Yesterday I read the blog post "The Ten Second Rule: What is it and Why It’s Important!". In summary this article explains why a track needs to grab the listener in the first 10 seconds in order to be successful (generally). My first reaction was to disagree, but then I realised my disagreement was not with the rule itself but with the outcome of an adherence to it.
Anyone who has listened to my music would appreciate that the old adage of "don't bore us, get to the chorus" doesn't generally enter into my composition process! I don't approach music from a perspective of needing to grab attention and impact from the get-go. However, I also appreciate that I am not composing with the express purpose of achieving commercial success - something The Ten Second Rule is clearly a catalyst for.
I agree with the suggestion that there must be near-instant appeal for music which is aiming to be played on commercial radio. The reality is that deviating too far from familiar territory will lead to the listener changing the station quickly. But I question the value of this rule in creating fresh, interesting and truly original music – rather than more of what’s been heard before.
The second site I've come across today is SoundOut. As the website explains, SoundOut offers an online service to provide objective, reliable and rapid music insight. Artists are encouraged to upload a track via the site which is then reviewed by music fans (registered "scouts"). As detailed on the site:
"Every track submitted to SoundOut is fed randomly and in real-time to 80 independent reviewers on our sister site, Slicethepie (or 200 reviewers for SoundOut Pro reports). They are asked to respond objectively with their rating and honest feedback. These reviews and ratings are then automatically analysed by semantic technologies and compared against over 50,000 other tracks that have already been processed through SoundOut to produce a detailed SoundOut report."
Among other things, one outcome an artist is said to be able to gain from the SoundOut report is "How good a track is overall, with guaranteed 95% accuracy".
This service may be the absolute delight of artists looking for a way to receive constructive (?) feedback on their tracks. It's certainly an innovative tool.
I must say though that I am wary of the outcomes of a largely automatic reporting tool determining "how good a track is overall". For an artist with the sole objective of achieving commercial success with their music, this would seem like a god-send. Once you have the big success tick against one of your tracks you just need to figure out exactly what commercial success is - how to monetise the popularity of your track in a world gone crazy for free downloads and music piracy!
As a composer putting heart and feeling into creating music, this tool leaves me cold. But again, I acknowledge I am not SoundOut's target market.
Why formulate and automate the art of creating music?
"I am the entertainer, I come to do my show.
You've heard my latest record, it's been on the radio.
Ah, it took me years to write it, they were the best years of my life.
It was a beautiful song. But it ran too long.
If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05".
- Billy Joel, "The Entertainer"