Opening Up iTunes

Why doesn’t iTunes publish download statistics for each song? Amazon should do it too. YouTube does it. You know exactly how many times each video has been seen and what the rest of the world thinks about it. At the slight risk of a false-consensus I know that I tend to be more attracted to videos that have more views. And psychologically, informational cascades significantly alter how attractively people perceive things. Surely some of that is at play here. I am willing to accept that people like Avril Lavigne, but I tend to doubt that that music video drew 62 million views based on her stellar reputation for authenticity. It happened because people tend to like what other people like and the overwhelming choices of others give people a heuristic reference point.

Why not be open with the numbers? Why not remove any suspicion that a spot on the “Top Songs” list could be up for sale? Let’s cut out all the bullshit and just be honest: “This is what sells.” This is, for better or for worse, our culture. And let the contrarians and the cascaders go in which ever direction that they want.

Moves like this totally change the game. A lot of stuff would be disrupted. The New York Times Bestseller list might have to change (here’s why), Billboard would have to change, quarterly reports would have to change–because right now many records ship gold or platinum and then are returned–the whole business would be thrown temporarily for a loop. And those that clung to the old method look like they are hiding something.

It just seems simple: People like data. People make their decisions based on this data. Give it to them.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.