RELEVANCE: Popularity-based approaches are widely adopted in music recommendation systems, both in industry and research. These approaches recommend to the target user what is currently popular among all users of the system. However, as the popularity distribution of music items typically is a long-tail distribution, popularity-based approaches to music recommendation fall short in satisfying listeners that have specialized music preferences far away from the global music mainstream. Addressing this gap, the contribution of this article is three-fold.
DEFINITION OF MAINSTREAMINESS MEASURES: First, we provide several quantitative measures describing the proximity of a user’s music preference to the music mainstream. Assuming that there is a difference between the global music mainstream and a country-specific one, we define the measures at two levels: relating a listener’s music preferences to the global music preferences of all users, or relating them to music preferences of the user’s country. To quantify such music preferences, we define a music item’s popularity in terms of artist playcounts (APC) and artist listener counts (ALC). Moreover, we adopt a distribution-based and a rank-based approach as means to decrease bias towards the head of the long-tail distribution. This eventually results in a framework of 6 measures to quantify music mainstream.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN COUNTRIES WITH RESPECT TO MUSIC MAINSTREAM: Second, we perform in-depth quantitative and qualitative studies of music mainstream in that we (i) analyze differences between countries in terms of their level of mainstreaminess, (ii) uncover both positive and negative outliers (substantially higher and lower country-specific popularity, respectively, compared to the global mainstream), analyzing these with a mixed-methods approach, and (iii) investigate differences between countries in terms of listening preferences related to popular music artists. We conduct our studies and experiments using the standardized LFM-1b dataset, from which we analyze about 800,000,000 listening events shared by about 53,000 users (from 47 countries) of the music streaming platform Last.fm. We show that there are substantial country-specific differences in listeners’ music consumption behavior with respect to the most popular artists listened to.
RATING PREDICTION EXPERIMENTS: Third, we demonstrate the applicability of our study results to improve music recommendation systems. To this end, we conduct rating prediction experiments in which we tailor recommendations to a user’s level of preference for the music mainstream using the proposed 6 mainstreaminess measures: defined by a distribution-based or rank-based approach, defined on a global level or on a country level (for the user’s country), and for APC or ALC. Our approach roughly equals a hybrid recommendation approach in which a demographic filtering strategy is implemented before collaborative filtering is performed. Results suggest that, in terms of rating prediction accuracy, each of the presented mainstreaminess definitions has its merits.