Soccer Fans Listen Differently in Winning and Losing Countries

Nearly half of the world’s population watched at least a minute of the last World Cup, according to FIFA (.pdf). At this year’s Brazilian extravaganza, we expect even more people to tune in, given that viewership increased 8 percent last time around.

But you don’t need to know that to understand the global impact of the World Cup — especially in the countries whose teams play that day — whose effect on these nations is so deep that it can be measured by how people listen to music in the hours following the victory or defeat of their team.

With over 40 million regular users and over 10 million subscribers in 57 countries, Spotify reaches many of these soccer (ahem, “football”) fans. To find out how their listening behavior differs based on whether their team wins or loses, we first looked at a World Cup qualifying match.

Our hypothesis: People in the winning countries would listen to happy party music, while people supporting the losing team might resort to less energetic music in order to cool off. However, our acoustic analysis of the top songs after both legs of the qualifying match between Sweden and Portugal in both of those countries actually didn’t show much of a difference in terms of the energy level of listening in those countries.

But we did find something else, which we didn’t actually set out to find. People in Portugal (the winning side) returned to Spotify after the match was over, presumably to celebrate with a post-game party.

Meanwhile, people in Sweden (the losing side) were less likely to listen to music after the match.

Sweden vs. Portugal

Sure enough, there it is: The blue line (Spotify listening in Sweden) continues to decline after the game, while Portuguese listening spiked hard in the hours following the game.

“On the usage graph, we can see both countries’ usage rates go down as the game starts,” said Spotify and The Echo Nest data alchemist Glenn McDonald. “After it ends a couple hours later, however, Sweden’s usage continues to go down, and Portugal’s leaps back up. The victors turn the music back on and celebrate, the losers go to bed!”

To see if the same thing happened during the Spain vs. Netherlands in the World Cup Group Stage, McDonald ran the same test on Friday’s match, a stunning 5-1 upset for the Dutch.

“Well, it’s not very dramatic, but there’s definitely a bigger rebound after the game for the Netherlands than for Spain,” said McDonald.

Spain vs. Netherlands

See that red line jumping up way more than the blue line? Although not quite as dramatically as in the Sweden vs. Portugal graph above, we once again see that when the match ended, the winning country’s music fans tended to fire up Spotify more than those in the losing country (although the Spanish, unlike the Swedes, did increase their listening slightly after their loss).

Our conclusion, so far: People are more likely to listen to music on Spotify after their team wins than after their team loses.

(Note: These graphs do not represent absolute numbers; in other words, they show the amount of listening in each country, relative to how much listening happens there.)