There have been questions over the past few day that deal with why categorizes of music are or are not as popular shown below:

Can we answer questions that ask why a category of music is or is not popular? Also on a related note, would it be ok to ask "Why is (song) popular?/Why is (song) not popular?"

  • Is there any tag to help identifying this kind of questions ?
    – Bebs
    Nov 29, 2016 at 8:55
  • @Bebs no because a good concensus was never reached on this question. Also all but one of the questions asked in the early days are closed.
    – Dom Mod
    Nov 29, 2016 at 13:12

3 Answers 3


I think some of these could be interesting questions.

Popularity is something that people do (albeit indirectly) measure - a lot - through charts, sales, airplay, YouTube views... so it can be talked about with a degree of objectivity. We don't necessarily need to talk about exactly what we mean by 'popularity', much as it was agreed in another thread that we don't have to pin down the meaning of 'chart'.

As for why something is popular - it's almost always going to be a combination of factors, but in many cases some of those factors might be possible to talk about with a degree of objectivity. I think this is an example of a question about popularity that is answerable in non-subjective terms: reasons behind K - pop success. (Disclaimer - at the time of writing, I have the accepted answer)

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    "interesting" is not a good requirement for a Q&A forum. We can't accept all "interesting" types of questions Mar 5, 2015 at 23:21
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    @ZachSaucier If Music Fans is not interesting I can't see much point in it. I think "interesting" is the prime requirement.
    – user16
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:24
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    It leads to the exact same problem we discussed here.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:30
  • Yes, it seems clear that being interesting is not considered a suitable criterion. Still, we do want to attract interesting questions - and in fact the consensus in that thread (about questions on specific songs) was a strong 'allow'.
    – user16
    Mar 7, 2015 at 21:05
  • But your only argument in this is that the questions could be interesting. Do we have the knowledge even in retrospect to tell why or why not something was popular? That's what the core of my question is asking.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 25, 2015 at 14:24
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    @Dom We usually won't be able to give complete answers that are provably objectively correct. But we will often be able to give answers that will be seen as relevant and useful by the asker and other users, and I think that's good enough. I think maybe you might not totally disagree with me on that point : you've asked "Why do so many musicians use stage names instead of their real names?", and "Who influenced The Beatles?", for example. Neither of these questions can generate provably objectively correct answers, but they can attract relevant and useful answers.
    – user16
    Mar 25, 2015 at 15:15

No, asking about popularity shouldn't be on topic.

Popularity is hard to define. Something may be liked by the majority of people among one group of people but not among others. As such, if a question asks about the popularity of something, the population in which it is/isn't popular in question must be specified explicitly.

Generally speaking (I can't even think of a reason where this isn't the case but it's possible I suppose), there is not one or two reasons why something becomes or un-becomes popular. This leads to opinionated and list type answers, which the SE format is not well suited for.

Correspondingly, the usual answers for these types of questions would be very similar (unless there is one or two specific reasons why it became/un-became popular), including:

  • It fit the culture at the time
  • It matches a structure that people are familiar with
  • People associated it with something else that they liked
  • It was a progression from the period before it

I'm sure there are others, but this type of principle could be applied to most all questions regarding popularity. All someone would have to do is replace "X" for "Y" in the question and it'd still be valid but have answers that are essentially the same. Duplicating the same answer with only a few things changed doesn't help anyone because the answer from one is valid on the other.

This might lead someone to believe that having one or two more broad questions/answers, like "Why does music become popular?" and the opposite, "Why does music become unpopular?" would be good, but then we face the problem that a question like this is overly broad. While I'm more okay with the thought of something like this, there is no specific set of reasons that can be applied to every song/genre/artists/etc. Each of these principles may be applied in specific ways for each song/artist/genere/etc.

With that being said, more specific questions can be on topic through the application of the principles of why something became popular/unpopular. For example, I could see something like the following being on topic:

How did [this event / something else] make [X] no longer popular?

This question can be answered by saying, "it didn't" or "It did in X, Y, Z ways" along with detailed explanation of that answer.

This specifies the population, as mentioned above, and asks a clear and non-overly broad question.

