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The best way to phrase the question is by giving a specific example:

I like Metallica. However, given pretty much every album they have- I usually really like 3-4 songs from that album, and am completely indifferent or dislike the rest of the songs (yes, even in the Black Album...)

Metallica is a prolific band, so in total I can easily create a long playlist of their work that I enjoy, but still it remains that I do not like most of their songs.

This is of course highly subjective but I noticed that this applies pretty much to every band/musician that I like (so no offence the Metallica, I am an avid fan and they totally they rock!!! ;))

I am curious whether there is research into the 'efficiency' of musicians.

By 'efficiency' I mean (roughly) what portion of their individual creations resonate with the listeners.

I am asking beyond 'hit songs'- being the tracks that are played in MTV/Radio. My question is also about the songs that the fans discover by listening themselves.

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  • "even in the Black Album" seems such a weird comment to me, because while i wouldnt skip anything on ride the lightning/master of puppets, yeah, a solid half of black album should never have been recorded; i dont think anyone considers it their best album. i'm not just making fun of your taste in music, i'm pointing out that "formal measure" of subjective qualities obviously don't exist.
    – Esther
    Oct 20, 2021 at 19:44

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This isn't definitive, but too much for just a comment.

You could qualify it by the number of singles that became hits… though that would fail on bands such as Zeppelin.
You could also consider 'songs recognised by most people', even if they were never singles. In the 80s it became a bit of a race by record companies to get 4 or 5 hits off an album, so that waters down the distinction a little. Some artists have never measured themselves by 'pure hit singles'

However, by any measure, I'd say you'd struggle to beat the Beatles Rubber Soul - 7 songs that could easily be considered "all-time-greats" from 14 tracks.
Mere also-rans would be
Help - also 7
Hard Day's Night - just 6
Please Please Me - a mere 5 ;)

You might have to also bear in mind they were releasing two albums a year through this period. Imagine doing that these days & still getting a 50% hit-rate.

I do recall having a bad time of it in the 90s, buying albums after hearing one track, to discover that was the only decent track on the album.
Compared to, for example, Floyd's Wish You Were Here, which doesn't contain a single duffer… though nor does it contain a single 'single'.

There is also a great distinction between perhaps the 70s to 90s [until the late 60s people didn't really buy albums, singles were the main thing] vs 'modern' in that people don't go out & buy albums in the same way they did.
Also, that the modern consumer is considerably 'richer' in terms of disposable income.
In the 60s & 70s if you bought an album, that would be one of two or three that year - so you'd definitely play it to death for six weeks or more, learning every word & every nuance of every track.
That really just doesn't happen any more.

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