In modern popular music, adapting or covering older songs denotes a tribute to or reworking of well-known songs, which implies recognition of the original musicians. This association can be seen as a shared musical influence between musicians.
A network graph was produced using data from the website SecondHandSongs, including more than 106k artists and 855k cover versions. Exploring the network’s shape, selecting the artists with the greatest relevance based on various impact indicators, and visualizing the relationships between musical genres are the main goals.
With the intention of understanding how cover versions might teach us about the history of current popular music, this analysis is conducted from a longitudinal viewpoint. Results indicate that the distribution of covers by artist is lopsided and has been declining since the 1950s.
Different network measures have made it possible to identify the most influential (PageRank), most covered (weighted indegree), and most crossover musicians (weighted betweenness centrality). The network graph also reveals that the primary factor influencing whether two artists cover the same song is genre affinity, with language coming in second.
Due to their strength and central role in their respective sub-networks, remakes from other genres show that Jazz and Pop/Rock are the most influential. Two cycles are described in covers.
In a first stage from the 1900s to the 1950s, jazz and vocal artists predominated, covers were more prevalent and were linked to the idea of reworking (for example, jazz standards); in a second stage, rock and roll artists predominated. Since the 1950s, when Pop/Rock began to take off, cover songs have become less common and are viewed as a form of homage.