What is it about?

Is it possible to map the evolution of popular music analyzing cover songs? This study identifies the most important artists tracking how they were covered by contemporary and following performers. This approach allows to define impact indicators in popular music. The most relevant results show that cover songs describe two cycles. In a first phase, from 1900s to 1950s, dominated by Jazz and Vocal artists, the covers are more frequent and associated with the notion of reworking (e.g. jazz standards); in a second stage, since the 1950s, when the Pop/Rock emerges, cover songs are less common and seen as tribute. The study identifies Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington as the leader of the jazz era, while The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones are the references of the Pop/Rock music.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

This study introduces the ability of data science and modern information extraction techniques to explore from a quantitatively view the analysis of complex cultural phenomena such as the influence of music artists through the cover songs. For the first time, this study maps the cover relationships of more than 140k artists, showing different historical patterns and detecting the figures that lead the transformation of popular music in each moment.


In my opinion, this study opens a new way to study and understand the history of music. It is possible to detect new tendencies, analyze different meanings of cover songs and explore in detail which are/were the influences of certain musical styles and streams.

José Luis Ortega
Spanish National Research Council

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Cover versions as an impact indicator in popular music: A quantitative network analysis, PLoS ONE, April 2021, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0250212.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page