Identifying Hipster Bands and Bro Bands: A Scientific Study

on March 06, 2014, 2:07pm

A few years back, I was avoiding my family on Christmas by listening to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible. With all the grace and couth in the world, my cousin slugged me in the arm and asked what I was playing. I told him, and he responded that, because he was unfamiliar with them, it must be “hipster bullshit.” Oh, and “They’re probably not as good as Pennywise,” he added. Since then, most of our interactions have dealt with me trying to quantify and explain what really is or isn’t “hipster bullshit”, with any well-thought arguments about cultural context and artistic merit met with “Whatever, tool-bag.” Next time around, however, I’m just gonna slap the “The Hipster Music Index” right in his Affliction-wearing grill and do a little two-step.

Created by Priceonomics, the “The Hipster Music Index” is a way to confront “humorous generalizations about hipsters” by using “data capabilities to shed light on the hipster condition.” Priceonomics used two primary criteria to discern just what exactly the average hipster listens to: positive Pitchfork album reviews and how much traffic/attention any given artist’s album review is receiving via Facebook. So, just what did they uncover in their pursuit of higher knowledge?

hipsterindex01 Identifying Hipster Bands and Bro Bands: A Scientific Study

As Priceonomics explains, “For a given Pitchfork Review Score, the trend line uses a linear regression to predict how many Facebook likes you’d expect the album to receive given its critical acclaim. By our criteria, the further below the line a blue dot is, the more hipster the band. (It’s high quality but obscure.) Dots above the line represent more mainstream (not hipster) bands.The model appears adept at separating critically acclaimed but mainstream bands (Arcade Fire, The National, et al) from the critically acclaimed but obscure (Fuck Buttons, Sun Kil Moon, et al).”

Using that methodology, the “researchers” then compiled a list of the 25 most hipster bands. That is, the bands with the most critically acclaimed albums that aren’t widely shared on Facebook:

hipsterindex02 Identifying Hipster Bands and Bro Bands: A Scientific Study

From that graph, there’s a number of interesting conclusions and tidbits to draw. As a rule, fewer Facebook likes equate a higher obscurity percentage, which means acts like The Field and Julia Holter obtain true hipster-dom. Still, having a lot of likes isn’t always a factor: Disclosure had over 2.4k Likes and still land at No. 17, while Danny Brown had only 1.8k and comes in at the bottom of the list. With the Priceonomcis methodology, a huge deciding factor is a review’s predicted number of Facebook likes versus how many they actually have. Because Iceage has a deficit of 1.3 (the difference between a predicted 2k and an actual number of likes closer to .5k), the Danes land at No. 3. Essentially, perception, and not just mere statistical data, places a vital role in overall placement.

In their continued exploration, Priceonomics subsequently pondered about bands that were perceived as being beloved by hipsters but were too widely shared on Facebook to be considered obscure enough. Basically, bands that seem to have the most mainstream appeal or widespread accessibility. The “bro bands”, if you will.

hipsterindex03 Identifying Hipster Bands and Bro Bands: A Scientific Study

As you can see, the methodology’s been reversed here: the more negative an artist’s obscurity percentage was, i.e. how many more Facebook likes they had then originally expected, the higher a band ends up on the final list. That means The National are the most “bro” band because Pricenomics assumed they’d have 1.2k Likes when their review actually had 6.6k Likes, for an obscurity percentage of -82%. In contrast, Run the Jewels (El-P and Killer Mike) only had a Facebook Likes deficit of 0.1, giving them a -7% obscurity rank and placing them closer to the spectrum of hipster music. While this list has big-name acts like Justin Timberlake and Kanye West and Arcade Fire, there’s also more intriguing inclusions by Chance the Rapper, Baths, and Mikal Cronin. Once again, the whole thing comes down to perception and whether or not an artist exceeds or falls short of preconceived expectations.

Sure, the entire study was conducted by a “team of bike-riding, IPA-sipping, vinyl-listening, Mission-living hipsters”, but it does raise some interesting questions about the inherent popularity of various acts, a band’s cultural dissemination, and the impact of social media on our shared listening habits. While there’s nothing scientifically valid here, it’s an intriguing case study nonetheless. Plus, the next time someone calls you a hipster, ball up this list and smack them in the ear with it.

Below, enjoy the bro-ish stylings of The National and the obscure artistry of The Field:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

September 25, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Does it really matter if hipsters like certain music, I don’t care who else listens to a certain band or whether they’re en vogue or not, it’s anout YOU whether YOU like them or not, you can’t keep on picking and discarding bands based on their hipster status and you can’t use a bloody chart to determine how hipster a band is. Come on, get your fucking head out of your arse.

