“And I’m like ‘Honestly, I don’t know nothing about mopeds’” -Macklemore
Mopeds are a thing. A thing that exists. A thing that has had approximately zero influence on my life. People in Europe drive mopeds, people in America drive literally anything else. But then I watched the music video of Macklemore’s & Ryan Lewis’s new song “Downtown.” The video begins with Macklemore naively purchasing a moped which he proceeds to ride around the ‘Downtown’ for the remainder of the video.
“Oh yeah mopeds, those exist” I thought, and headed to Google to see if a moped is right for me [Spoiler: It is not]. But then I wondered how many other people were similarly inspired to dive into the fabulous(?) world of mopeds.
Google, of “Don’t be Evil” fame, obviously tracks every search performed on its site and the aggregated data is available through Google Trends. Below is the Google Trends plot for the search term “moped” from 2004 - present in the United States. An interactive version of this plot can be found here.
The most prominent feature is the large spike in the summer of 2008. When the financial crisis hit people were thinking of ditching their Hummers and opting for something that gets 70 mpg. What is curious is that this was not a persistent trend, even though people were supposedly strapped for cash for the next few years of the recession. Everyone did their moped research in 2008 and decided that mopeds were not for them. Conversely, everyone bought a moped in 2008 and they all still have them and have no need to ever search for anything moped related. Anecdotally, the number of mopeds I see is still approximately none so I will choose to believe the former.
Because Google Trends only displays relative search numbers, and the 2008 spike was such a huge outlier, I chose to rerun the analysis from December 2008 until the present to achieve greater “resolution” to answer the question of interest. Explicitly, how has “Downtown” affected searches for mopeds?
Because searches for mopeds are cyclical, we can average these to get an idea of how Macklemore’s song has deviated interest in mopeds. Here is a plot of the average number of relative moped searches by month (bold). Each individual year is also shown, with 2015 highlighted in red.
As you can see, 2015 has been a bit below average, but there was a small increase at the end of the month in August, which is when “Downtown” was released (indicated as a dotted line). Then in September, instead of dramatically plunging as Fall approaches, the number of searches for mopeds stayed relatively stable. September’s search traffic scored a 74, almost 17 points higher than the average for this time of year, and statistically different than the mean. More people than usual are actually looking for mopeds because of this ridiculous song.
There is no way to know if this increase in traffic will actually lead to more mopeds on the streets, especially when Winter is Coming. Nevertheless there appears to be a causal relationship between this song and moped searches. As “Downtown” continues to rise in the BillBoard Top 100 (it has only been on there since the September third and is currently sitting at number 16 at the time of writing) the last question we have to ask ourselves is: How much is Big Moped paying Macklemore?
Click Below to Watch the “Downtown” Music Video.