Making the Chart That Best Illustrates My Current Music Listening Habits

Part 3 in a series recapping my Year In Music project for 2015

When I crack open a fresh data set, I like to get a sense of what is inside. Filtering, sorting, searching, and some simple charting familiarizes me with the data. Often, that process tips me off to the different stories I end up chasing through the data and then illustrating with numbers and visualizations. In the case of my favorite chart from 2015, it emerged from repetitive scrolling.


A small sample of the scrolling that revealed the pattern of my music listening habits

Hand Sketching

Some of my initial sketches.

Code Sketching

First code sketch using oscillating lines to indicate change in artist.
First code sketch using changing color to indicate change in artist.


I still thought the oscillating lines would make for a more interesting graphic, but it was much harder to identify patterns at a glance.

Adding Complexity

Color change indicating a change in artist. Yellow indicating top ten albums.

Cracking It

There was also a new listening pattern that I was able to see with this visualization, one I didn’t see in the data before. The new pattern is somewhere between an album and a playlist. It’s a grouping of 4–6 songs by the same artist, I call them “Selections”. They become much more prominent in the latter third of the year, which illustrates a change in listening that happens as the year goes on.

Now that I had a form for the data that illustrated the patterns in a handsome and effective way, I needed to find a way to overlay the chart with my top ten albums without compromising it. I found that dropping in the colored bars behind the lines did the trick.

Finishing Touches

Final Layout

My favorite and most revealing graphic from the 2015 Year In Music book

Part 1, focused on the process of collecting the songs, can be found here. Part 2, highlighting my findings, can be found here.

There is a 12 page book summarizing my findings and process in tracking my year in music. It is a limited edition of 250 copies chocked full of data, maps, and visualizations. Order a copy of the book here.

Previous year’s projects are compiled on my website:

Music, Data, and #musicdata |

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