Wall Street Journal - "Streaming Is Changing the Sound of Music"
"In 1972, the Temptations hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, winning three Grammys, with a seven-minute version of the song “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Before the Temptations sing a word, an instrumental introduction featuring organ, guitar, bass, and a hi-hat cymbal ebbs and flows for more than four minutes. If the group were in the studio today, the title chorus would most likely have been featured much earlier in the song. That’s because music streaming services pay artists based on the number of plays each month, and to count as a play, a user must listen to the song past the 30-second mark. If a song you’ve never heard before takes a long time to get to the hook or simply has an extended intro, there is a good chance that you may simply hit the button to go to the next song.
To keep the “skip rate” as low as possible, musical artists are increasingly moving a song’s hook or chorus to that initial 30-second sweet spot. Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding, the hosts of the “Switched on Pop” podcast, have coined the term “Pop Overture” to describe a new trend in which a song “will play a hint of the chorus in the first five to 10 seconds so that the hook is in your ear, hoping that you’ll stick around till about 30 seconds in when the full chorus eventually comes in.”
Creators are modifying more than just the introductory sections of tracks for optimal performance on streaming. Every track that is listened to for more than 30 seconds counts as a play, but whether a listener makes it all the way through a song helps to determine whether a streaming service like Spotify will recommend similar songs in the future."