Pay attention: Music is not a three-minute egg

Alex Harrold
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Have you heard the news story about the Calgary radio station that wants to clip all the songs it plays on air down to three minutes playtime?
It's reported that this is an experiment based on the owners' extensive research, which resulted in them concluding that the listening public doesn't have the attention span to listen to a song that's longer than three minutes. 

There's no way for me to know if that's true, as I doubt this research study is printed in any notable publication, assuming there was a notable publication that dealt with such research.

Based on the nature of the research, one has to seriously doubt that a notable publication would be able to take that on, seeing that actually reading the article would likely take longer than it does to listen to a three-minute record. If you make it a habit not to read things that take longer than three minutes, it's a safe bet you're getting all of your news, your political viewpoints and any of the other intellectual endeavours you undertake from social media “friends” that essentially tell you what to think.

This is one experiment that I hope fails. It has to fail on several levels. Think of the song Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin. It's about seven minutes long.

While I haven't done the research, word has it that you wouldn't get much past the lyrics that tell you there's a lady who is sure all that glitters is gold and she's buying the stairway to heaven.

If you never heard the song before and you only heard the first three minutes, you'd be left lying awake wondering what happened once the staircase was bought. Let me remove the mystery for you. At the end of the song, she's still trying to buy the stairway to heaven.

If a seven-minute song is going to receive less than one half airtime, you can only imagine the fate of the 17-minute-long song In-a-Godda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. Just when you would be getting to the best part, you know, the two-minute drum solo, the song would end and a three-minute version of Blue Velvet would start to play, which would require them to add 37 seconds to a song that should have been played on a radio station that edits their records to one-minute in length.

It could be that people only have an attention span of three minutes when it comes to any kind of media. If that's the case with this column, it's likely twice as long as it should be already.

I wouldn't want you to agree with that and start writing letters to the editor suggesting that my column be cut in half and a corresponding monetary value be associated with the new length.

I'm already only getting paid a penny a word, which is the same amount lawyers used to receive over 200 years ago for all the documents they produced for the common folk. Realizing that will help you understand why legal documents seem to have their own language with words we never use everyday such as “heretofor” or “hereinafter” or even the ubiquitous “whereas.”

Old-time lawyers added those words on purpose in order to extend the length of the documents that they were producing in order to increase their pay. If I had been around then, “heretofor” and “hereinafter” would have been three words each instead of single words, thereby ensuring I would have received six cents rather than the two cents lawyers of the day were paid.

I'm relatively confident nothing would have been lost in the interpretation and I would be three times richer than the average practising colonial lawyer.

Let's assume for a minute you only have a three-minute attention span when it comes to reading something really important, like this column. Here's what can happen: You would begin to experience … (Note: this column has been clipped due to the short attention span of the columnist's readers.)

Organizations: Led Zeppelin

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