University of Auckland

Modern songs made for shorter attention spans - study

Posted by Admin on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 Under: Attention

Don't bore us, get to the chorus.

That's a greatest hits album by Swedish pop rock duo Roxette, but is also seems to be the mantra for modern day pop music - which has dramatically cut its intros compared to 1980s power ballads.

A new study from Ohio State University looked at the evolution of top 10 chart-topping hits from 1986 to 2015 and found some stark changes - big hair and fashion aside.

The intros to songs, which used to average around 20 seconds in the mid-80s, are now only around five seconds long.

Song tempos are also getting faster, with an average increase of 8 percent; song titles aren't as length either with a trend toward using just one word.

Study author Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, a music theory doctoral student, puts that down to shorter attention spans and the need for musicians to grab fickle listeners' attention in the age of streaming.

"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 says.

"If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention."

He says the difference between mid-80s songs and today's songs is "insane" - a 78 percent cut - but "makes sense".


Reference: Hubert Léveillé Gauvin. Drawing listener attention in popular music: Testing five musical features arising from the theory of attention economy. Musicae Scientiae, 2017; 102986491769801 DOI: 10.1177/1029864917698010

In : Attention 

Tags: music attention-span