A new study of hit singles from between 1986 and 2015 has highlighted the trend of shorter musical intros, and linked this to the rise of streaming.
Hubert Leveille Gauvin, a doctoral student in music theory at the Ohio State University, published his conclusions in Musicae Scientiae, the Journal of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music.
In 1986, the average length of the instrumental opening (the time in a song before the main vocal comes in) was 23 seconds. By 2015, this had shrunken to a mere five seconds. Gauvin feels it is the competitive nature of streaming services, and the ability to jump around from song to song with ease that has forced this stylistic shift.
“It makes sense that if the environment is so competitive, artists would want to try to grab your attention as quickly as possible,” Gauvin said. “We know that the voice is one of the most attention-grabbing things that there is.”
Gauvin’s study was rather limited, only focusing on the top ten selling single in the U.S. for each year. It therefore only accounts for the most popular songs of each year, not allowing for wider trends, and non-pop genres. Radio playlisting could also account for the shift, as sales trends often mirror the tightly-formatted commercial radio stations.
A clear link between streaming and these findings isn’t made, but it points out an interesting trend in pop music production nonetheless.