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Time waits for no intro: composing for the Spotify generation

Posted by Dan Lafferty - Director of Music and Voice at PHMG on

For consumers brought up on mobile phones, audiobooks, Netflix, and most importantly, Spotify, time is truly of the essence – and songs now have just a few seconds to catch the ear of the listener before they’re skipped for good. As intros continue to dwindle in length, we take a look at why the modern music fan has no time to waste in compiling their next playlist.

When we can devour an entire series in one night, follow news as it breaks and consume books through our headphones on the commute to work, it’s clear why the consumer’s approach to modern-day pop would follow suit. And as they change, so does the industry’s approach to song-writing. After all, there’s no need to persevere with a lengthy intro when we can skip… skip… skip until we find a song that hooks us in immediately. Naturally, this means those meticulous, melodically intricate song intros are collateral damage in the new age of instant gratification

Of course, this news would likely see some of music’s Hall Of Fame put their heads in their hands. In Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, you won’t hear Robert Plant’s first graceful tone until over 50 seconds in, while Jim Morrison doesn’t feature on ‘The End’ until the one minute-mark. And there’s an incredible three-minute wait for vocals on Pink Floyd’s 23-minute epic, ‘Echoes’. Pink Floyd were always considered the biggest mavericks of the music industry, but just imagine how many tweets, texts, and tracks today’s spoilt-for-choice listeners could skip during those three minutes.

This revelation is only supported further by research undertaken at The Ohio State University – where Hubert Gauvin has discovered a significant plummet in lengthy song intros. In fact, in a study concerning 303 top ten singles from the past three decades, he documented a 78% drop in intro times. And this figure correlates with another trend; the average pop song tempo has increased by 8%.

For many artists now, music is less about creating the perfect album experience, and more about hooking listeners in with instant hits. As Mr Gauvin explains: “There’s always another song. If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention – your product isn’t necessarily your song, it’s your personal brand.” From a marketing perspective, it makes perfect sense, even if it does mean we may never hear releases of the same scale as The Fab Four’s ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, which just wouldn’t have the same all-encompassing glamour if it was spliced up and stuck on shuffle. ‘A Day in the Life’ still remains one of the finest ending pieces to an LP, but how often would people stick around to listen to ‘Track Number 12’ on Spotify?

But the research doesn’t lie. The power of the voice is – and always will be – the single most powerful way to grab a listener’s attention – not just in music, but in marketing too. With an audio branding production, this voice is expertly matched to a business, showcasing their distinct brand personality. And when it’s used to interest, inform, and interact with your callers by reading a carefully crafted script, there’s no chance of a hang-up, or a skip to a competitor.

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