I was almost not going to write this, because it felt a little too much like trying to force the cliché, but then I got an email from the Bob Marley online shop promoting its exclusive 4/20 merch with the subject line, “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself,” so I decided we weren’t forcing anything after all. But I digress.
It is 4/20 after all, the universally agreed-upon day where a bunch of people make jokes about stoners and stoners just continue going about their lives as normal. But where are those stoners — and, more specifically, where are those stoners in the U.S. who are listening to Bob Marley?
In 2022 so far, Luminate, formerly MRC Data, has logged more than 308 billion on-demand audio streams in the U.S., of which 212.3 million are streams of Bob Marley, Bob Marley & the Wailers, the Wailers (as several early albums are credited) and the like. And most of those streams — both in general and for Marley’s music — come from the two biggest streaming cities in the country: Los Angeles and New York. Both, in fact, over-index for Marley listening: L.A., for example, accounts for 6.91% of all Marley on-demand audio streams in the U.S. so far this year, as opposed to 5.17% of all on-demand audio streams generally, while New York accounts for 5.43% of Marley streams as opposed to 4.22% of all music, meaning the two cities over-index by 33.66% and 28.67%, respectively.
It’s a trend that continues over the majority of the top 20 streaming cities in the country: 13 of them over-index in terms of Marley listening, while seven of them under-index. There does not, however, seem to be much rhyme or reason as to which cities do or do not, meaning an early hypothesis for this article — that Marley listenership would over-index in areas where marijuana is legal — doesn’t hold water.
Take Chicago, for instance: The fourth-biggest streaming city in the country, in a legal marijuana state, under-indexes by 22.78% in Marley streaming vs. overall. Detroit is similar: accounting for 1.02% of overall U.S. streaming, it makes up just 0.68% of Marley’s streams, under-indexing by an even 33.33%. (Perhaps it’s the weather: We’re looking at data in 2022 so far, meaning the winter weeks from January through mid-April.) Others seem more logical: Dallas-Forth Worth, the third-biggest streaming city in the country, under-indexes by 41.18% in Marley listenership; another Texas city, Houston, under-indexes by 29.59%. The other three are a bit of a mixed bag: Atlanta (-10.81%), Minneapolis-St. Paul (-26.42%) and Charlotte, N.C. (-5.95%).
Most of the top 20 cities, however, over-index — led by a probably predictable combination of cities in weed-friendly California and Caribbean-adjacent Florida (yes, there are dozens of other factors that go into listening and streaming habits, but stick with us). The Bay Area — encompassing San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, according to Luminate — is the fifth-highest on-demand audio streaming city in the country (2.38%), but the third-biggest Marley streamer (2.71%) — over-indexing by 35.5%. Sacramento, the state capital, over-indexes by 17.92%; outside the top 20, San Diego over-indexes by 136.51%, making up 0.63% of all U.S. streaming but 1.49% of all Marley streams.
Florida, meanwhile, is the state with the highest average over-index of all: it has three cities in the top 20 in overall streaming activity, and each of them listens to a disproportionate amount of Marley, with Miami up 123.1%, Orlando-Daytona Beach up 80.5% and Tampa-St. Petersburg up 87.2%. Outside the top 20 cities, West Palm Beach over-indexes by a whopping 234.6%. Others among the top 20, meanwhile, break down among weed-friendly states and liberal capitals: Philadelphia (+18%), college-heavy Boston (+39.26%), Phoenix (+10.85%) and Denver (+29.69%).
But there’s one city, outside the top 20 streamers overall but within the top 20 for Marley streams, that over-indexes more than all others. Honolulu, Hawaii: You make up just 0.24% of all on-demand audio streams in the U.S. in 2022 so far, but 1.02% of all streams of Bob Marley’s music, over-indexing by 325% even. Congratulations. Wake up and turn I loose.