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    I'd love to hear feedback from the downvoters Mar 5, 2015 at 23:29
  • So would I, you have made good points. Mar 6, 2015 at 10:24
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    If I could have downvoted the first part of your post and upvoted the second part, that's what I would have done :) but I downvoted "on balance". You can see from my answer that I don't really have the same concerns about popularity itself being a problem to talk about. I also don't agree that SE is necessarily a bad place for (somewhat) opinionated and (finite) list-based answers. Indeed I think it's a better place than forum-style sites where you might have to wade though 30 pages of dross to read a few educational comments.
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 13:57
  • I think the second part of your answer makes good points. I have made answers to both the 'Korean' and 'Rock' questions and tried to stay specific, and away from the pitfalls of the areas you mentioned. As for the broad stuff, do you think it would be bad if someone were to actually ask a question like "why do music styles go in and out of fashion"? It could be 'interesting' like the "why are many songs 3-4 minutes" question, and then if it attracted good answers, any over-broad questions about popularity of styles could be pointed to it.
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 13:59
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    @topomorto I think you're misunderstanding the first part of my answer. I'm suggesting that questions about popularity will all have approximately the same answers with a few instrument names, cultural aspects, and such replaced. This leads to near-duplicated content that's ultimately not very useful, because one slightly more broad question could encompass the principles once to cover all of them. However, that question is likely too broad as I talked about in the answer Mar 6, 2015 at 14:13
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    @topomorto As for your second comment here, being "interesting" cannot be used as a judgement of whether or not something is on topic. This is true across all SE websites. What's interesting to you may not be interesting to me. Obviously, if I ask a question I find it interesting enough to ask and get an answer. Mar 6, 2015 at 14:14
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    lots of answers to lots of different questions are the same in terms of basic reasoning, but with different specifics replaced. If the specifics are interesting, I don't see that as a problem.
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 16:37
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    @topomorto Please accept the community's decision and stop using "interesting" as a reason for things Mar 6, 2015 at 16:43
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    being "interesting" cannot be used as a judgement of whether or not something is on topic - maybe so, but I would want our rules of what is/isn't on topic to allow as many questions that are interesting as possible. 'What's interesting to you may not be interesting to me' - well one of the central tenets of SE is that we upvote things that are interesting to us because those things are likely to be interesting to others.
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 16:45
  • @ZachSaucier the question you linked to uses the word 'interesting' once in the question, and in none of the answers. Was that the page you meant to link to?
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 16:50
  • @topomorto Yes. "Nobody gets carte blanche to do whatever they want" addresses something being "interesting" directly. Mar 6, 2015 at 16:52
  • @ZachSaucier I think you are interpreting his answer differently from how I am.
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 16:55
  • @topomorto If you still think it's a valid reason for things, I encourage you to ask a meta question about it. I'll be happy to repost all of the points I've written so the community can vote on it directly Mar 6, 2015 at 16:57
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    What question is it that you think I want to ask?
    – user16
    Mar 6, 2015 at 17:04
  • @topomorto About whether or not interesting is a valid reason for whether or not something is on topic Mar 7, 2015 at 0:46

Regarding questions like:

Why is rock music not on the charts anymore?

This kind of question is a great example of a common complaint on questions -

Details, details, details,

First, you have to define popular and by what measure:
"XYZ" chart, radio airplay, some poll, etc.

Then, narrow down "rock music". Far too broad a category.

Also a question should specify worldwide popularity or that of a specific region. For example, what is popular in one country will differ from that in another country.

Ultimately, some factual, referenced information should be expected. Otherwise you will only get opinions and the question will end up marked that way.

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    But what evidence can someone provide why or why not something is popular?
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 5, 2015 at 21:58
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    Objectively, from documented sources such as sales numbers, amount of airplay, promotional activites, etc. but only to the extent they are documented. The only hope for popularity related questions though is to keep the scope of the question as narrow as possible, not "what ever happened to rock-and-roll".
    – user3169
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:19
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    Localization is not an issue. We accept questions that involve music in specific cultures Mar 5, 2015 at 23:20
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    @ZachSaucier I'm not saying it is a problem, but it needs to be specified in the question or we are guessing. I'll edit my answer.
    – user3169
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:22
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    @user3169 but everything you list stats something is popular, not why which is two different questions.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:25
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    @Dom You have to establish popularity before explaining why it is.
    – user3169
    Mar 5, 2015 at 23:28
  • @user3169 "everything you list stats something is popular, not why" - He is talking about the question, which has to show that it is/isn't popular. The why is then completely up to the answers.
    – Major Tom
    Mar 6, 2015 at 9:55
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    I agree with @Dom. Quoting sales and airplay figures does not define why something is popular or not. The real answers will be very subjective. Can you really talk on behalf of the whole planet as to why each person does or doesn't like rock? Mar 6, 2015 at 10:20

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