Number of Unique Song Choices on Desert Island Discs

Desert Island Discs celebrates its 75th birthday today, and today’s guest is David Beckham. Beckham will pick 8 song choices to take away with him on a desert island. What I wondered was, will all of his song choices have been picked by guests previously? With over 3,000 episodes there are going to be a lot of repetitions.

Obviously the very first guest, Vic Oliver had to pick 8 unique song choices. There was no one before him! The second guest, James Agate also picked 8 unique choices (they were all different to Vic Oliver’s).  This continued until the 8th guest, Joan Jay, who only had 7 unique choices (she picked Ave Maria by Charles‐François Gounod the same as Pat Kirkwood). A quick scrape of the BBC 4 webpage gives us all of the song choices of each of the guests. Plotting the data as a histogram of ‘unique’ choices leads to a not unsurprising result:

On average a castaway picks 3 unique choices, but really anything between 2 and 5 unique choices is quite probable. Picking 0 unique choices (~100 out of 3096 castaways) and all (8) unique choices (~50 out of 3096 castaways) is not very likely. The thing that is rather interesting though is if you look at the number of unique choices as a time series:

The data is obviously very noisy, with 0 and 8 unique choices scattered throughout the time series. But there is a clear trend. I’ve fitted a curve (least-squares) to the data and the results hopefully become clear. There was a decrease in the number of unique choices from the start of the show down until the mid 1980s, and since then there has been an increase again! I would guess that this has something to do with the explosion of popular music, the early choices are dominated by “famous” classical music pieces, but this has decreased over time.

This entry was posted in Internet. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.