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Columns > David Steinberg - Some Are Mathematicians

Published: 2011/01/25
by David Steinberg

Opening Stats

When I get an email about Phish Stats, it usually comes in one of a few types. I get told that people’s show lists aren’t working (usually by having an extra leading 0 or two, “02/14/03” instead of “2/14/03”), get complaints about the fact that a song played twice in the same show only counts one time, or – most commonly – I get a request. Can I make a stats site for a different band?

While I experimented in the past with String Cheese Stats, PKE Meter Stats (for a local band) and (of all things) Day By the River Stats, my current rule is to reject all such requests. The problem is maintaining setlists. I got bored with keeping the SCI setlist file up to date so I haven’t updated in years. In theory, it would be nice to spread these files to other bands, but the upkeep was just too annoying.

Two notable things have happened in the last two years – Phish have returned and the Mockingbird Foundation setlist file went live. Since the most reliable setlist file was available, we made arrangements for the setlist file to be delivered to me in a format that the stats file can digest. Now instead of opening up files and adding data to them by hand, I just run a script and it grabs the relevant files automatically. It’s how I was able to update stats in Atlantic City, armed only with an iPhone.

A few weeks ago I got a request from a band that will remain nameless. For various internal reasons, they wanted a private watered down version of the stats site. My initial reaction was to say no but then I thought about it. Since I now have the ability to import setlists housed at another site, I changed my mind. I gave them the format that Phish Stats uses [1] and told them to supply me files. The hardest part is to make sure that every song title is spelled exactly the same way in the setlist document, but once you have that going, it’s not too bad. It took about four hours from the time I received the URL for the files to the time that I had a somewhat working system. I was tweaking a few things after that to streamline the process and found a bug here and there, but it was surprisingly quick.

Once I finished doing that, I looked at what I ended up with after doing the streamlining and I realized something. There’s no longer a good reason for me to tell someone that I can’t make a stats site for their band. All I have to do now is know what years they’ve played – I will have to do a minor tweak for Mystery Band when they play their first 2011 show – and then the rest of the work is on the fan/management to get me the file list in the format I need. It’s a new year, so here’s a new idea. Anyone who wants stats for their band – I don’t care how big or small they are, I don’t care if I completely hate them or if they’re one of my favorites – get in touch with me. You get me the files I need – a setlist file for each year, a list of every song played, a list of every date played complete with venue information – and I’ll do the rest. You could even have the page be password protected if you need be. I might not be able to get you the oh-so-cool Phish Stats graphic with your band name, but I would be able to get the data available to your fans and management. You have the data, I have the scripts, let’s make lot of stats.

[1] Another common question I get is that people ask me for the database that I use for the program. Phish Stats has been around for so long that database driven web apps weren’t really an option back then. There are times when I really wish that I had that – certain aspects of my script would become trivial – but that wasn’t the technology of the day. Instead, the program is driven by a few text files where the setlists are in an easy to format style. It gets the job done.


David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capital Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at and he’s on the board of directors for The Mockingbird Foundation. He occasionally posts at the blog and has a daily update on the Phish Stats Facebook page

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