Music Industry

More Proof That Streaming is Changing the Very Nature of Music

Last week I wrote a post about my fear for music of the future and it’s all your fault. Clickbait? Maybe. But there’s no doubt that human behaviours regarding music are changing as a result of streaming. (You might want to read that piece before you continue. I’ll wait.


Got that? Here’s more proof. This is from The Daily Mail:

Depending on your tastes, streaming services might be to thank or to curse for a move away from the instrumental intro, said Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at The Ohio State University.

Mr Léveillé Gauvin spent months listening to and analysing songs that hit the top 10 from 1986 to 2015 and found a dramatic shift away from long intros. The researcher also discovered a marked increase in tempo in popular music, and that singers of modern pop hits waste no time before mentioning the song title in their lyrics.

Another change he found was that song names today are shorter than they used to be – often just a single word. This evolution is likely driven by what Mr Léveillé Gauvin calls the ‘attention economy’ of modern-day pop.

Those intros–the time from when the music began to when the vocals start–used to last around 23 seconds. Now the vocals come in at an average of just five seconds. Gotta grab everyone’s attention before they hit that skip button. (Note to radio peeps: There’s no fun in hitting the post on a five-second intro, is there?)

The DM story continues:

‘It’s survival-of-the-fittest: Songs that manage to grab and sustain listeners’ attention get played and others get skipped. There’s always another song,’ Mr Léveillé Gauvin said. ‘If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention.’

What the article doesn’t mention is that for a song to be counted as a play (and therefore be eligible for a royalty payment), it has to be heard for at least 30 seconds. In other words, if you wanna be paid, you gotta grab and keep someone’s attention for half a minute. So much for songs with dramatic buildups. Forget experimental tracks. And don’t even think of being too different. Them listeners want their sugary hit of dopamine within the first five seconds.

The very nature of songwriting is changing as the result of the adoption of streaming technology. Read the full article here. Yahoo has 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.

Alan Cross has 37874 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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