The Skip

skipAt the time when I was coming of age musically, when we listened to music on LPs, the listening experience was very different than it is today. For one, if you didn’t like the currently playing song you had to get out of your chair, walk over to the turntable, carefully pick up the tone arm and advance the needle to the next track.  That was a lot of work to avoid three minutes of bad music. You really had to really dislike a song to make skipping it worth the effort. Today, with our fancy iPhones and our digital streaming music subscription services, skipping a song couldn’t be easier. Just tap a button and you are on to the next song.  The skip button is now a big part of the overall listening experience. Don’t like a song? Skip it. Never heard a song? Skip it. Just heard a song? Skip it. The Skip even plays a role in how we we pay for music. For most music subscription services if you want the freedom to skip a song whenever you want, you’ll need to be a premium subscriber, otherwise you’ll be limited to a half-dozen or so skips per hour.

I am interested in how people are using the skip button when listening to music so I spent a bit of time taking a closer look at skip data. This and the next blog post or two will be all about the skipping behavior of music listeners. We’ll take a look at how often people skip, whether different listener demographics have different skipping behavior, what artists and genres are most and least likely to trigger skips and more!

The Data
This is my first deep dive into Spotify data. The Spotify team has built up a fantastic big data infrastructure making it easy to extract insights from the billions and billions of music plays. For this study I’ve processed several billions of plays from many million unique listeners from all around the world.

What is a skip?
For this study, I define a skip as any time the listener abandons a song before the song finishes. It could be because the listener explicitly presses the skip button, or it could be that they searched for and started another song before the current song finished, or they clicked on a different song in the playlist. For whatever reason, if the listener doesn’t make it to the end of the song, I call it a skip.

How often do people skip?
The first and most basic question to answer is:  How often do people skip?. Given that skipping is so easy how big of a part does skipping play in our listening. The answer: A lot!  

Here are the numbers.  First, lets look at how often a song is skipped within the first five seconds of play.  I call these quick skips. The likelihood that a song will be skipped within the first five seconds is an astounding 24.14%. Nearly one quarter of all song plays are abandoned in the first 5 seconds. The likelihood that a song will be skipped within the first thirty seconds rises to 35.05%. The chance that a song is skipped before it ends is a whopping 48.6%. Yes, the odds are only slightly better than 50/50 that a song will be played all the way to the end.

Skipped in Likelihood of skip
First 5 seconds 24.14 %
First 10 seconds 28.97 %
First 30 seconds 35.05 %
Before song finishes 48.6 %

The following plot shows the average skipping behavior for millions of listeners and billions of plays. The plot shows the rather steep drop off in listeners in the early part of a song when most listeners are deciding whether or not to skip the song.  Then there’s a slow but steady decline in listeners until we reach the end of the song where only about 50% of the listeners remain.

all_songs

The next plot shows the average skipping behavior within in the first 60 seconds of a song. It shows that most of the song skips happen within the first 20 seconds or so of the song, and after that there’s a relatively small but steady skipping rate.

all_songs_detail

We can also calculate an overall skip rate per listener – that is, the average number of times a listener skips a song per hour.

Average listener/skips per hour:  14.65

On average a listener is skipping a song once every four minutes. That’s a whole lot of skipping.

Who is doing all that skipping?

Do different types of listeners skip music at different rates? Lets take a look.

By Gender

Skipping rate of male listeners:     44.75%
Skipping rate of female listeners:  45.23%

There seems to be little difference as to how often men and women skip.

By Platform:

Desktop skipping rate:   40.1%
Mobile skipping rate:      51.1%

When we are at our desktops, we tend to settle into longer listening sessions and skip less, while when we are mobile we spend much more time interacting with our music.

By age:

Skipping_behavior_by_age

This plot shows the skipping rate as a function of the age of the listener.  It shows that young teenagers have the highest skipping rate – well above 50%, but as the listener gets older their skipping rate drops rather dramatically, to reach the skipping nadir of about 35%.  Interestingly, the skipping rate rises again for people in their late 40s and early 50s.  I have a couple of theories about why this might be.  The first theory is that the skipping rate is a indication of how much free time a person has time. Teenagers skip more because they have more time to devote to editing their music stream, whereas thirty-somethings, with their little kids and demanding jobs, have no time to pay attention to  their music players.  The second theory, suggested by Spotify über-analyst Chris Tynan, is that the late-forties skipping resurgence is caused by teenagers that use their parent’s account.

