maker’s blog, Data Scientist Adam Hajari, points out that word frequency in the English language happens to follow a similar distribution to online popularity for artists. This means we can equate the popularity of an artist on Facebook to how frequently particular words are used in written text.
Hajari writes, “The Eminems and Rihannas of Facebook (i.e. those with over 70 million page likes) are about as popular as words like “it”, “with”, “for”, and “and”. The Black Keys, with a tenth the number of Eminem’s Facebook fans, is about as popular as words like “big”, “every”, and “turn”. Bluegrass prodigy and recent grammy nominee, Sarah Jarosz, is about as popular as the words “plethora” and “consonant”. And the local New York City rock-band-from-the-future The Sky Captains of Industry, with 810 page likes (100% more than the median value), is about as popular as the words “quare” and “pleuritic.”.”
Iggy Azalea, with her 2 million Facebook page likes, is about as popular as the words “apparent,” “bigger,” “vision,” “sick,” and “imply,” all fairly common words. But she wasn’t always this common.
In January of this year, she had about 630,000 page likes, and was as popular as the words “impossible,” “escape,” and “plastic.” This time last year, she had about 230,000 page likes, and was as popular as the words “explode,”"pronunciation,” and “sin.” Familiar words, but not used quite as commonly. At the beginning of 2013, Azalea counted about 123,000 page likes, and was as popular as words like “villa,” “haven,” and “clause.” And way back in the beginning of 2012, when Azalea only had about 10,000 page likes on her page, she was as popular as the words “monastic,” “paroled,” and “slade.” The latter, in case you were wondering, is a small valley, or – the sole of a plow.