Study Explains Why “Simple Instrumental” Songs Sell


Do you ever feel like every time you turn on the radio, all the stations are all playing songs that sound almost the same that you could swear they were the same song?

Well, then it should come as no surprise that simple music sell, at least scientifically.

According to a recent study by PLOS One Journal, it’s been proven that music just keeps getting simpler to the point that songs begin to sound all the same. The study attributes this to the lack of complexity when it comes to instrumentals on any given track.

The study found that “album sales of a given style typically increase with decreasing instrumentals complexity” which would lead to “music becoming increasingly formulaic in terms of instrumentation once commercial or mainstream success sets in.”

We can’t say that we didn’t already know this, especially with the increased usage of auto-tune on almost every other song that charts or the same four-chords being played repeatedly.

The sample used for the experiment included more than half a million albums from 15 genres and 374 styles of music including jazz, rock, metal, pop, and so forth. The study resulted in the scientists creating a formula to determine and prove their hypothesis, though we ‘re more than confused on what it means. And we passed pre-cal.

Look at it here.


The album used were record between 1955-2011 giving them more than 50 years of music to use for the experiment. They also analyzed nearly 500 instruments while conducting the study.

“This can be interpreted as music becoming increasingly formulaic in terms of instrumentation under increasing sales numbers due to a tendency to popularize music styles with low variety and musicians with similar skills,” the study explains.

This is probably why every other song on the radio sound eerily the same, hence the confusion sometimes.

The Atlantic has pointed out that genres like “euro house” and “disco” decreased have decreased the complexity of their instrumentals which, according to the study, earned them a higher album sale average, while genres like “alternative rock” and “hip-hop” have gotten more complex with instrumentals leading to a decline in average album sales.