How long does it take to know if you like a new song?

Five seconds. That’s it. This is the result of a study conducted at New York University’s Centre for Data Science that has been published in the journal Music Perception.

The boffins conducting the research brought in about 650 undergrads in the NYC area to listen to 250 songs. They heard the complete track as well as clips that were five, ten, and fifteen seconds long. With the clips, volunteers heard different parts of the song, not just the intro, the chorus, or any hook. They got different parts of the song. Genres ranged across the board, from rock to classical. Participants were asked to rate the songs on this scale: ”Hate it,” ”Strongly dislike it,” “Slightly dislike it,” ”Indifferent,” ”Slightly like it,” ”Strongly like it,” ”Love it.” They were also quizzed how familiar they were with the song.

When all the data came in, it preference for a song didn’t matter if they listened to the entire song or just a clip. This seems to indicate that “clip preference” predicted whether they’d like (or dislike) the entire song. The length of the clip made no difference, either. We tend to make up our minds about a song within about five seconds.

Apple has been using clip teasers on iTunes since the beginning. Radio stations have conducted audience tests using 5-10 second song clips for years. Turns out that this methodology works pretty well.

Read more 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.

One thought on “How long does it take to know if you like a new song?

  • February 7, 2023 at 10:54 am

    While that may be true for some songs others take time to grow on you. First time I listened to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars it didn’t click. About 6 months later I picked it up again and was on non-stop repeat after that. Lots of other songs have taken some time to really appreciate.


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