When do people skip the most?

The following plot shows the skipping behavior over a 24 hour period.  To create the plot, I analyzed the listening behavior for UK residents (which are conveniently confined to a single timezone) over several weeks.

Skipping_behavior_by_hour_of_the_day

The plot shows that the skipping rate is lowest when people are paying less attention to music – like when they are asleep, or at work. Skipping behavior peaks in the morning hour as people start they day and start to head into work and again at the end of the day when they are at home or out socializing with their friends.  The plot shows the time of day when people tend to have the most attention to devote to hand-curating their music stream. When people are sleeping or working, their skip rate goes down.

In the next plot, below, the skipping rate is overlaid with normalized song plays.  It is interesting to see that the highest skipping rates do not coincide with the peak music playing times of the day, but instead is aligned with the times of day when rate of change in plays is the most.

Skipping_behavior_compared_to_song_plays_by_hour_of_the_day

 

Skipping behavior by Day of the Week

The following plot shows the average skipping rate per day of the week.  The skipping rate is higher on weekends, showing, once again, that when people have more spare time, they are more apt to curate their listening sessions by skipping tracks.

Skipping_behavior_by_day_of_the_week_and_2__ssh

Take away
The Skip really has changed how we listened to music.  It plays a significant role in how we interacts with our music stream. When we are more engaged with our music – we skip more, and when music is in the background such as when we are working or relaxing, we skip less. When we have more free time, such as when we are young, or on the weekends, or home after a day of work, we skip more. That’s when we have more time to pay attention to our music. The big surprise for me is how often we skip.  On average, we skip nearly every other song that we play.

Skipping has become an important part of how we listen to music.  It is no surprise then, that ‘unlimited skipping’ is a feature used to entice people to upgrade to a premium paid account. And it may be one of the reasons why people would switch from a service that doesn’t offer unlimited skips even on their premium service to one that does.

Coming soon: Look for my next post that will look at which genres, songs and artists get skipped the most and the least.

  1. #1 by viewpacific on May 2, 2014 - 10:54 am

    Fascinating analysis. Wouldn’t it be amazingly revealing to actually learn from the skippers why they skip?
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the mobile users skip more often because the closer to the device. As you mentioned it’s a lot of effort to, like in the old vinyl days, get up and go over to the desktop and do a skip.
    I suppose it could be true, that people using Spotify are all of those cafés and shops. They’re probably not as actively listening.
    I have to wonder though if the skip rate is really an indication of how poor algorithms are choosing music that will be of interest.
    Fascinating.

    • #2 by Paul on May 2, 2014 - 11:01 am

      viewpacific – The skip rate does vary depending on the source of a track (i.e. whether the listener picked the song or artist vs. whether a radio algorithm picked it), but the difference isn’t as big as you might think. The skip rate for someone listening to an album they picked is about 46% and the skip rate for artist radio is about 55%.

      • #3 by Bill on May 6, 2014 - 6:20 pm

        As a radio programmer this backs up what we’ve known and how we’ve programmed radio stations for years. Because we are BROADCASTERS trying to be MASS APPEAL, this explains why songs are repeated so often (a familiar and popular song has the best chance of keeping most of the listeners) and placement of promos & commercials and when and how often DJ’s talk and what they talk about. Our rating service (PPM) shows us exactly when people tune out/in and for how long in real time. That’s an eye opener. Our studies also show that people will say they want new music and new music discovery but we watch data that says listeners choose familiarity almost 100% of the time…new, unfamiliar music has a very high skip rate.

  2. #4 by Russel Braum on May 2, 2014 - 11:26 am

    Very interesting information. It is great that this type of information is readily available. I look forward to your next article on the subject.

  3. #5 by Koduri Gopala (@gopalkoduri) on May 2, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    That’s a very thorough analysis! It would be interesting also to see what kind of music they skip. If a listener is more into reggae, is it more common that she/he skips more on reggae lists than other genres?

    • #6 by Paul on May 2, 2014 - 3:55 pm

      Look for this kind of analysis in an upcoming post.

  4. #7 by stephanwehner on May 2, 2014 - 3:01 pm

    Thanks for looking into this. Does the data include the skip-action itself? Do you know which of the reasons occured that you list in the definition?

