Long standing readers of TBP know I like to try to slip in a lesson or two. The humor and money making market commentary is used as a device to keep you coming back and learning, despite yourself.

Today, I require no pretense for the edumacation. Instead, I will demonstrate one of my favorite peeves, the folly of Confusing Correlation with Causation, and I wll use but a single chart.

Courtesy of Overthinking It, those of you unfamiliar with the Correlation/Causation distinction will learn one of 2 things: Either the lack of really good modern rock songs recently is causing oil production to falter, or conversely, why peak oil has given us Boy Bands, Madonna, and Clearchannel Radio.

Those of you who understand causation can merely smile . . .


Why We’re All Out of Good Songs


You can see Crude Oil Production really took a dive after Dark Side of the Moon . . .


The Hubbert Peak Theory of Rock, or, Why We’re All Out of Good Songs
Overthinking It, September 23rd, 2008


Category: Really, really bad calls, Technical Analysis

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

49 Responses to “Hubbert Peak Theory of Oil Rock”

  1. pmorrisonfl says:

    That’s awesome. But are you suggesting that AC/DC was wrong to suggest we were ‘Back In Black’?

  2. wally says:

    Finally things begin to make sense.

  3. zzzzmd says:

    and cigarettes do not cause lung cancer, it is actually coffee and booze
    (who has a cigarette without 1 or the other?)

  4. mitchn says:

    I coulda told you that.

  5. Transor Z says:

    Personally, I think existing reserves of rock talent are much lower than what the record labels are reporting in their conspiracy to manipulate iTunes prices. The Seattle field that looked so promising in the 1990s is tapped out and the closing of CBGBs in NYC is another sign that even that historic field is long past peak. Some say even the fabled New Jersey field (The Boss and don’t forget Bon Jovi) are finally petering out.

    The counter-argument is that, as long as there is demand, rock songs can continue to use recycling (sampling and covering) and so maintain supply indefinitely. [See, e.g., Eminem's use of "Dream On," Fatboy Slim's sample of Five Man Electrical Band's "Signs" ("And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply"), and endless effforts to top Roberta Flack's version of "Killing me softly."]

    BTW, I agree with the blog author that Green Day is underrated. :-)

  6. rj says:

    Good chart.

  7. The Curmudgeon says:

    Isn’t vinyl derived from oil? It’s easy to see that great rock songs started their plunge about the time that vinyl records were replaced by eight-tracks and cassettes and finally CD’s and downloading onto ipods. An accidental correlation? I think not:)

    And I never have understood how my old vinyl records seemed to be so much sturdier than my CD’s. I mean, how hard really is it to get a bunch of 1′s and 0′s to stay uncorrupted and playable, presumably for an infinite number of playings? Yet, all my favorite CD’s (yes, I still use them–some) skip and warble after a few hundred uses.

  8. ashpelham2 says:

    If you ask me, the decline had begun with the rise of Burt Bacharach, but really began to fall with Captain and Tenille.

    Thank God for Dire Straits, and the Straits of Hormuz.

  9. justins says:

    Isn’t Glenn Beck’s entire show based on this fallacy?

  10. The Pale Scot says:

    Now you have to plug in the Pirate Population vs. Climate Change Ratio; I’m sure it’s related somehow.

  11. twist says:

    My kids have maintained that my distaste for the new music they enjoy is because I am old and over the hill. Thank you for proving that it’s not my fault- I’m not an old fogey after all! : )

  12. tsk tsk says:

    Someone please run this using the Pitchfork 500 which starts in 1977 and the “birth of punk and independent music.”

  13. globaleyes says:

    While current U.S. oil production is not impressive or important, this is the country that invented rock n roll.

    Every now & then a chart can be useful. This chart is one of them.

  14. RW says:

    Yes! A causal link! The problem was the transition from vinyl records produced from oil! http://www.whatisvinyl.com/

    Or maybe it’s a result of a breaking record-business model and a growing Indy presence (that tends not to make the charts).

    But that’s the real fun with correlation and causation and the problem: The distinction is not always obvious. It is always possible to construct an ad hoc hypothesis that supports a theory you do not wish to relinquish — in fact it is possible to construct a host — and it may not be readily apparent this is happening unless it becomes clear all of the hypotheses are defensive and do not lead anywhere new (what Imre Lakatos would call a “degenerate programe”).

