The Demise of the Instrumental Intro
Gone are the days of the epic instrumental intro of Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, in which vocals start after hitting the 8.41-minute mark. Is the ‘skip song’ epidemic reshaping music structure?
The data emerging from the Official UK Singles Chart is shocking.  It is evident that the instrumental intro is truly dead and buried when examining the top 9 songs of the week February 8 — February 15; Ariana Grande’s 7 Rings intro of 13 seconds is the longest of the group, five songs have an intro of 10 seconds or less, while 3 songs immediately start with vocals.
The 2019 GRAMMY Awards nominees and winner for ‘Song of the Year’ paint a similar picture.  In the majority of the eight nominated songs, vocals hit before the 10 second mark. The Middle by Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey and In My Blood by Shawn Mendes have no intro at all. Interestingly enough, the winning song This Is America by Childish Gambino has the longest into of the nominee list, with the gunshot sound and rap starting at the 0.49 mark; it should be noted, however, that the song into is not instrumental.
The lack of long instrumental intros and the quick transition to vocals is clear; less clear is what is responsible for such shift. Commentators argue that it is the rise of streaming and the ‘skip’ feature which led to these creative decisions.
Since the internet boom, boundaries to creating music have been eradicated. A simple Google search of ‘how to make music on laptop’ yields approximately 526.000.000 results. The tools and the know-how are more accessible than ever. As a consequence, the challenge to stand out in an ever increasing pool of artists has become amplified and musicians struggle to find their place in the dynamics of music consumption. An added complexity to the brave new world of increasing material shared is the basic ‘skip’ feature, prevalent on streaming platforms. Pat Lamere of Music Machinery analysed the skipping habits of Spotify users.  The data shows that the likelihood a song will be skipped in the first five seconds in 24.14%, followed by 28.97% in the first ten seconds and a striking 35.05% in the first 30 seconds. With the ‘skip’ option so readily available in the hands of the average consumer, captivating the attention of the audience in the quickest possible way becomes imperative. Consequently, long instrumental introductions, pauses, silence seem to have become high risk practices when approaching the impatient consumer.
Is it harder to captivate the contemporary listener’s attention with an extended instrumental opening? Or is the impact of streaming platforms on the creative process overstated? Regardless, it will be fascinating to monitor the evolution of song writing and the dominance of vocals in modern music.