    I think your definition of a skip should include that the listener kept listening, so the current song was ended, but another song began playing. Otherwise you may be counting when listeners turn the player off, lose connection or what have you. Does the data cover that?

    (Your extremely high skip rate of 1 in 2 is consistent with low connection quality from the Spotify side, or bugs in players)

    • #8 by Paul on May 2, 2014 - 3:55 pm

      My definition of a skip is simple – if this listener didn’t make it to the end of the song, for whatever reason. It is a skip. Some of these are ‘early skips’ that happen in the first 30 seconds, while others may be late skips.

  5. #9 by stephanwehner on May 2, 2014 - 3:08 pm

    Also when searching it may be quite natural to abandon a song. “That’s not what I was looking for” Can you identify the context of the skips from the data?

    • #10 by Paul on May 2, 2014 - 3:53 pm

      Yes, we know how someone got to a song, and why they left it. Something for a future analysis.

  6. #11 by C.Y. Lee (@cxy) on May 2, 2014 - 3:45 pm

    I loved this analysis of skipping.

    Skipping seems to imply a propensity to shop for something better, e.g. “I want to listen to music but not this particular song”. Is there a critical mass of skipping in a session where a user decides that they’ve skipped enough and choose to give up on listening to music altogether?

    • #12 by Paul on May 2, 2014 - 3:52 pm

      I think that for many, skipping is just the easiest way to browse for new music. It is not necessarily a down vote on the song or the session.

  7. #13 by C.Y. Lee (@cxy) on May 2, 2014 - 4:11 pm

    “…young teenagers have the highest skipping rate – well above 50%, but as the listener gets older their skipping rate drops rather dramatically, to reach the skipping nadir of about 35%.”

    Juxtapose that with this Pew Research data showing how people spend increasingly more time listening to news & talk content as they age, likely at the expense of listening to music: http://stateofthemedia.org/files/2012/03/18-OlderListenersMakeUpOneThirdOfNewsTalkInformationAudiences2.png

    If people aren’t skipping, they’re not sampling. If they’re not sampling, they’re no longer shopping the product. The Music Industry’s biggest challenge is to keep listeners engaged in their product as they age so that they don’t churn out into news & talk.

  8. #14 by Eugenio on May 5, 2014 - 9:43 am

    Thanks for sharing this data; I have just calculated the figures we have at Mentor.FM (just recommendation radio, no selection): 41.78% of the songs are skipped (at any time).

    I confirm the trend with younger people: if I just consider users born after Jan 1st 1992, the skip rate increase to 52.30%!

    I don’t think it’s just the time they can spend with Music, it’s also a different approach to it: they are used to to get what they want as soon as possible. Older people are more used to wait (think about your example with vinyls).

  9. #15 by jameswharris on May 5, 2014 - 12:16 pm

    Excellent article. I have a different approach to the skip. I put my favorite songs into playlists, and spend most of my listening time with them. I do spend a portion of my time looking for new songs to add to my playlists, and when I do I use the skip like crazy. At 62 I’m quite attuned to what I like. It’s more of resonating, than knowing. And even though my genre tastes are quite diverse, finding a song that’s a hit with me is hard, so the skip is important. However, I’ve recently rediscovered albums, and I’m trying to teach myself patience as I go through my old CDs and play them whole. Not skipping has its virtues at times.

  10. #16 by joseph on May 5, 2014 - 12:22 pm

    I think you are overlooking navigation issues – on a phone, a user will “go” (you can say skip here, but it’s confusing your analysis) to the track they want by holding volume button – creates skips for your data set, but not a skip in the same way. It may be that the playlist setup is more usable in the desktop – I’ll sit and make something I’ll listen to (and later use on phone), while on phone it’s more loosely thrown together and moving through tracks (skipping) is a necessary evil. There are conflating factors to your analysis.

  11. #17 by Christopher on May 5, 2014 - 1:17 pm

    Our of curiosity, does your definition of a skip include instances where the user replays a song?

    (Where they skip back to the beginning before the song finishes because they like the song / want to replay it.)

    • #18 by Paul on May 5, 2014 - 2:58 pm

      no, that is tracked separately (and perhaps is a subject of a future post).