    Good thing we investors have the tape: Underlying meaning may remain in dispute but never the outcome; you either have more money or less after the play.

    Agree about those CD’s too: They were supposed to make information less ephemeral weren’t they? ISTR reading somewhere that we are losing more information than ever before in history, in part because there is just plain more to lose but also because the media it is recorded on is considerably less enduring than foolscap or clay.

  15. tagyoureit says:

    Nixon declared the War on Drugs in 1969. No more stoners in the oil fields. I mean, that job is just no fun without drugs and good tunes.

  16. Pat Shuff says:

    Cobain saw the decline of Ghawar/Cantrell coming, there was nowhere to go but down.
    Dylan on the other hand, in all prescience, was an early adopter of alternative energy from
    recycled waste stream material, avoiding a natural or unnatural early end due to artificial
    stimulation and excessive pumping which depleted the reserves.

    You keep right on changin’ like you always do,
    An’ what’s best is the old stuff still all sounds new..

    Talking New Bob Dylan
    by Loudon Wainwright III

  17. arthurcutten says:

    I have a similar chart, but instead of rock music it tracks the decline of civilization and the number of television programs available to the average American.

  18. M says:

    We all know that oil is made from dead dinosaurs and that dinosaurs believe that whatever was playing on the radio when they were young was great. Too, only dinosaurs read and vote in Rolling Stone polls. What is painfully clear from this chart is that dinosaurs are living longer today than ever before. So, the answer to the energy crisis is to defeat health care. “It’s just that simple.”

  19. fjpenney says:

    Hilarious! Nice post, especially on a Friday.

  20. Pat Shuff says:

    Probably just flashbacks, hearing what’s seen in the mirror sounding a bit peaked coming out of the speakers.

  21. call me ahab says:

    s0 . . .if we start making better rock tunes- production goes up- or-

    we start producing more oil- rock tunes get better-

    which is it Barry?

    i’m confused

  22. Marcus Aurelius says:

    17 comments on this topic.

    12 comments on BR’s earlier (7:30AM) post entitled, “Dodd: Shareholders Should Nominate Boards Directly.”

    7 comments on BR’s earlier (5:57AM) post entitled, “Home-Purchase Index Plunges.”

    This says something. I’m not sure what it says, but it’s a clear indicator of either econ collapse burn-out, the dumbing-down of America, TBP as infotainment, BR posting the important topics way too early, or a combination of all of them.

    It just ain’t right.

  23. MikeNYC says:

    “I used to think correlation implied causation”

    This is one of my favorite comic strips of all time and I keep a printout of it at my desk.



    BR: Me too!

  24. trail says:

    I think that’s what economists call a “leading indicator”

  25. beaufou says:

    Three letters, LSD.

  26. call me ahab says:


    i am a multi topic poster :D

  27. buzzp says:

    As one who worked on the launch of MTV, add a thought (and based on why we used the moon landing images):

    It isn’t just sex, drugs and rock – it’s cars too. Movement, freedom, no parents.

    Not to difficult to see the relationship. Perhaps not causation, but there’s a PhD thesis waiting to be written.

  28. VennData says:

    Morningstar gave Fleet Foxes, Sun Giant five stars.

  29. bergsten says:

    I’d like to see a chart comparing the number of songs in Rolling Stones 500 greatest hits against the age of the Rolling Stone judges at the time (everybody likes best the songs they heard in 9th grade).

  30. buzzp says:

    bergsten -

    Actually research shows it a little older – 17-21 yrs old – has stayed fairly constant since studies first done back in the Dark Ages (mid-80′s) – think of it, looking forward to Disco as the Boomers age out of salable ad demo

  31. Gatsby says:

    Does this chart not actually prove that Disco was a threat to National Security?

  32. EAR says:

    While we’re on the subject of music, yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Slick Willie’s repeal of Glass-Steagall. Cheers.

    This goes out to all my TBTF homies. This might be a day late, but since that day everyday is a government supported, taxpayer backed risk party…


  33. MorticiaA says:

    I take it simply as a sign that it’s Friday.

