Of course, the average person will listen to it on torrented 128kb/s mp3s on $19.95 headphones while watching porn and playing a videogame and texting on two different phones. That’s the world we live in now, and it isn’t going away.
This is a new and untested ecosystem for music, and I wonder how it’s affecting what sort of music gets listened to. Theory: music that you can listen to with 5% of your brain is selected for. Elaborate, subtle, and detailed music is selected against.
It would perhaps shift the tonal centers of popular music towards frequencies that are easy to filter out. Some frequency ranges – like around 10khz – have a harsh, grating quality: “look at me” kinds of frequencies. Easily ignorable music would probably dial back those frequencies and boost the soft, low 300hz bass and the clean, sparkling 12khz highs. I’ve heard it said that Bose speakers do exactly that: and their supposed pleasant sound comes from a pretty lopsided response spectrum: emphasising nice frequencies, and killing harsh ones.
What about song lengths? Here’s a graph I found about the average song length per year, but I mistrust it. They just dumped all the songs from MusicBrainz’ database into it, but aren’t some songs more popular than others? Why include a bunch of 30 second grindcore songs that nobody listens to in your data? Someone should find a way to calculate the average length of #1 singles. An ideal length of 3:20 is something I’ve heard before, although I don’t know how true it is.
Another thing is that a lot of radio stations actually speed up their music by 1% or 2% – for a more upbeat feel and so they’ve got room for more precious ads.
But to add epicycles, there’s likely other trends running counter to simpler, dumber music. Digital media also allows you to do things like easily skip to a certain point to hear it again, or look things up on the internet so you can REALLY find out what “Puff the Magic Dragon”‘s about. We’re at the mercy of radio DJs no more, and that should encourage more variety.