  12. #19 by kpizzow on May 5, 2014 - 2:53 pm

    Very interesting indeed. I’d also guess that as we get older we would be playing more familiar music. If I’m using Spotify to listen to the Eagles – and I get a steady stream of songs I know that are similar – our skipping would go down. But yes this is a huge challenge for the music industry. In the ‘olden’ days, we had less choice. So we would hopefully build trust with the local radio station they were playing the best stuff – and we would give a new song a chance at least. Now – if I don’t dig it or know it in 10 seconds – I’m gone. How do you compete with that. There will always be songs that connect and breakthrough but it just seems like there will be less.

  13. #20 by letigre on May 5, 2014 - 7:47 pm

    I think that’s why there is such a resurgence of vinyl. People are starting to be able to appreciate the artist’s project as a whole and realize their intentions and artistic viewpoints through vinyl. You can’t really appreciate a book if you just read Chapter 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a correlation between the amount of vinyl records an artist has sold and the amount of skips they receive.

  14. #21 by PHil Hood on May 5, 2014 - 8:13 pm

    I guess I’m really old, 62. I sometimes listen to a fifty new CDs a month (I’m in a music job.) I will actively listen to any CD a long time (unless it’s death metal) to find out if the artist has something to say lyrically or musically. You don’t always need more than 20 seconds but if you don’t take longer you might miss a really great artist. Some art comes to you–those are the songs with great hooks that you love instantly, like Pharrell’s latest. Other artists make you come to them. They are like great books in which the first 50 pages are difficult. You are rewarded by repeated listening.

    I want to add one idea to your skip theories. Way too many bands today do not adequately state the hook or theme of their songs in the first 15 seconds. Many indy artists are fascinated with time-wasting ambience or noodling around in the first 5-20 seconds of a track before they get to a real chorus or verse. Compare this approach to any single by Van Halen or the Beatles, to pick two examples at random. If I was a producer the first two things I would make any band do is reexamine if their song has a hook and then make that hook the first ten seconds of the song. You’ve got to hit that listener quickly–just listen to tracks by Adele or Nirvana or Bruno Mars. Within ten seconds you get their songs. That message is buttressed by your analysis as well.

    • #22 by Paul on May 5, 2014 - 8:20 pm

      Thanks Phil – excellent observations. I’m working on a follow up that highlights some of the most and least ‘skipped’ music. One of the surprising findings is that music that has a very strong hook also has a very high skip rate. I think this is because this music *demands* your attention. This is great when you are in a lean forward mode, but when you are looking for music to serve as a background for an activity like working, writing or studying, this type of music is very distracting. You can get a sense of how attention grabbing a piece of music is by looking at its skip rate. Ambient music, especially genres like chill wave have very low skip rates when compared to genres like hip hop that can have very strong hooks. For example, one of the most skipped popular song currently on the charts is Flo Rida’s Whistle, which has a very strong hook.

      • #23 by Bill on May 6, 2014 - 6:38 pm

        In radio we also research something called a “Burn Factor”…no matter how hookie, strong or huge a hit, there comes a point when the song gets a “rest” due to burnout. Generally that happens after 1000 -2000 spins, depending on the song. Flo Rida would certainly qualify and would explain why it is being skipped. If a song is that huge, we’d rest it and bring it back in a year in a lesser played gold category. All the algorithms in the world can’t predict when a human “feels” that burn factor. That’s where our constant research comes in on every single song that is played on-air.

  15. #24 by anonymous on May 6, 2014 - 12:03 am

    If you have any kind of data aligning song timestamps with lyrics, it’d be interesting to know if there’s an increase in skips when the chorus/refrain repeats.

    • #25 by Jeremy Morton on May 8, 2014 - 10:17 am

      I was also curious how many skips later in a song are because they’ve heard enough ["it just repeats from here on out" or "I don't need to listen to the whole fade out"].

      • #26 by Eddie Q. Bernard (@eddieQbernard) on June 6, 2014 - 11:59 pm

        Yes – it would be interesting to look at songs that have long fade outs with repeated refrains – e.g. Hey Jude – Beatles; All Around The World – Oasis; One Day Like This – Elbow…

  16. #27 by Mary Amos on May 6, 2014 - 1:10 am

    Hi Paul,
    Excellent article! Any chance the skip rate has something to do with ads not playing if you skip?
    All the best,
    MA

    • #28 by Paul on May 6, 2014 - 5:45 am

      Mary – yes there are probably a number of UX aspects that can affect skipping – ad avoidance is one for sure.

