In the golden age of vinyl records, we generally listened to music for longer. Whilst it was fairly easy to locate a specific track on a record, most people would listen to the whole side before turning it over and listening to the other.
We’d listen to whole albums on cassette tape too unless you had one of those fancy-pants tape decks where you could fast-forward and locate the silences before each song started.
It wasn’t just music. Remote controls on TVs made it even easier to become a clicker. It simply took too much energy to get up out of your chair and manually change the channel, even in the analogue days before satellite and cable TV.
The advent of CD was a massive step forward in instant access as we could very quickly skip from track to track with the push of a button.
MP3s arrived in the late ’90s and now we were able to host massive collections of music on our computers and find specific songs within seconds.
With music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, we’re now able to carry an almost infinite amount of music in our pockets. Literally tens of millions of songs at our fingertips, all separated into useful playlists and recommendations. And it’s because of this, and the simplicity of skipping from one song to the next that we do…and we do it a lot!
Music blogger Paul Lamere analysed billions of plays from Spotify listeners back in 2014 to discover their skip rates. He discovered that nearly one-quarter of all songs played are abandoned in the first 5 seconds.
It gets worse.
“The likelihood that a song will be skipped within the first 30 seconds rises to 35.05 percent. The chance that a song is kipped before it ends is a whopping 48.6 percent.”
In other words, the odds that a song will be played all the way through are only slightly better than 50-60.
Mobile users tend to skip more than desktop users suggesting that most people listen to music in the background whilst they do other tasks. Either whilst they are at work or commuting maybe.
Skip rates change with age. Teenagers, who have a notoriously short attention span, skip well above 50% of the time whereas older listeners in their late 40s and early 50s have skip rates of about 35%.
So, what’s all of this got to do with discos and parties?
Well, DJs across the land have noticed over the last four or five years that this clicking trend has been brought to the dance floor.
One Bride I worked for last year confessed to being a clicker. She said to me “I don’t hang around. If I think I’ve listened to the best of a song then I click next”. She wasn’t wrong, for the whole night after about 90 seconds of listening to a song, usually after the first verse and a chorus she would look at me and shout “next one!”
At the party, folk will come up to my DJ booth and ask “what’s next?”, or “what else have you got?” and because I use a laptop as a source to play my music, it’s a familiar piece of equipment so people already know there’s probably a huge stash of music on there and know how easy it is to scroll through and pick something else at a moments notice.
It’s got to the point now where I am now doing my own customised edits of popular songs, shortening them in length to about one minute and thirty seconds long, and this seems to work.
I got the idea from listening to Heart Radio where you may have noticed they are doing exactly the same thing. They are trimming songs down to make a radio, radio edit so they can hit their targets of around 20-25 songs per hour.
I listened to an hour of my local Heart station this morning whilst writing this blog post and noticed that many of the songs they played clocked in no longer than 2:20 in length. One very noticeable edit was Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” that topped out at a humbling 1:50!
Once upon a time, for music artists, just getting your song heard was half the battle. Now it appears to be getting people to listen to the end. Unless you hook them in within seconds you’ve got no chance.
So what about the future? Are we going to start seeing singles appearing that are two minutes long, to begin with? It seems crazy that four minutes of our time seems like an eternity.
Where will it end? Songs that are just choruses?
Take care x