The Don’t Stop Believin’ Game / Bristles on the Long Tail

tony_soprano_jukebox.jpgAt least Tony didn’t pick Heart’s “Magic Man”!

Almost every Friday near the end of the day, someone at Behavior will start playing loud music to help remind everyone to stop working soon — the musical equivalent of the whistle that tells Fred Flintstone that it’s quittin’ time.

This Friday, my partner Jeff blasted “Don’t Stop Believin’” across the office. This song has been in my head all week, a textbook case of earworm. And apparently I’m not the only one: The song is currently the iTunes Music Store’s #17 most downloaded track. Of course, this is because the song was the soundtrack to the final moments of last week’s Sopranos series finale.

As we listened to the song around the office, it quickly turned into a kind of game: Every time Steve Perry got through belting out the first two words of the chorus Don’t stop…, everyone in the office anxiously expected Jeff to mute the song right on cue: Dont stop…

Listen to the song right now. I’ll bet you’re tempted to hit that pause button somewhere around 3:39. Go ahead. Try it.


I wonder how many thousands of people played this game this week, cutting off the audio on cue? How long will it take for us to be able to hear the song at all without thinking of Tony, Carmela, AJ, and Meadow in the diner? And how long will it take for us to be able to hear the chorus without imagining it suddenly ending in silence?

Dont Stop Believin’ points to an emerging trend of the Long Tail, where songs and other “products” lingering in the skinny part of the tail can, in literally an instant, find themselves resurrected after a single memorable and compelling intersection with something farther up on the thicker end of the tail. The Long Tail is not a one-way operation — anything in the tail’s long reach can quickly move up close to the root given new exposure and raised consciousness. In the case of this Journey masterpiece, perhaps the sudden rise will prove fleeting, but maybe the sudden injection of relevance and awareness will give the song a permanent boost. I think it has for me.


9 responses to “The Don’t Stop Believin’ Game / Bristles on the Long Tail”

  1. So what you are saying is that sometimes the tail wags?

  2. @Jeremy: That’s perfect. Wish I thought of that.

  3. The real testament to the Sopranos moment will be on the next Journey reunion tour during a live set of “Don’t Stop” when Steve Perry and Co. abruptly stop playing the song for 10 seconds, then erupt in rock madness to complete it. Everyone in that 18,000 seat New Jersey arena will know EXACTLY what they were referring to.

  4. After watching the Sopranos finale, that song was stuck in my head for two days. Thanks for putting it back in!

  5. You must not be into karaoke, Chris. No karaoke fan would ever consider “Don’t Stop Believing” an obscure song in any way.

  6. sometime, what turns some thing from nondescript to stellar is finding its relevance to our life in it. over the years, i had gotten plenty of songs stuck in my head, all because the dog wagged for me.

  7. @Francis: I never said it was obscure — it’s a certified classic, but it’s definitely not (or wasn’t) a current top 100 hit song living in the thick part of the long tail.

    I’ll bet recent karaoke performances of it have incorporated the pre-emptive ending, too.

    @henry: I know exactly what you mean.

  8. Yeah, I wasn’t so much disputing what you were saying as complicating it. If (like me) you do a lot of karaoke with struggle rock songs in the mix, and you don’t actually watch Sopranos, you may not have found “Don’t Stop Believing” any more present in your mind as a result of the past few weeks’ events. Everybody is their own long tail and all that.


  9. Whaddya know. Don’t Stop Believin’ is #34 on the iTunes Top Songs Chart. I’m Casey Kasem.