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What Music Rules The Car - Country, Rock or Hip Hop?

1Cars have been linked to the music industry for as long as both have been around - in advertising, consumption, and even lyrical content. Thanks to new analytic technology, it's now possible to quantify this relationship between the musical and the automotive.

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Guest post by Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media Strategies

In yesterday's post, we looked at radio's sales outlook for automotive ad dollars, as well as the way car companies continue to use Classic Rock soundtracks to brand their new makes and models.

And as promised, we're going to take that one giant step forward and make that connection between music, radio, and cars.  That's because so many musicians and performers have crooned about cars.

As a Detroit guy firmly rooted in both the radio and automotive industries, it's a topic that hits home.  When you live in the Motor City, frequent conversations revolve around the car you drive, the music you love, and the radio stations that bring it all together whether you're driving on the John C. Lodge Freeway, Woodward Avenue, or Telegraph Road.

And now thanks to analytics and word search, it's possible to quantify that magical relationship.  Gold Eagle, a Chicago-based automotive mainteance products supplier used the services of Digital Third Coast to conduct lyric-based research to determine which format genre most frequently refers to our four-wheeled friends – our cars.

Here's how they did it:

Matt Zajechowski, Digital Third Coast's Outreach Lead (and Phish phanatic), explains how his company analyzed 100,000 songs using the lyrics.com database.  To make the determination, they used scores of search terms, including cars, trucks, 4X4, coupe, sedan and “hooptie.” They also included many makes and models of cars and trucks, like Escalade, Caddy, Mustang, Jeep, and Jag, as well as terms like F-150 and C-Class.

And the result?

It turns out that automotive is very much a key part of the music we listen to – and program.  Overall, 13,000 artists and 72,000 songs mention car search terms somewhere in their lyrics.

That's a lot of car talk.

But the big question is this: Which musical genre leads the league in car lyrics – Rock, Hip-Hop, Country, or another format entirely?

This automotive contest isn't even close.  Hip-Hop is the runaway leader.  Of the top 100 performers who mention cars in their songs, 94 are hip-hop artists or rappers.

In fact, the top 3 are Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg.

Rock is right up there, led by Bruce Springsteen.  The Boss is followed by Tom Waits, Kid Rock, and Frank Zappa.

And Pop songs often contain lyrics about cars, headed up by Jimmy Buffet and Prince, while topping the Country top charts are Johnny Cash and Jason Aldean.

It's seems notable that novelty artists like Zappa and Weird Al Yankovic show up on the list, along with cultural icons like Cash, Dylan, and Iggy Popp.  Cars are part of the formula for writing hit songs, and dashboard radio is the conduit that brought it all together.

Here's a slice of the Gold Eagle/Third Coast Digital infographic that provides artist-level data for car lyrics:

The auto industry is as brand driven as any other consumer product.  So, it's fascinating to see the most-mentioned car makes in the database of 72,000 songs.  As a Detroiter, I'm especially interested in which car brands celebrated in this music are the standouts.

The leader in the clubhouse – that is, garage – is Mercedes (the S-Class is most prolific in song lyrics), mentioned in more than 4,700 songs, followed by Cadillac.  Here's the way these musical car brands stack up in the music we know and love:

Sadly, the Honda Civic is the least mentioned car tracked in the research.

You can see the full analysis and infographic here. 

It's fascinating how some artists are inextricably linked with the songs and cars they made famous:

  1. Bruce Springsteen – “Pink Cadillac”
  2. Commander Cody – “Hot Rod Lincoln”
  3. Bob Seger – '60 Chevy
  4. Janis Joplin – Mercedes Benz
  5. Prince – (Little) Red Corvette”

Strangely, my five favorite driving songs hardly mention the word “car,” much less a brand or nameplate.  But when I think about radio, rock n' roll, and cars, they're the ones that resonate most and motivate me to turn up the radio when I'm headed down the highway:

  1. Steppenwolf – “Born To Be Wild”
  2. Golden Earring – “Radar Love”
  3. Tom Petty – “Runnin' Down A Dream”
  4. Tom Waits – “Diamonds On My Windshield”
  5. Bruce Springsteen – “Born To Run”

And yours?

Thanks to 88.1 The Park's Bill Keith for the lead on today's post. 

Fred Jacobs founded Jacobs Media in 1983, and quickly became known for the creation of the Classic Rock radio format. 

Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.

In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.

Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.

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