July 24, 2014 at 3:18 pm

seriously fucked with the bro music..we dont listen to any of that shit..wheres pennywise or kottonmouth kings at we dont listen to that pussy shit thats all skinny wearing rainbow loving hipster music

May 26, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Obviously you hipsters who claimed to not read the article sure are pissed off about how the article portrayed you, but then you must be reading some other scree against hipsterism. I deem hipsters to be beard, eyeglass (hipster-framed), fedora and vest wearing assholes who think they’re so far better than anyone else who doesn’t wear the “uniform”. Your listening habits are just a small – very small – percentage of what it means to be a hipster.

Get a life, a clue and over yourselves. You’re not as self-important as you think you are, nor does anyone outside of your little hipster cliques gives a Cleveland steamer what you say or like, because, well, you’re a hipster douche.

I’m just sayin’…

May 1, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I found this entertaining. I myself identify as a “hipster” and wonder when it became a bad thing to be one. I think it’s a huge misconception of the word as an identifier, like calling someone who wears a band tee and skinny jeans a hipster, whereas my definition would be:
Hipster -n- : a person who is a member of a counterculture group who are actively involved in, but not limited to, music, art, politics, science, philosophy, and fashion. IE being called a hipster is not a fucking insult

May 18, 2014 at 7:36 pm

A ‘hipster’ is a pretentious being who doesn’t genuinely enjoy anything they claim to enjoy. The only reason they pretend to like such things is because they’re scared of conformity and must be superior. If you truely like the things you do, then you aren’t a hipster.

That’s pretty much the modern definition of what a hipster is. If you call yourself one that’s cool I guess, but you really just have an alternative taste.

May 26, 2014 at 12:49 am

An asshole is someone that tries to authorize validity of how a person enjoys something. Let it be bro. The enjoyment is genuine in it’s own right

Conner Reed
May 1, 2014 at 12:09 am

heres the deal/im gonna listen to wathever music i want,regardless of the social status you try to attach to it,and if you dont like it,fuck off and go listen to some more AC/DC in your basement.thats bro music for ya.

April 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm

A) This data has been out there for a long, long time now. B) Does no one know how to proof an article or the figures contained within? So damn many typos.

Show Yourself
March 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm

a lot of anonymous negative commenting from disgruntled hipsters on here!

March 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm

the “beer me bro” index has a my bloody valentine album at number 7…. wow; so many things are problematic with this article and the original “analysis” by the “mission-living” “IPA sipping” hipsters. myopic and inane.

March 8, 2014 at 9:16 pm

All I read was blah blah blah, please take my hipster bullshit seriously. I used big words this time.

Almark (@SynthoElectro)
March 8, 2014 at 4:05 pm

This was pointless – laughs

KS2 Problema
March 8, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Um… fatal flaw — this methodology presumes correlation between positive mention in Ptichfork with artistic merit and ‘hipness.’

Yet everyone I talk to who seems to be reasonably hip tells me Pitchfork stopped being hip a long time ago.

Hey, but what do I know? I don’t read rock/pop crit at all because, from what I’ve seen over the years, most pop/rock crits are pathetic wannabes desperate not to get caught looking ‘unhip.’ Who cares what folks like that think about ANYTHING?

Me, I use a paid, on-demand subscription service (so my sister and brother musicos get paid — AND it’s all 320 kbps and no ads so I listen to what I want when I want with no interruptions and no terminally lame ‘curators’ telling me what to listen to.

When I hear mention of a new band it seems like I might like, I listen to them. I don’t go look them up in some hipness index.

What a laugh.

John Chappell
March 8, 2014 at 1:40 pm

2 Pates Corner

March 8, 2014 at 11:15 am

Album? What’s that.

obscure hipster
March 8, 2014 at 9:51 am

The National is super-artsy and super-indie and this article is worthless. And Facebook likes are an irrelevant metric.

March 7, 2014 at 12:21 pm

hahaha harb

Víctor Alarcón
March 7, 2014 at 2:18 am

Plain boring, pal. Didn’t even bothered to finish reading it.

March 6, 2014 at 7:03 pm

The National is a bro band? You must be joking. Or my life has been a lie and i have been a bro all along… queue existential crisis

March 6, 2014 at 7:02 pm

What? Disclosure has over 700 thousand facebook likes. This article means nothing, where did you even come up with these facebook like numbers?

March 6, 2014 at 6:45 pm

this is the most worthless article i’ve ever read…. also, there’s not even any humor… so i guess i’ll just sit here and cry.

March 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm

what do you mean by “mission-living”?

May 1, 2014 at 12:16 am

Probably that they live in the Mission District of SF. And that this is somehow still proof of hipsterism.

March 6, 2014 at 5:09 pm

This article is a complete waste of time.

March 6, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I cant believe I just wasted 2 minutes of my life reading this article.

March 8, 2014 at 9:43 am

so true! what a hoax

Simon Lundsgaard
March 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Iceage are Danish. Not Swedish.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,828 other followers