Rankings as coordination games: The Dutch Top 2000 pop song ranking

Prinz, Aloys

The Dutch Top 2000 pop song ranking has been broadcast each yearsince 1999 between Christmas and New Year's Eve. As a nation wide event, it receives cult status in the Netherlands. In this paper, it is argued that rankings arecoordination games. To demonstrate this, statistical methods are applied, first to analyze the extent to which competition prevails between pop songs. While conventional charts collect pop song rankings on a commercial basis, the Top 2000 ranking is voted on once a year. Moreover, a very wide range of songs is allocated to 2000 positions. The ranking displays tremendous stability among the top five songs over the years and demonstrates the importance of superstardom. Moreover, a detailed statistical analysis provides evidence that there is hardly any competition among the most liked 100-150 songs. The empirical distribution of these songs follows a Pareto distribution, whereas the songs up to rank 1500 are exponentially distributed. These different distributions may be explained by two different voting strategies, namely voting for the individually most liked songs and voting to maximize the social value of the Top 2000 by taking account of the assumed preferences of other voters. In this manner, superstardom acts as a coordination device in a large-scale coordination game

Pop charts; Superstars; Coordination games; Pareto distribution; Exponential distribution; Voting strategies

Publication type
Article in Journal

Peer reviewed

Publication status
In press


Journal of Cultural Economics