As I do at the end of each year, we take the Top 100 selling songs of the previous year and look for patterns on what’s making a song a hit.  Some of our findings for this year:

  • The average length of a song intro continues to be 7.1 seconds long
  • 71% of the intros in 2011 were under 10 seconds long
  • Over 1 out of 4 intros were zero seconds long
  • The average tempo for a song was 101 BPM
  • Despite feeling like the charts are beat driven, 54% of the top sellers were 100 BPM or less

Rather than write a lot of words, I figured it’s best to show you the rest in a very snazzy infographic, courtesy of my new friends at Killer Infographics. Enjoy!


  1. Ray Akison January 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm # Reply

    Hi Jay,
    Thank you for this great breakdown of the top 100 hits. One question: what does the 19% in the “By Gender” depart refer to?
    Reynold Akison

    • JayFrank January 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm # Reply

      The 19% refers to songs that contain both Male & Female vocals as a primary/lead.

  2. dwoz January 24, 2012 at 11:58 am # Reply

    Basically, your chart DOES show something interesting…that the factors you’ve chosen as axis for your charts have no correlative relevance for hit songs!

    That basically, there is no significant pattern. (at least for the factors you’ve chosen)

    Now, that may sound like I’m refuting your claims, but the absence of a pattern is every bit as exciting as the existence of one!!!!

    • JayFrank January 24, 2012 at 12:32 pm # Reply

      I would agree that the absence of patterns is as exciting as ones that exist. The axis to me show that there is a pattern of the majority of songs falling within a certain boundary (except perhaps for key signature) but the ones that fall out are varied. To me, that means, if you’re gonna be different, go all the way. :)

      • dwoz January 24, 2012 at 3:12 pm # Reply

        Actually, I disagree on the usefulness of the chart. I think you’re missing some fairly easy correlations that far better explain things. First off, guitar-based tunes will be commonly in E, A, D, G. Certain keys are better for female vocalists than male. Songs with (real) horns will often be in flat keys, and it’s also common to have drop tunings.

        The bpm chart simply shows that there is a preponderance of dance oriented music in the 100. Length of intro looks almost stochastic (i.e. random) with the proviso that it’s uncommon to have ultra-long intros with music that has vocals, at risk of losing the listener to channel switching (random shuffling?) Radio set the standard eons ago for the hit song length, 3:30 to 4:15 or so…it’s rare to see it go higher than 5:00 unless it’s dance remix.

        I will admit to being surprised at the imbalance of male/female vocalists.

        • BC February 5, 2012 at 11:03 am # Reply

          Cool. Don’t use this chart if you don’t find it useful. Better for the rest of us!


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