According to Psychology Today, “Attention span refers to the amount of time we can focus on a task before we start to ‘zone out’…For some people focusing on even the simplest of tasks for a few moments can be torture.” If reading this feels like torture, I guess the whole “stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is clearly all a lie. Okay, let’s not be too dramatic as I wanted to discuss something I came across that said that our attention spans are shortening as a side effect of our digital lifestyles.
In a recent study from Microsoft Corp that measured the impact of modern digital technology devices on attention spans. Humans have been found to have an attention span of eight seconds, in comparison to goldfish who have been found to have an attention span of nine (so a goldfish can concentrate longer than me?). It is clear our ability to focus for a long time is dwindling and I believe this has affected the way we listen and receive music today.
With less time to pay attention, people’s interest in listening through whole albums has decreased and we seem highly interested in songs for a moment and then move quickly on to the next hit. People have also been found to only listen to a part of songs before they fast-forward it or switch tracks completely. I even spoke to my friends and they said they usually give songs about 10 seconds and if they don’t like what they hear, they’re not really interested in listening to the rest. This I believe has affected the way musicians release music.
There has been much more focus on artists releasing hit singles for people to stream or buy, instead of making great albums. Flo Rida & Jason Derulo have never really enjoyed major album sales but check their hit singles tally- it’s extensive. That’s not to say when the right artist comes along; the album is no longer event. Beyoncé’s LEMONADE and Drake’s VIEWS, both had ‘album listening parties’, where there entire album was played on Radio 1 & 1xra. However, these are mega stars with a huge international following; things are not the same for other musicians.
Our appetite for having music instantly has arguably resulted in ‘New Music Friday’ where new songs and albums are globally released on the same day. This seems like a way to court our attention to one specific day where we know that we will be listening to a bunch of new tunes, which isn’t a bad thing as it has us creating playlists featuring our favourite songs of the moment, something I enjoy doing. However, I do think there is such a focus on the now and less thought on the impact today’s music will have in the years to come.
Artists have also begun releasing promotional tracks in the run up to their albums, to capture our attention, which has changed the way just one single used to be enough to make us want to buy an album. Take Ariana Grande for example, who for her upcoming album ‘Dangerous Woman’ has already released four tracks that have a collective streaming total of 151 million (from Spotify alone). Let’s not even get into how popular streaming has become, with everyone being able to stream tracks instantly from artists worldwide without having to individually buy their music discography. So are our shortening attention spans such a bad thing?
Personally, I like the way we’re getting a lot more music released than ever before to maintain our attention. Whether that be through streaming, downloads, music or lyric videos and even acoustic versions of songs. Naysayers may say the album is dying a slow death but in this digital age we are in times of change. This change still allows me (even with my supposed shortened attention span) to be tuned into the music that makes me happy, so I can’t complain.
Congratulations if you reached the end of the article, who’s the boss now eh Goldfish?