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Music Technology

As Streaming Booms, Songs Are Getting Faster and Shorter (japantoday.com) 173

An anonymous reader shares a report: A new study finds that pop songs are getting faster as listeners' attention spans diminish. Instrumental openings to songs have shrunk dramatically over the past three decades and, to a lesser extent, the average tempo of hit singles has been speeding up, the research found. Hubert Leveille Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at the Ohio State University, analyzed the year-end top 10 on the US Billboard chart between 1986 and 2015. In 1986, it took roughly 23 seconds before the voice began on the average hit song. In 2015, vocals came in after about five seconds, a drop of 78%, he found. In a study published in Musicae Scientiae, the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, Leveille Gauvin linked the trend to the rapid rise of Spotify and other streaming sites that give listeners instant access to millions of songs. "It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible," he told AFP.
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As Streaming Booms, Songs Are Getting Faster and Shorter

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @02:43PM (#54215971)

    ...indicates that songs have only gotten longer and slower since the Ramones put out records in the 70's

    • True, cue November Rain by Guns N'Roses which was 9 minutes!

      • Amatures!

        Rock out some Meat Loaf, Anything for Love, 12 minutes!

    • So we've had the loudness wars and now the shortness wars. By the time the rest of Idiocracy becomes real, songs will be just one 120dB ear-splitting bang that lasts two seconds.
    • +1 million points for a Ramones reference!

      -7 points for neglecting (early) Melt Banana

    • That kind of music is still being made. Check out hardcore.

      Back in the 50s pop songs were short; very few ran over three minutes. Going even farther back, the upper bound of the length of a classic popular or blues song from the 20s and 30s was three minutes, because they were recorded direct to disc and that's how long the 78 masters ran. Pop song length crept up during the 60s and 70s, though punk was a counterforce with its return to short songs. In the recent past we settled in with four minutes being t

  • It's too bad, because, being a prog rock fan myself, I've always loved those longer songs of yesteryear; Genesis' Supper's Ready, Pink Floyd's Echoes, King Crimson's Starless and Bible Black.

    • Bible Black

      I recommend people Bing that one. With safe search off.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Bing was great but I prefer Sinatra.

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      There should be a question about genre generally, the 90s had a very different type of music than the stuff today.
      • by dj245 ( 732906 )

        There should be a question about genre generally, the 90s had a very different type of music than the stuff today.

        Completely agree. The market has made a big move towards dance/house/club music in the last 10 years. That alone could explain the faster tempo and shorter intros.

    • Whole Lotta Love

    • I think part of the issue is Radio. Most "radio mix" songs are on the order of 3:30 or less. I know very little about the industry, but it seems like they want to cram more songs into a given time segment, so shorter is the way to go. That way they can keep their near 50/50 ratio of songs/ads. (also why I don't listen to radio anymore).

      Look at bands like Dream Theater, most of their songs are 8+ minutes, a few are over 20 min, and it's no wonder they don't get radio time. They have a 3:30 instrumental in th

    • How much prog rock was in the BIllboard year-end top 10 chart in 1986?

    • Still exists, just isn't played on the radio for people who obviously don't listen to the radio, and therefore isn't advertised on the front page of spotify.

      The Mars Volta is my favourite example of top tier modern prog.

      • Top tier modern prog? The Mars Volta are basically pop stars.

        Try Steven Wilson or Porcupine Tree. If you want to get a little more adventurous, there are bands like Caligula's Horse, Ihsahn, Ne Obliviscaris or Soen.

        • >two most popular albums are concept albums about a guy committing suicide and interacting with "the other side" and a guy searching for the identity of his mother
          >most tracks at least 10 minutes long

          shouldn't have commented about music without expecting someone to tell me why it isn't REAL music. I guess rush and yes are pop stars too.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @02:48PM (#54216035)

    A new study finds that pop songs are getting faster as listeners' attention spans dimi

    Tl;DR

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Song structure is changing too. Rather than a traditional structure of ABABA, ABACAB, etc... Things have essentially devolved to Chorus, Chorus, Chorus, Outtro.

    Meh, Pop is disposable product targeted at the lowest common demoninator anyway. Just opt out.

    Bandcamp is a click away. Direct connection to actual artists (with no gatekeepers, so you'll wade through some crap to find the diamonds.)

