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Mathematicians have explained why music is like a disease

We really can infect our friends with our musical tastes. In a new mathematical study, scientists have shown that the patterns of downloading new music immediately after its release resemble the spread curves of infectious diseases. The most "infectious" in this sense was the epic royalty free music genre. The work is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences.

Dora Rosati, the study's lead author and a specialist in mathematics and statistics, once wondered whether it was possible to learn something new about the spread of songs using mathematical tools that are commonly used to model the spread of infections.

To do so, she and her team processed a song download database containing nearly 1.5 billion records taken from the now-closed MixRadio service. They selected the 1,000 most popular songs downloaded in Britain between 2007 and 2014 and looked at how well the standard epidemiological disease model, SIR, matched the download statistics.

It turned out that infection and popular music download trends were almost identical. According to Rosati, this suggests that many of the social processes underlying the spread of disease are just as applicable to music download trends. That is, both infection and music spread in the population through social connections.

If you come into contact with someone who is sick, you will have a certain likelihood of catching the disease. It's the same with music. The difference is that in the case of music, you don't need physical contact - someone will post a new song on social media and another person will find it.

Rosati's team also calculated an R reproduction index - the contagiousness of an infectious disease - for different music genres, taking the population's immunity to zero. ![Image description](https://leewardslope.s3.amazonaws.com/uploads/articles/jxfhvsrtlwhxlp4765n0.png)



The lowest median R scores were for dance genres and metal (2.8 and 3.7). Pop music transmits more easily but is significantly outperformed by genres such as rock and hip-hop. Electronic music (not dance music, but intended for quiet listening) showed the highest R0- 3430. This is 190 times more than one of the most contagious diseases - measles (it has R 0equal to 18). This does not mean that electronics are being downloaded more often, just that it is spreading faster through its lovers.

According to disease modeler, Dr. Thomas Rawson of Imperial College London, music 0can have such exorbitant R values, because music does not need physical contact to spread - made a tweet, and already infected a hundred people. So getting infected with music happens much faster than getting infected with a disease.

That said, Rawson said there are people in the population who are immune to various genres, including electronics, because of their formed tastes.

As Rosati said, perhaps the high index of electronica is because its fans are more passionate about the music, or there are more internal connections in the community of those fans. Or it could be that some pop music is mostly distributed through more passive channels, like radio.

She believes that music producers will be able to better predict popularity, distribution, and song download numbers by using mathematical tools to predict epidemics.

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