It’s a fact that radio airplay has always influenced how songs were produced as for years it was felt that 3 minutes was the ideal length to keep the listener engaged and now with a pair of new studies published in Musicae Scientiae, the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music by Leveille Gauvin has found that the audience’s short attention span coupled with the rapid rise of streaming music has influenced basic song structure, as more artists try to come to the point faster than ever.
We often still listen to past songs with an intro to last 20 or more seconds, but now we see songs like Maroon 5‘s 2015 hit “Sugar,” with the vocal entering after only seven seconds.
Part of this has to do with the fact that a different 2014 study of Spotify listening habits found that 21 percent of songs get skipped over in the first five seconds, and producers are more keenly aware of the attention span of their listeners than ever before.
Yes, it’s also a fact that we live in an instant economy today where anything digital is at our fingertips in seconds. Also in our honest opinion, we find beauty in a finely crafted intro, but for many years it came to be more of a tacked on the necessity that was more part of “the way things are done” than what was required to make a song great. There’s nothing wrong with getting to the point quickly if it makes the song better, as long as that too doesn’t become “the way things are done.”