The Times examined the 50 artists on the Billboard list that were the most-watched in the US on YouTube between January 2016 and April 2017.
From there, heat maps were created to depict popularity density. The darker the shade of purple on the maps, the more popular an artist is in that region. And as the Times points out, “If one part of a map is lighter, it doesn’t mean people there weren’t watching the artist’s videos; it just means fans were more likely to listen to a variety of other artists.”
The research shows heat maps for all 50 artists, and ranks the artists according to YouTube views. Future takes the top spot, and no-brainers like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and Beyonce make up some more of the top ten. This writer was fairly shocked to see Baton Rouge rapper Kevin Gates in the top five. His deeply confessional street raps turn Louisiana and most of Mississippi a dark purple on the map.
Someone like Drake, who incorporates many different regional styles into his music, finds himself with swaths of purple all over the country in places like southern California, Las Vegas, southern Texas, and the Acela corridor in the northeast.
Elsewhere, Taylor Swift does not have the stronghold on the south as she may have had if this research were conducted in, say, 2010, as her songwriting has become stylistically more wide-reaching.
Americans include some foreigners in their listening habits. The UK’s Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Coldplay, Canada’s Shawn Mendes, and K-pop sensation BTS are popular enough to make the top 50.
In terms of genre, rap and r&b is heavily represented here, with a paucity of rock acts making the list. Big time rock acts Linkin Park and Metallica come in at numbers 49 and 50, respectively, on the Times list. Revisit William Boyd on hip-hop overtaking rock as the most popular form of music in America.