Music sales and popularity used to operate on a very similar trajectory. Release a song, spend time building up the popularity, let it gain mass acceptance, and then it tapers away. If you were to graph it, it would look either like a bell curve or an inverted V-shape mountain.

Now, electronic consumption of music has made most discovery more rapid. As an example, a recent report showed that the half life of a YouTube video was six days. And as I was explaining what I was seeing in a recent chat with the founder of Next Big Sound, an interesting correlation came to me.

The sales trajectory of the modern hit single is identical to the ADSR graph of electronic music.

For those unfamiliar, ADSR is an acronym that stands for Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release. This is the pattern every note follows on electronic keyboards. You hit the note and the “attack” spikes up high, depending on your velocity when you hit the note. The volume then dies down a bit as it “decays” to the preset volume at that moment. It then “sustains” as you hold the key until you “release” it.

In modern music marketing of hit songs, a song’s release “attacks” hard and fast and usually peaks on the first week of release. Activity and sales then “decays” as initial excitement wears off. It reaches a “sustaining” level that is dependent on a combination of word of mouth related to how much promotion and marketing a label gives that song. When they stop promoting, in most cases, activity of the song then “releases” and dwindles.

Why these two graphs are now syncing up in the electronic world? I’m not completely sure, but the parallels are clearly there. Your thoughts?

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