The Consistency Ratio: Another Look at Rankings



aerosmithI recently published my subjective list of my top 100 Rock artists of all time, which everyone more or less accepted as objective truth.

Just kidding. People had some serious qualms with it. And why wouldn’t they? I simply like some of those bands more than others for reasons that are entirely my own. While part of the fun of arguing about rock music is the clashing of various differing opinions, it might be nice to have some sort of objective standard guiding us. This got me thinking about what, exactly, is the best way to measure a band’s quality? Is it durability/longevity? Amount of popular songs/albums? The inevitable conclusion to this line of thinking is that there is no way to really measure the quality of a band that isn’t going to leave out the perfectly valid opinions of some folks. I’m sure there are smart, interesting and articulate people that count Nickelback as their favorite band, despite that Nickelback objectively (to the extent that such a thing is measurable) sucks.

So, this article is not meant to be a substitute for someone’s conception of “great.” My favorite Who album is Quadrophenia, but I would love to engage in a spirited and respectful debate with someone that thinks Tommy is the best.  We use so many criteria to determine bands that are worth mentioning on this very site, and no set of honestly-held beliefs is better than any other.

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I merely present an idea for a different way of looking at the career of groups as a whole.

I call it the Consistency Ratio, and if it’s been written about before, I haven’t read about it.

The idea behind this is that we can establish a figure for a band’s consistency by taking their chronological age and dividing it by how many great albums they had. Like any good piece of airtight legislation, I am going to begin with my “defining of terms.” I cannot stress enough how this is my own opinion and is not intended to be the be-all-end-all of rock rankings.

Terms

Chronological Age: The age at which the group was assembled in more or less its current form under the current name they are using.

“Great” Album: Since there is no way to objectively determine a “great” album, I am going to use the average of the critic and user ranking from allmusic.com. The site, at least ostensibly, takes a sampling from both professionals and amateur music enthusiasts for the rankings it displays. They reflect the general consensus of the music community in the most accurate way that I have seen so far. Also, this is a rock music site, and I’m a liberal arts major.

Allmusic uses a star system. Assuming every album scores at least half a star, we can equate that with “10” and go up in intervals of “10” until we reach 5 stars 100. I am going to be generous and give every album with at least 4 stars ( a solid B minus, aka my average grade in law school)

In addition, keep in mind that math is not an exact science.

The idea behind this is that we’re going for the average length (in years) between great albums in a band’s overall career. The lower your ratio is, the more often you release quality work.

The gold standard would be the Beatles, who were together for roughly 10 years and made as many (or even more) great albums. Their ratio would be 1, or possibly even less. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Aerosmith has been together since 1970. They have had 6 records that have earned an average of 80% or more. Therefore, their ratio is 45 years/6 albums. This equals exactly 7.5. Aerosmith, on the average, released a great record every 7.5 years. Here are a few more:

Pink Floyd: 8.33

The Velvet Underground: Counting the post-Lou Reed stuff, their number is 2.25. If we stop the clock at Loaded, their number becomes 1.5. 

Rolling Stones: 3.1

 

I think you get the idea. I realize that this model is flawed in that it assumes that a band is creatively productive throughout its entire existence. Some bands remain successful live acts while releasing very little original material. Obviously, this model is also biased towards bands that release a lot of great albums in a very short period of time and then flame out. It’s not a perfect concept, nor is it a substitute for enjoyment of actual music. If you like an album, as long as you come by it honestly, it’s a good album to you.

I merely present another way of looking at things. Please let me know in the comments and on Facebook the ways in which I have failed you.

Photo Credit: By Julio Aprea (Steven & Joe) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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One comment to “The Consistency Ratio: Another Look at Rankings”
  1. It’s a great idea, and AllMusic is a very reliable source. And the numbers make it look so scientific, which is also impressive.

    But i don’t think longevity should be a consideration for a band’s greatness or importance. A band like Cream barely lasted two years but were a huge influence. Why not just average score per album, minimum two or three albums?

    Also, my math’s not so good, I’d be interested in seeing more consistency ratio scores to see how well it holds up

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