Is the ‘song’ dead?

The Beatles' Hey Jude is one of the UK's longest Number 1s at 7 minutes 11 seconds
The Beatles' Hey Jude is one of the UK's longest Number 1s at 7 minutes 11 seconds (Image credit: Apple Corps)

We know that modern life is hectic, but it seems that some music lovers don't even have time for an affair with the three-minute song anymore.

A new poll of young music fans in the UK has found they now do not have time to listen to their favourite songs in their entirety. And that could mean wannabe pop songwriters have to change the way they write.

In the Sony Ericsson survey, it was found that 44 per cent of UK music fans will only listen to a song for 30 seconds before skipping to a new track. One in five women aged 18-24 hit the 'next' button after less than 20 seconds of a song.

The emotional reaction people were searching for threw up fewer surprises, whether it was to feel cheered up (29 per cent of respondents), relaxed (eight per cent), more motivated to work (nine per cent) or to feel more alert (six per cent).

As Sony Ericsson's Dave Hilton noted: "We are consuming music in much shorter bursts to fit in with our busy lifestyles - a quick music fix on the way to work, in between phone calls, between classes, is what we are looking for.

"As music providers we need to adapt to this new trend and make it easier than ever to enjoy music on the move."

Is the 3-minute song dead?
That's for Sony Ericsson to work out, of course, but what does this mean for songwriters? There's certainly no 'correct' length for a hit song: the notion of the 3-minute-single only really came about because it was a good length for a 45rpm vinyl record.

But as digital formats take over, younger music fans will seek impact from the music even quicker. And yet the Whitburn Project suggests that hit songs have actually been getting longer.

There's no one size that fits all, of course, but it seems music has become an aural gong show where if you don't impress in the first 30 seconds, you don't get a second chance.

That's always been good songwriting advice anyway, of course, but it seems the fast-fix culture is accelerating.