  • 30 years? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Afty0r ( 263037 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @02:52PM (#54216089) Homepage
    They are attributing a 30-year trend to a company founded 10 years ago? Get this drivel off the front page please.
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Bingo!

      This has been a trend even longer than that. go listen to music from the 60s it's VERY slow by the standards of even the 90s, but still fast by comparison to the stuff from even earlier.

      I do shudder a bit to think where it will all lead eventually, but the change has been going on for an incredibly long time (likely over a century) so to attribute it to services and companies that have only existed for a decade or two is rather nonsensical.

      • Re:30 years? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by umafuckit ( 2980809 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @03:22PM (#54216379)

        I do shudder a bit to think where it will all lead eventually, but the change has been going on for an incredibly long time (likely over a century) so to attribute it to services and companies that have only existed for a decade or two is rather nonsensical.

        I wouldn't worry too much, these trends are apparently based on very mainstream stuff. "Hit songs" as the TFA puts it. There'll always be niches where these trends don't hold sway.

        • by green1 ( 322787 )

          The niche only applies when you get to control what you hear. "mainstream stuff" is what you're exposed to any time you're in a mall, at a bar, or forced to deal with your own offspring....

          • The niche only applies when you get to control what you hear. "mainstream stuff" is what you're exposed to any time you're in a mall, at a bar, or forced to deal with your own offspring....

            I wish the bars and malls would play mainstream. Malls play elevator music or some kind of soft rock for people over 40, bars play odd techno track or whatever new thing is momentarily hip in bars (but usually not in radio or streaming because it is for a different context)..

      • It will sound like chipmunks singing.
    • They are attributing a 30-year trend to a company founded 10 years ago? Get this drivel off the front page please.

      I don't see anything in the summary or TFA that says there is a steady 30-year trend. It's just comparing conventions now to what they were a few decades ago. I'd assume the guy has some data showing a more marked shift or acceleration in recent years that corresponds to his trend.

      Also, note that technology hasn't only been shifting for the past 10 years. I knew people 20+ years ago who were accessing massive archives of mp3s on communal servers and choosing what to access, what to download for themsel

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Played songs 5% faster than normal speed.

    AM radio, for you kids, is like streaming today. Singles (45s) and AM radio were for people you just couldn't figure out, while LPs and FM radio for the cool cats.

    Not many cool cats. Not many.

    • What about 78s?

    • Back in the 1950s and 1960s DJs would talk over the instrumental intro anyway, do what was the point of having the intro?
      • Back in the 1950s and 1960s DJs would talk over the instrumental intro anyway, do what was the point of having the intro?

        More to the point, what's the point of having a DJ?

        They rarely tell you what you were listening to, and certainly at this point in time, they play from such a restricted and pre-selected shortlist that there's no point in listening unless you want to be drowned in endlessly repetitive inflictions of carefully selected pop stars, and yes, they talk right over the music. You did that in my

  • Pink Floyd would never make it today...the millennials would tune out after 2 minutes of guitar solos

    • by Anonymous Coward

      millenials would say "the pink who?"

      response would be: "NO, not 'the pink who', 'pink floyd'... 'the who' is entirely different."

      you'd continue "... combined, they sold over 350 million albums and were extremely influen......."

      and they'd interrupt: "what's an 'album'?"

    • Guitar solos are a lost art today, except for the underground stuff, where virtuosos thrive, like Guthrie Govan. That said, we don't need another Freebird either.

      • I disagree. I listen to XM satellite radio channel 29. It's called the Jam channel. Bands like Phish, Umphreys McGee, Moe., and Govt Mule are just a few bands they play. Some of the best guitar work I've ever heard play on this channel.
        • I had avoided channel 29 in the past, but you've encouraged me to give it a shot again. By the way, is it me, or did satellite radio seem to reduce the amount of music variety per channel starting about 2 years ago? Might just be me, I haven't had it forever or anything.

        • I was thinking more along the lines of the mainstream, free broadcast radio, FM. Especially in my area: the vast majority of what we get around Philly is dance/pop American Idol type crap and old motown.
          I have XM in one car (I don't get to drive it much) but I'll check that out next time.

      • I always thought there was a perfectly good five and a half minute song struggling to get out of there.

    • millennials

      You mean the very hipsters who a buying record players and causing the music industry to re-release and re-press these old records? Oh man have you got that backwards.

