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A Fascinating Look At How Musicians Tour The U.S.

One major factor influences where musicians travel–and it’s not their musical genre.

A Fascinating Look At How Musicians Tour The U.S.
[Image: courtesy Topos]

At face value, Living On A Prayer and Bitch Better Have My Money have very little in common. But the way our most popular musicians tour looks virtually identical on a map, whether you’re talking about Bon Jovi, Rihanna, Billy Joel, Kanye West, or Trans Siberian orchestra. They all jet-set from city to city, huge stadium to huge stadium, on a path that differs dramatically from that of less popular acts.

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It’s an insight discovered by Topos, a firm that uses artificial intelligence to study cities. By using collaborative filtering–the same machine learning technique that companies like Netflix use to suggest shows and movies you might like–Topos was able to distinguish five notable tiers for traveling acts, and then build a system that could recommend a tour schedule for the budding, or established, musician. Topos also charted out the results in infographics that show just how different these tours look on a map.

[Image: courtesy Topos]

What you see is that the Lady Gagas of the world–classified as the top tier “Jet Set” group–have a path that resembles the daily flight patterns of United or American Airlines. Then you have acts like Bob Schneider or Sam Evian, which tour by bus. They either zigzag across the country a state at a time or sometimes tour from a centralized location, going out and back home again. Finally, there are the “hyperlocal” groups, like Surprise Party. These groups perform a lot in one town on either coast and occasionally shoot off to do a concert in the next big city over.

Of course, there are differences by musical style. Country tends to tour out west. Pop, punk, and metal aggregate to centralized downtowns.  But it appears that once you’re big enough, none of that really matters. The most popular artists quite literally sell out–and the biggest arenas at that.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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