Nowadays, skipping to the next song on streaming services like Spotify and Pandora is easy—too easy.
Intros to songs averaged about 20 seconds in the mid-1980s, according to a study from a music theory doctoral student at the Ohio State University.
Now? It’s about five seconds.
As part of Hubert Leveille Gauvin’s research, published last month in the journal Musicae Scientiae, he listened to 303 top American pop hits from 1987 through 2015. His findings indicate our attention spans are shrinking.
“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,” Léveillé Gauvin said in a university press release.
“If people can skip so easily and at no cost, you have to do something to grab their attention.”
The average tempo over the 30-year period increased about 8 percent, but what really sped up was when the lyrics start. Compare 1987’s top hit “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship to the 2015 pop song “Sugar” by Maroon 5.
You hear that? The ’80s beat takes 22 seconds to get to the first lyrics. The hook doesn’t come in until about a minute into the listening experience. Take 2015’s popular song: it’s only about 10 seconds until the lyrics start and Adam Levine sings the hook by second 40.
And earlier classics like The Temptations’ “Papa was a Rolling Stone?” With its two-minute instrumental intro, most kids today would click “next” way before anyone even starts to think about singing.