      • by Alumoi ( 1321661 )

        Yeap, those people. Only they don't buy the stuff to listen, they buy it because it's trendy to have it in your home.

        • So basically, if "kids these days" don't like the stuff that 'ole gramps likes, then they like all the wrong stuff. But if they do like it, then they are only doing to to be cool and don't really like it. In other words, there's nothing they could do to win your approval.

          Fortunately they don't care.

    • The into to Shine On You Crazy Diamond is longer than most songs these days.

    • Thank God it came out earlier. We never would have had that kind of synthesized quality music. Pink Floyd's Meddle and Ummagumma never would have been heard, either. :(
    • Pink Floyd would never make it today...the millennials would tune out after 2 minutes of guitar solos

      Literally today Pink Floyd is a crustecian that can kill its pray using loud noises: New shrimp species named after Pink Floyd [bbc.co.uk]

  • IOW pop music has turned to utter compressed shit.

    Also among several dozen of people who I know quite well, I'm the only person who has his music collection on his HDD. Others don't bother.

    • by darkain ( 749283 )

      Exactly this. Just earlier today I saw yet another person bitching about the fact they couldn't run YouTube on their phone in the background to play music. My only thought was: "YouTube is a video service that eats considerable amount of resources/battery... why not just use a music service? Like having your own music and Winamp or some shit..."

      • by Known Nutter ( 988758 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @03:22PM (#54216381)
        It really whips the llama's ass.

        There are young people who have no idea what that means.
        • by imidan ( 559239 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @03:48PM (#54216659)
          I used WinAmp for many years, and I still have no idea what that means.
        • It really whips the llama's ass.

          There are young people who have no idea what that means.

          I had no idea what it meant, so there are also old (well, old-ish) people who have no idea what it means.

          I may have used WinAmp once or twice, but by 2000 I had left Windows for good, so I never used it enough to get that stuck in my head. I also never listened to Wesley Willis.

      • Indeed, a lot of people seem to use Youtube primarily as a music source. It's free and you don't need an acount.
      • There is a dedicated YouTube Music app available.

        Me, I feel old... I prefer buying the CD and ripping it or downloading (not streaming) tracks, copying them to the device, then playing. No issues with dead zones or bad Internet issues. Plus, when I purchase an album, the band gets 70% of the cut if through iTMS or more if bought from their website, as opposed to 0.00000000000001% or some other insane figure that streaming it gives them.

      • My only thought was: "YouTube is a video service that eats considerable amount of resources/battery... why not just use a music service? Like having your own music and Winamp or some shit..."

        Really? That was your *only* thought?

        Half the world uses youtube as a jukebox. Myself included.

        And, when did it become a virtue to use things only in the narrow sense that the designers originally intended?

    • My current* collection is mirrored in 3 different places, one of which is Google Play. Can't quite bring myself to flood iTunes with it**.

      * I've lost 3 record collections and a CD collection due to moves, conflicts, and bad choices. Along with 4 completely wonderful stereo systems. Feh.

      ** If I don't have a lossless collection, I don;t really have the music. Not sure I trust Apple Lossless. Since I have my library saved locally as WAV, MP3, OGG, and ATRAC, I'm able to recover. yes, I had a Minidisc system, a

      • ** If I don't have a lossless collection, I don;t really have the music.

        I guess it depends on how pretentious you are, really, because that implies it's not music unless you're listening to it on a high-end enough system to actually be able to tell.

  • by radarskiy ( 2874255 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @03:32PM (#54216487)

    Songs no longer need to leave time at the beginning of the song for the DJ to give a station ID or otherwise talk over the intro to prevent home recording.

    • by King_TJ ( 85913 )

      I don't think that theory really explains what's happening, although it's a clever idea.
      There's still just as much use for a long lead-in to talk over, today, as there ever was. Even in the world of streaming, you have a lot of streaming radio that still uses DJs talking between songs. Sirius/XM satellite radio, for example, is doing a lot of business offering a streaming version of the same stations you traditionally paid to listen to over the satellite transmissions.

      Most likely, this trend just shows the

  • ...as long as I continue to not listen to anything post 21st century! Long live crustism, complacency, and the other tiny voice shitting on the new kid's music of today.

  • It looks like they are really talking about pop music as a genre here, as the year end Billboard Top 10 usually only includes maybe one or two songs total from rock, hip-hop, country, etc.

