Music Industry

Another post in which I worry about what Spotify’s skip rate tells us about our relationship with music

My wife will tell you that I’m the WORST when it comes to Netflix. Give me the remote and I go into full hunter-gatherer mode, flipping from show to show, hoping to find something magical enough to capture my attention span immediately. A whole evening can go by without me settling down to watch one single program.

This is not good because it speaks volumes about my ever-shortening attention span. But there’s just SO MUCH TV out there that even when I chance upon something I like, there’s a part of my lizard brain that says “But what if there’s a show that’s even better? Keep hunting!” So I do.

We’re all like this to some extent. We’re constantly flipping between websites, radio stations, TV channels, often never alighting on something long enough to take it all in. We’ve become addicted to the dopamine rush of the hunt.

This phenomenon began with the old push-button radio in the car. Buttons made manual tuning a thing of the past. Tune in a station once, pull out the button, push it back in and the radio was locked into that dial position. Most of these units stored five presets.  Didn’t like something on the current station? Hit the button and the mechanical tuner slid across the dial to the next station. Today, a typical car radio has 18 presets or more. And don’t get me started on infotainment systems with satellite radio.

If you’re too young to remember what those old radios looked like, take a look at this old Delco which appeared in thousands of GM products.

The next innovation in skippability was the “skip track” button on CD players. In the old days of turntables and cassettes, people just let the record run through songs they didn’t really care about. With the new CD, you could skip a track with a touch of the remote.

That one button completely changed our relationship with music. Our musical attention span began to shrink.

All devices that have come after the CD player has had skip functions. That has extended, of course, to streaming music services.

Spotify keeps all sorts of stats on how long people will listen to a song before deciding to hunt for something else. They’re rather frightening, actually.

Because of skipping, the relationships we have with songs and artists are becoming more and more tenuous. Freed from the financial investment of a physical album–something you’d listen to over and over again until you liked it because, dammit, I paid money for this! I must get something out of it!–we’re free to float through the 45 million or songs available to stream without having to make any commitments.

This, again, is not good. It’s not good for music, it’s not good for the industry, and it’s certainly not good for artists. But there’s no going back.

Forbes picks it up from here.

And because it’s so easy to skip from one song to another, we do and we do it often. Music blogger Paul Lamere analyzed billions of plays from millions of Spotify listeners all over the world to discover their skip rates. Here’s what he found:

  • 24.14 percent likelihood of skipping to the next song in the first 5 seconds.
  • 28.97 percent in the first 10 seconds
  • 35.05 percent in the first 30 seconds
  • 48.6 percent skip before the song finishes

What’s more, the average listener skips 14.65 times per hour, or about once every four minutes, and females skip slightly more than males at 45.23% to 44.75%.

The mobile skip rate is 51.1% while on a desktop it’s 40.1%, suggesting that listening on a desktop may be more background to another task, which again makes sense for the world we live in today.

Read the whole article here.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38413 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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