I went to a talk by Jay Frank last night put on by @thisisnewmusic.

It was very revealing.

Jay is a respected authority on what makes a song a hit in the post filesharing, online music dicovery world. This is all revealed in his excellent book – Future Hit DNA.

I encourage you to go and check out Jay’s site and if you’re serious about writing hits, try and see him speak or buy the book.

Here’s a few nuggets from last night. Apologies to Jay if I miss the detail!:

  • All music discovery online occurs at 0 seconds because an embedded player, YouTube video etc starts at the beginning. This might seem obvious but it was never like this before when you would usually switch on the radio and maybe hear a song halfway through.
  • About half the people only hear the first 10 seconds of the track, no matter how they discovered it. But, if they get past 10 seconds they are likely to listen to the whole thing. Possible exit times are at about 2 minutes (normally after the second chorus, in the bridge) or towards the end, where you may have a fade that bores them. Abrupt endings are better.
  • The first listen is easy to get these days – there are vast numbers of ways to be discovered whereas in the past, the first listen meant a very hard to come by radio play – but it takes 5 – 7 plays to embed a song with a listener and the repeat plays will only come if the first play hooked them and made them listen all the way through.
  • After the birth of Napster the average length of Intro dropped from 14 seconds to 7.
  • If people jump out of listening to a track at any point this sets a negative connotation in their mind that makes them exponentially less likely to listen again. Avoid this!
  • There is some evidence that the communal experience in listening to songs and discussing them is declining in the web 2.0 world. Perhaps enhancing the communality of the song itself can help – eg – gang singing or ‘call and response’.

Seriously, check out the book!