Spotify, set for $25bn, is making song titles short and weird

Spotify, set for $25bn, is making song titles short and weird

There are more unique song titles in the Spotify era than any other time before it, new research has revealed.

It’s all punk: the music streaming giant debuts on on the stock exchange on Tuesday 3 April by changing the world without ever having made any money.

And when it lands on the New York Stock Exchange Spotify will turn into a $25bn company overnight.

But Spotify is not necessarily disrupting the world of music for good.

Researcher Michael Tauberg combed through thousands of titles across the streaming platform to come up with this set of numbers.

From 2000 to 2008, the number of unique words in song titles hit 2,113.

But between 2008 and 2017, that jumps to 2,512.

While comparing two closely matched eras may not make your local statistician particularly happy – they would say apples and oranges – the numbers are quite striking.

So there’s nearly 20% more unique words in song titles in the Spotify era.

Please don’t call it Google

Naming a hit song has always been a bugbear for record execs.

This is why you don’t name your band “Google” nor your new album “Great British Bake Off”.

DJ and electronica producer Richard D James, also known as Aphex Twin, used to make up apparently random strings of letters for his song names.

While eminently Googleable, this did not make his bosses particularly happy.

And while the dance-punk band and Warp Records labelmate !!! managed to avoid selling out, in the pre-Spotify era the fact that no one could pronounce their names made it rather difficult for people to buy their records.

Perhaps buoyed by the fact that people Google bandnames rather than sheepish ask for them at the counter of their local record shop (remember those?) !!! are still going today – the name commonly rendered in actual human speech as “Chk Chk Chk”.

Song titles ‘less meaningful’

If record producers have to think about Search Engine Optimization – the dark art of delivering content that people can find at the top of search engine results – when naming songs, it probably follows that titles will end up divorced from what the artist actually wants or means.

While some might question what music researchers do all day, this is actually quite interesting.

Tauberg writes in a Medium post: “Our shorter attention spans mean more song titles with 1 or 2 words in them. There are also more songs with very long titles [greater than] 7 words. The middle is what shrinks as a percentage.”

So the most popular songs really are the ones which are easiest to find in endless music libraries?

Spotify floats investors boats

Spotify is due to debut on the New York Stock Exchange today with insiders claiming it will sell a bucketload of shares. It may even surpass the value of Facebook’s inital public offering.

All this while never having made a dollar in profit. It has a lot in common with Snap and Twitter in that regard.

So this is the new normal: tech companies and apps which have a vast cultural impact but which never make any actual money.

This sounds suspiciously like the experience of the younger people who buy their products: forever in debt, and forever talking about it.

MAIN IMAGE: Andrew Mager/CC BY-SA 2.0


Tom is a tech journalist and Editor at
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