Why I Hate Macklemore Part 4b: Probably a Matter of Probability


4b. Let me make sure I’ve got this straight. You’re assuming that:

1) They’re going to see the commercial at all, AND,
2) They’re going to be so inspired by the rabbit turd of a song they heard that they’ll download it, AND,
3) They’ll totally understand the lyrics/do with the song what you intended.

If all these parameters are met, your artistic integrity is left intact and your choice to commercialize your music isn’t selling out.

Well, Mr. Mackle, mathematically–probabilistically–you’re wrong.

So here’s how probability works. Certain events have a certain likelihood of happening. 1 means it will happen 100% of the time, 0 means never. When you add an AND, or an intersection of events, those probabilities multiply. For example, the probability of a flipped coin hitting the ground after a toss is 1, or 100%; conversely the probability of it remaining suspended in the air is 0, or 0% (okay, on the quantum level it’s not but whatever). To extend the example, the probability of getting ‘heads’ on a coin toss is 1/2, or 50%. The probability of the coin hitting the ground after a toss AND getting a ‘heads’ is still 1/2—1 * 1/2 = 1/2.  The probability of getting a ‘heads’ on a first AND second toss is 1/4: 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/4.

Got it? Good. Now we’ll move on and build a (simple) model.

Let’s assume this:

  • Basketball is more popular than football and baseball (it isn’t),
  • That half the households in the US have DTV or satellite (they don’t), and
  • Of that half, ALL of them were tuned in for the All-Star commercial (they weren’t).

In this case, we have a simple 50/50 probability that households saw Macklemore’s commercial at all (and I’m being really fucking generous here). This means that if you pick a household at random, there’s a 50% chance that you’ll pick one that saw the All-Star commercial. You realize, of course, that this is ridiculously overstated and oversimplified but that’s the point.

NOW let’s also assume that, despite the commercial providing zero information on the artist, the song used, or how to find it, every single household who saw the commercial got inspired and found your song–that’s a probability of 1, kids. Then we’ll also assume that they understood the lyrics. As outlined under #3 above, this has a 1/3 chance of happening: Macklemore’s expecting that they’ll join his army, NOT misunderstand/ignore the meaning NOR be bummed out about the song.

Let’s recap: we assume that there’s a jar full of houses. You reach your hand in the jar. The household you retrieve has a 50% chance of having seen the commercial—if the house you have in your hand is in fact one of the commercial viewers, it’s guaranteed that they downloaded the song, and there’s a 33.33% chance that they got the intended Macklemessage. If the house didn’t see the commercial, the probability of any of these things happening is 0% because they didn’t see the commercial and they didn’t download the song.

Still making sense? Great. Let’s crunch some numbers:

That’s 1/2 * 1 * 1/3 = 0.5 * 1.00 * 0.333 = .1666 * 100 = 16.66% chance that your intentions were realized. If we’re more realistic with our second assumption, the one that says EVERYONE fucking downloaded the song, this probability shrinks further. Let’s continue our generous arithmetic and say 80% of the households checked out the song.

1/2 * 4/5 * 1/3 = 0.5 * 0.8 * 0.333 = .1333 * 100 = 13.33%

OH NO, we’re not done here: I still gotta pluck the ashes. NOW let’s be realistic.

According to the US Census Bureau, in 2010 there were 114,800,000 households in the US. In 2004, TNT (the same company who ran this commercial) set a record for the most viewed playoff game in cable history: 6.4 million household views. So we can treat this as the maximum number of viewers that will watch the NBA at any time, and let’s just assume for simplicity that that exact amount watched the commercial (they didn’t). This comes to 6.4/114.8 = .05575 * 100 = 5.575% of the households in the United States viewing the commercial. In our equation above, that’s the first percentage (in case you forgot). We’ll plug in again and hold the other probabilities constant:

.00575 * 0.8 * 0.333 = .0015318 * 100 = .15318%  chance that Macklemore’s hopes and assumptions in his press release were met. .00575 * 114.8 million households = 660,100 households. 660100 * 2.7 average household size = 1,782,270 people. Thrift Shop has 127,625, 398 views. Meaning the TNT commercial reached 1.3965% of his Youtube views.

Fuck you, dude. Just admit that you did it for the money.

Disclaimer: since the probability of events are arguably dependent, the formulas could (should) have applied conditional probability. Which would make the success percentage a bit higher. But… whatever, it’s negligable.


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