If you recognize this, you are old…. like me.
I was out running in the park this morning, and my iPod was on shuffle.
In mid stride, the music went from Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing (I am old, see above), to Mozart’s The Magic Flute.
Now, much as I like Mozart, The Magic Flute is hardly running in the park music.
It is also long. Which got me to thinking about the length of songs.
Most songs run about 3 minutes (which, as it turns out, is also a good length for online video – more on this in a minute). The Magic Flute or Beethoven’s Ninth run a good deal longer than 3 minutes. Why? Because they were performed for an audience that paid to go, sat through the performance and expected something of a show. There would have been a good deal of disappointment (to say the least) had The Magic Flute concluded after 3 minutes.
Up until 100 years ago, or so, if you wanted to hear music, it meant it was live. And live meant expensive. And once you were going to the expense of hiring an orchestra, you may as well go for an all night performance.
Then, along comes the new technology of records, and the first real recording formats – 78rpm meant that you got about 3 minutes of music to a side of a disc. Hence, it was the technology of the playback format that began to dictate the optimal length of songs.
The same length was embeded into the general consciousness when 45’s took dominance. As 33 and a third LPs came to sway, you could get a half hour of music per side, but by now the 3 minute song length was already cast in stone, and so there were 9 tracks per side, or more.
We now come to video.
Up until now, we have lived in a world in which video (television) was the stepchild of movies. And movies, much as Opera or Symphonies, were expensive and complex affairs which had people by the seat of their pants, so to speak.
Television’s earliest design was very much immitative of movies. Long affairs. Half hours or hours. Television could have gone in any direction, but the easist course was to simply ape movies, both in length and design. Early TV news is very much the direct child of movie newsreels.
As video moves to the web, the first knee jerk inclination is to imitate television and offer half hour or hour videos. We can already see that these don’t really work.
What does work is the ’45 model – the 3 minute clip.
The same as music tracks today.
Then why don’t we embrace this design with the same fervor that music took to the 3 minute format, putting all its talents and resources into it.
Why don’t we try and create complete 3-minute programs
A 3-minute news show?
A 3-minute documentary?
A 3-minute soap opera?
A 3-minute sit com?
It works for music. Much of it is so memorable that it sits in our head all the time.
Can you recount all the lyrics for Hotel California? I bet you can….
“such a lovely place….. such a lovely face….”
I bet we can make online video programs as memorable.
If we are willing to play with the format.