Music, Marketing and Pandora

Pandora Workout Routine
This is only an unscientific observation.  But in the few weeks I’ve been using Pandora*, my standard elliptical routine has been six songs. It’s purely a psychological thing: instead of working out for a set time, I work out for a pre-determined number of songs, sort of like a baseball game. It’ll be 9 innings. Or it’ll be extra innings. But whatever time it takes is the time it takes. The time does not matter.
I’m still at six songs. But this is okay. I’m not training for a marathon.
Funny thing is, no matter which channel I play, the workout runs between 23 – 24 minutes consistently. We’re talking pop songs here. I don’t work out to Wagner, Verdi or Bizet … not a bad thought, though.
So, this puts the length of the average pop song at 3 minutes 54 seconds. Just under 4 minutes. Turns out, this has been the trend for over four decades. Prior to the late 1960′s to early 1970′s, pop songs averaged in the 3-minute range.
Very likely, it’s a technological & economic thing. Long Play format records were around in the mid-1920′s; but a little event called The Great Depression got in the way of them becoming popular. And after World War II, the 45 RPM format disc became popular for its low cost; and record companies could get more volume than the larger 33 1/3 RPM LP disc, which had been widely available since 1948 (LINK).
Fast forward 20 years & production advances could bring down LP cost a bit more. But more importantly, popular artists began to advance their craft. And because of their popularity, record producers could market & sell the longer-format disc. Notable among the artists, the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on June 1st, 1967. (Capitol Records-EMI)

But why today do we stick with the 4-minute format?
Artists could write & perform 2-hour songs, if they desired (and could market them). So maybe it’s simply an appropriate convergence of song writing, performing, audience desire & attention span and marketing. While much of the music industry is supported by song/album sales, there is still an important component of advertising sponsorship message.  Whether it’s a single sponsorship word, which Pandora is popularizing; or the 12-in-a-row 30-second messages still not uncommon on local over-air broadcast stations & affiliates – or even the 6-in-a-row fairly common on Clearchannel’s iHeart Radio, which seems pretty popular (LINK) – or sponsor-supported 20-second plugs on NPR: the music industry still receives tons of support from advertisers.
Of course, it’s symbiotic. For the advertiser, that’s where the ears are. And for the artists and all of the support-industry professionals around them, the revenue is much appreciated. So, who’s the Clownfish? And who’s the Sea Anemone?
Advertising’s important role in marketing is once again reinforced. Of course, advertising takes on many forms & creative design. Advertising as a way of highlighting & describing the virtues of “things” being marketed is a continuous process of creative destruction. Never more tested than today. But never more opportunities for creative individuals to contribute to the craft of advertising than today…
Screenshot from Pandora website. Click for link.
*The problem sometimes with being an early adopter of technology is that long-lasting biases can easily be formed. I had tried Pandora when it was first released – so long ago I can’t even remember; but it must’ve been a decade or so.  It was terrible – difficult interface, didn’t work with other devices, had a small catalog of songs, kept crashing, etc.  But now: it’s a pretty slick app on my phone/device … really cool!

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