What The Top 10 Selling Downloads Have In Common

I took a look at the top 10 selling downloads for January 2010. I was definitely curious to see how my theories of the book were stacking up. Did the theories hold up past the #1 song? Here’s what I found:

SHORT INTROS ABOUND (CHAPTER #1)
7 of the top 10 selling downloads had intros of 5 seconds or less. Oddly enough, it’s not just any 7…it’s the TOP 7. Also, those 7 songs alone account for 4% of ALL track sales so far for the year. That’s a pretty huge consolidation of money in that top cluster. Is there any further proof that short intros are what drives sales now? In fairness, the 8th, 9th & 10th selling downloads had longer intros (12, 21 and 29 seconds respectively) so it is certainly still possible to sell with long intros. However, the odds are clearly against you. And, by the way, if you averaged all 10 songs…the average intro length is…7 seconds…exactly in line with what I’ve found consistently the past few years.

LONGER POP SONGS (CHAPTER #2)
5 of the Top 10 selling downloads are longer than 4 minutes. This may not seem like a lot, but it does represent a subtle shift in songs getting longer. The longer the song, the more it controls mindshare. In fairness, a couple of those songs over 4 minutes do have radio edits, but in the online world, those edits are not what is being consumed. The longer versions are. The overall average length of the Top 10 is 3:57, which is actually about a 5% increase in the length of hit songs earlier in the decade. Not overly dramatic, but certainly trending in a specific way.

INCOMPLETE ENDINGS (CHAPTER #5)
I think in version 2.0 of my book, I’ll have to add “cold” endings…7 of the Top 10 selling downloads basically do not have a full resolve of the song and/or end the song “cold” without fades. Ending the song cold in most cases achieves the same result as the lack of resolve. Most people feel satisfaction with a musical chord resolve. A cold ending of just vocals robs them of that, even if musically it might actually be a full resolve. Most often, that’s not the case.

RELEASE MORE SONGS MORE OFTEN (CHAPTER #7)
Ke$ha’s album only came out last month, but she already has 2 of the Top 10 selling downloads. Black Eyed Peas, who also have 2 of the Top 10, released 4 singles in the last 10 months. Lady Gaga’s track came from a new EP released just slightly more than a year after her debut album. Taylor Swift’s huge debut week for her track also emphasized the hunger from her fan base for more songs quickly.

Another interesting item of note…traditionally the winter time is when the big ballads are popular. Yet not one of the Top 10 selling tracks is a ballad. In the book, I talk about mellow background music gaining ground. Based solely on track sales with no ballads and only 3 of the Top 10 even remotely considered mellow, it would appear that this prediction is off track. However, the reason for the prediction is that ballads have not always been big sellers on their own. The revenues come in moving forward thru increased streaming on multiple sites, not from sales themselves.

For reference, here are the Top 10 sellers for January 2010:

1) Ke$ha “Tik Tok”
2) Lady Gaga “Bad Romance”
3) Train “Hey, Soul Sister”
4) Young Money “Bedrock”
5) Ke$ha “Blah Blah Blah”
6) Black Eyed Peas “Imma Be”
7) Iyaz “Replay”
8 ) Taylor Swift “Today Was A Fairytale”
9) Owl City “Fireflies”
10) Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”

3 Responses to “What The Top 10 Selling Downloads Have In Common”

  1. Dave Huffman February 9, 2010 at 1:52 pm # Reply

    I was just thinking about this the other day when I heard Adam Lambert’s “Whaddya Want from Me”…the intro just seemed a bit long and unnecessary.

    Anytime I have ever gotten feedback from publishers, etc. it has always been “Cut the intro…”

    The 4 minutes thing kind of blows me away, but it really makes sense. I still run into people that preach the 3 minutes and under “Pop formula”.

    Nice informative post.

    @davemhuffman

  2. hungover February 10, 2010 at 6:00 pm # Reply

    I definitely think you are on to something there!

  3. Lior February 13, 2010 at 1:29 pm # Reply

    Valuable data for any songwriter today.

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