  34. Bruce in Tn says:

    When Led Zeppelin retired, we were sent into an alternate universe…now there are no new sources of energy…

    B in T

  35. bmellow says:

    That’s beautiful, Barry—FRIDAY

  36. Michel Caldwell says:

    Barry, I think you give correlations a bum rap. To compute a correlation one needs a minimum of two pairs of data points. Even then the correlation would be +1, 0, or -1 with a margin of error of +/- 1. Often I see people say a single event (e.g. a crashing market) was caused by some event (e.g. the failure of the house to pass the initial TARP bill or some statement by some Fed official or politician) which is a single pair of data points. That is a coincidence not a correlation yet the temptation exists to jump to conclusions. (Of course such advocates would suggest in my example above we use multiple measures of the DJIA, say taken at 5 minute intervals rather than the daily close. How, then can we decide that an change in a time-series group of repeated measures was really caused by an event that happened coincidentally in time??
    P.S. An example of the correlation does not prove causality argument that I give in my psychology class came, I believe by a member of England’s parliament. An MP was arguing that greater levels of education was correlated with greater income and, therefore England needed to increase its programs of eduction to increase the National wealth. To this an opposing MP pointed out that the length of boy’s trousers was clearly correlated with their height and therefore English parents needed to buy extra long pants if they wanted their children to become tall.

  37. Niskyboy says:

    The number of distinct rock songs that can be conceived of — without infringing on another artist’s copyright — is quite large but ultimately finite. Therefore, given the explosion in rock music from the 50s to now, a lot of the good rock melodies already have been used up. Why are we surprised at this?

  38. dwkunkel says:

    Isn’t confusing correlation with causation the source of most superstitions?

  39. cacerolo says:

    I think it is more correlated with american society evolution. The number of good songs is inverse correlated to the superficial way life has become. Since the eighties money, consuption and beauty were the two priorities that have reigned, so the music just followed that trend. MTV and videos changed message for image. So the result has been a bunch of nice looking young girls and boys (with ultra high superproduction than even if the music is pretty bad you can get some entertainment with the images). There are no new ideas, globalization has become a just one way of thinking. There are no new real leaders. Just look around the world, Brown, Bush, Putin, Sarkosy, Berlusconi, Zapatero, Obama,…These gays have no long term ideas. Today politicians have become a bunch of empty people just trying to figure out how to win an election and make all the reforms to stay in power as long as possible.

  40. ashpelham2 says:


    I think you are posting on Curmudgeon’s computer! :D

    BTW, I vote for the dumbing down of America!!!

  41. Bobby2 says:

    Well, it’s as simple as that chart. Now, how can I use it to my advantage?

  42. The Kinks A Gallon of Gas released in ’79 on their ‘Low Budget’ album


    Yet another coincidence

  43. rmasand says:

    “The lunatic is in your head”

    And that, I’ll have you know, is a good thing.

  44. [...] Hubbert Peak Theory of Oil Rock at The Big Picture [...]

  45. oldbluejeans says:

    “Everyone knows rock and roll peaked in 1974″.
    Homer Simpson

  46. [...] picked this theme up from The Big Picture, which picked it up from the blog Overthinking It.  Of course, these are obvious insights, so I [...]

  47. [...] It, blames boy bands and Madonna for America’s declining oil production. It must be so, the decline is correlated to the falling number of songs from recent decades in [...]

  48. [...] For those nattering nabobs of negativity among you who insist that correlation does not equal causation, I give the ultimate counterexample: clear and incontrovertible proof that the decline in US oil production has led to a decline in the quality of the US’s rock music: The Hubbert Peak Theory of Rock. [...]

  49. Larry Teabag says:

    I read your article on Peak Rock with some interest. I have been contemplating this issue for some time.
    Well, since 2005 anyway: http://tamponteabag.blogspot.com/2005/09/peak-melody.html

    Someone has illustrated my article here: http://www.overgrownpath.com/2005/11/peak-melody.html
    My thesis has also been published in a reputable journal: http://www.amazon.co.uk/2005-Blogged-Blogosphere-Tim-Worstall/dp/0954831837

    Please don’t think that I am writing to claim priority on this discovery, however. Though I do take credit for first applying the theories of MK Hubbert to the problem of music exhaustion, the fundamental phenomenon has been documented since at least 1873: http://tamponteabag.blogspot.com/2006/02/great-minds.html

    Yours melodiously,

    Larry Teabag