A lot of sound points made, and I partly retract what I wrote about quality being redundant.
I agree here, but what is interesting then is how strong and interesting a piece of music has to be to gain popularity under all circumstances, to be omnipotent, if you will. And conversely, how bad is ‘too bad’: how mediocre is successful music allowed to be? (That is, mediocre as judged by the common man in isolation, not knowing what others think.)Fundamentally the music has to be strong, or at least interesting and in touch or expressive of something close or true to the listeners, even if it might appear superficial to others. The mass record buying public aren't dumb, at least not when it comes to the higher-order megastars (Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Timberlake - who I think is as close as you can get to those guys these days - and so on).
This passage in the original text is a bit iffy. You could argue that on-line magazines and bloggers fill this pioneering role today—at least for some scenes—and that quality therefore is important, as these, ideally D), make their recommendations not knowing what others think of the music. (Let’s assume it’s an out-of-nowhere debut album.) (Bloggers are a terrible example, actually. Well, well.) Looking at it this way, you could argue that the Christina Aguilera album tanked because the early valuers thought it lacked quality, and spread the bad word; while the opposite happened to the Justin Timberlake album.Because the long-run success of a song depends so sensitively on the decisions of a few early-arriving individuals, whose choices are subsequently amplified and eventually locked in by the cumulative-advantage process, and because the particular individuals who play this important role are chosen randomly and may make different decisions from one moment to the next, the resulting unpredictably is inherent to the nature of the market. It cannot be eliminated either by accumulating more information — about people or songs — or by developing fancier prediction algorithms, any more than you can repeatedly roll sixes no matter how carefully you try to throw the die.