Samsung attention span study: pop songs need to get shorter

Samsung study
Pop songs have to get shorter because young people’s attention spans are shrinking

Samsung study: the spice lies in the brevity. Ariana Grande’s hits like “Bang Bang” stay under four minutes.

© Lev Radin / Picture Alliance

Long pop ballads will not survive in the age of streaming, the trend is inexorably towards short pieces that get to the point in under three minutes.

Not a great achievement listening to pop music? Apparently it does. The attention span of music fans has dropped from twelve to eight seconds since 2000, according to a study by Samsung. In these eight seconds, a decision is made between top and flop. Samsung predicts that 2030’s hits will be very short to match the shrinking attention span.

Samsung study: what takes is pushed aside

There is also the “skipping culture” in streaming services. If a song is pushed away in the first 30 seconds, it will not generate any revenue. This has consequences: For the musicians it is more important than ever to captivate the listener early, to keep the overall length of a track short and to put refrains first, according to Samsung. And even if it all works out, the piece shouldn’t be too long. Otherwise the listener gets bored and switches to another musician’s song.

It is best if the pieces are short and, so to speak, end at their climax and thus lead the listener straight to the next track. A seven-minute piece is poison for business, in the same time you could collect the fee three times. Skipping has far-reaching consequences. The algorithms of the streaming services rate a jump as dissatisfaction, and in the long run no more long pieces are suggested.

A quick hit

At the end of the decade, the forecast is that the average song will be a maximum of two minutes long. That would be the end of the three-minute pop song era. This is the length that radio formats have established. Only in the punk phase were the pieces similarly short. Subtle ballads and dreamy instrumentals will have a tough time in the streaming race, according to Samsung. Even today, 80 percent of the ten most streamed songs on Spotify are shorter than four minutes. The length of a number one song has also shrunk over the past two decades. In the UK, it went from four minutes and 16 seconds in 1998 to three minutes and 3 seconds in 2019. One minute and 13 seconds were saved. The days of hits like Madonna’s Frozen – six minutes and 12 seconds – and Oasis All Around The World with an enormous nine minutes and 38 seconds are long gone. If you want to get to the top of the charts today, you always have to stay under four minutes.

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