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The Pop Culture Wing of Hot Corner Harbor

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Setting a "Replacement Level" for Music

Joe Posnanski wrote about a fun concept the other day in a mailbag-type piece. One of the questions dealt with Bruce Springsteen (Poz’s favorite rock star) and jokingly asked for his WAR. For those who don’t know baseball, WAR is a newer stat called Wins Above Replacement that tries to measure the overall contribution of a player. Since this is a pop culture spin-off of a baseball site written by a huge music fan, this seemed like something I should write about.

I love this concept as a thought experiment, but Joe touches on a good point: what is this hypothetical replacement-level musical artist? In baseball, the hypothetical replacement player is the type of player you could just find anywhere in the minor leagues. Your Aaron Mileses*, your Joe McEwings, and what have you. Can the concept hold through in popular music?

*No idea if I pluralized that correctly.

I mean, in theory, it could. There are tons of bands just playing music, filling bars and concert venues across the US and world every single night. Maybe that’s our hypothetical replacement? And it would make sense, to some extent; as in, the replacement band is just your average, run-of-the-mill Beatles/Led Zeppelin/whoever cover band, and you work your way up from there.

But that’s less fun, to just set the bar at some level where there isn’t a famous example to point to. Let’s look for a more notable band to use as a yardstick. Start with Joe’s choices, for instance. He picks Hootie and the Blowfish and Huey Lewis (presumably with the News) as his hypothetical “Replacement Bands”.