    But, if you want to talk fast songs, you would be hard pressed to beat the Power Violence sub-genre (it's kind of like a blend of hardcore punk and metalcore with the tempo taken to the max, with a song structure of "Verse 1 and done"). 23 seconds for the whole song is about the upper limit there... anything longer and a p

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @03:52PM (#54216693)

    One of the reasons why songs are getting shorter is due to the way digital record sales accounting is being done. If you can make an album with 30 songs, all 2 minutes long, it counts more towards your sales than 15 songs at 4 minutes a pop. When you have services that count as streaming albums (Rather than individual songs), this makes it really easy to add some numbers. If the artists are paid per song, it's just a good financial choice.

    Not only that, streaming songs counts towards RIAA platinum record qualifications. It takes 1500 streams from an album to equal 1 an album 'sale'. Make them all short songs, you'll get more digital oompf per album. You could stick 40 short songs on an album, and you see artists doing that sort of thing already.

    • This. It's similar to the tricks Prog Rock bands would use to get fully paid for their albums. Instead of one 26-minute song called "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", there are technically nine "parts" to the song, and thus, when you add the other three tracks on the album, they get paid like they would for a normal, 12-song album.
  • It says that the leadins are shorter , but is the average song time shorted? Because that would be great. I don't listen to music a lot but by the 3rd chorus I'm sick of whatever is on and I would be psyched if they could just cut the song time in half.

  • by avandesande ( 143899 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @04:14PM (#54216933) Journal
    Gave up popular music about 5 years ago and listen to mostly classical. People are still puzzling over Bach 300 years later....
    • I never bother with popular music. Same reason why I don't eat at McDonald's. I used to like Pandora for new stuff, but YouTube has been a good place to find tracks worth a listen. Dungeon synth works well as a genre for IT work, for example.

      • Didn't know Dungeon Synth existed... just youtubed some and yeah, I think you are right. I never had good luck with Pandora for new music, it always brought me back to the 5 bands they were pushing that month that fell into my "categories" apparently.

  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Tuesday April 11, 2017 @04:47PM (#54217257)

    "It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible,"

    There aren't any instrumentals because most "artists" today can't play a musical instrument or even sing. Concerts are just a backtrack with someone dancing around and lip-synching.

    • Musicians are a thing of the past, at least in popular music. There's no need for 'music' anymore. If you want to listen to talented musicians you need to venture out into the bar and club scene for live music. Pop music has no talented musicians anymore.
    • Many popular music artists will freely admit they are not musicians. Lionel Ritchie admitted in an interview on how he could barely play the piano. In music videos he'd be shown playing the same chord over and over as the camera zoomed in on his face and then he'd start to sing, and someone else would play the piano from there. I saw a TMBG concert and Flansburgh made a joke that he didn't really know how to play guitar, and ever since then when I see him perform I can't help but notice how little he act

  • I think this probably has more to do with dj/dance culture than streaming. DJ's mix songs of the same/similar tempo to create long sets where kids can dance continuously for extended periods of time. Songs with long or off-tempo intros and outros are not conducive to that, and even if they are, will often have the intro and outro cut to get to the "good stuff", ie. the beat they can mix into their set. Even if the DJ/Dance culture isn't directly influencing artists to shorten their intros, the DJ remixes then enter the pop music ecosystem, and skew the data directly.

  • While you'd probably want to commend them for their positive attitude, it appears quite a lot of rap artists suffer from a mental disorder which results in an urge to be the center of attention. Let's call it the "Look at meeeee! Look at meeeeee!" complex. So when the music starts they have this uncontrollable urge to blurt out "Yeah!" within the first few seconds (at least it's better than "No!"). If that was taken as "start of voice" these results are skewed.
  • I was going to write a post here about a punk album but then slashdot told me too many junk characters, so fuck it.

  • It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible

    In other words, we want the "artists" singing right away because we know we don't promote bands anymore that play music and need talent to play a challenging instrumental, and so we want the only talent we are promoting to be doing something in the songs sooner so that you are not listening to a studio/backup band.

  • Soon we'll be listening to music as they do in the 'demolition man' movie, where it's basically 'catchy' jingles everybody sings along with.

  • The researchers should not be inferring a causal relationship. Pop music is fad-heavy, influenced by about a zillion factors, and has it's own cycles. They should have gone back to at least 1956, and included social, political and economic indicators.

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