      • #29 by Mary Amos on May 6, 2014 - 9:16 pm

        Thanks for getting back to me :) Excited to see the next post!

  17. #30 by Joojoobees on May 6, 2014 - 7:54 am

    According to your data, the average listener/skips per hour is 14.65, but the image under tier says you can only skip 6 songs per hour. That implies the upper tier (unlimited) is skipping far more frequently, but then you say only ~8% more upper tier subscribers skip. I think it would be good to break out the avg listen/skips per hour by tier, if possible.

    • #31 by Paul on May 6, 2014 - 8:36 am

      joojoobees – a confounding factor is that many listening sessions are shorter than an hour, so in the aggregate, the free tier may be skipping well above the allowed 6 skips per hour. For instance, a free tier listener could listen for 10 minutes and use all their skips and then stop listening for the rest of the hour.

  18. #32 by klurk@klurk.com on May 6, 2014 - 8:32 am

    I’m surprised there’s no increase in skipping toward the end of the song. I usually skip in the outro when there’s 10-20 seconds left. This is especially true for electronic music where most outros are just there for DJs to mix in another song and often nothing but percussions.

  19. #33 by unterwasser on May 6, 2014 - 10:47 am

    Very interesting article. I’m in the 45-54 demographic and do a lot of skipping. One of the reasons I do is, is I have some very large playlists (400+ songs) and to get some variety I often put them on random. I’d be interested to know if a. people skip more on playlists, compared to listening to an album or radio b. Do longer playlists lead to more skipping, intuitively I’d guess that to be the case and c. is there more skipping on random play compared to sequential play?

  20. #34 by unterwasser on May 6, 2014 - 10:49 am

    Very interesting article. I’m in the 45-54 demographic and do a lot of skipping. One of the reasons I do is, is I have some very large playlists (400+ songs) and to get some variety I often put them on random. I’d be interested to know if a. people skip more on playlists, compared to listening to an album or radio b. Do longer playlists lead to more skipping, intuitively I’d guess that to be the case and c. is there more skipping on random play compared to sequential play?

  21. #35 by sb on May 6, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    does anyone know how much of the song needs to be played for artists to get paid their streaming revenue?

  22. #36 by thirdlevelmusic'@'gmail.com on May 6, 2014 - 5:06 pm

    I skip because I know i’m going to hear a lot of mediocre songs…

  23. #37 by Josh Duck on May 6, 2014 - 5:08 pm

    I wonder if you’re losing part of the picture by averaging behavior.

    If I decide I want to listen to an upbeat indy rock track I might skip over a four songs in quick succession until I land on something I like. If I then spend 15 minutes without doing another skip then this analysis would still show me as skipping 50% of the tracks I listened. Whereas I’d consider the clustered skips to be a single action that was analogous to walking to a turntable to move the needle.

    You could invert some of your figures to see whether this is a factor, so “Listener hours which had a skip” instead of “Listener/skips per hour”.

  24. #38 by Bob Davis on May 6, 2014 - 5:29 pm

    Cool article, Paul – good work. I’m sure glad no teenager controls a skip button in my life. I never, ever skip. I only listen to music I own, so I’m I’m hitting the play button, I have every intention of listening to every song that comes up, all the way through to the end. And damn, that feels good…

    • #39 by Bob Davis on May 6, 2014 - 5:30 pm

      I meant IF I’m hitting the play button…

  25. #40 by outtathepast on May 6, 2014 - 5:29 pm

    In pre-digital times, music media was not designed for easy skipping, as with your vinyl example. Radio could be skipped only by changing stations. So not only is skipping facilitated today, but listeners have shorter attention spans and are impatient and perceive that they are very busy. Though we theoretically have more leisure time, we feel that we have less. People may skip frequently for the same reason that they multitask: for example, many people today have difficulty sitting through even an excellent feature film without playing with their handheld device(s), sometimes for the greater part of the film. I do not see this as a positive trend as generally the drive to skip before giving the artist a chance to offer his work as well as inattention to a work of cinema only serves to shift the concentration to another subject of little if any consequence (e.g., Facebook).

  26. #41 by mc_hale on May 6, 2014 - 5:55 pm

    Interesting. I’ve actually gone the other way – enjoying listening to full albums and NOT skipping around like an ADA infested monkey head. It’s re-introduced me to the real joy of listening to an artist’s work.

  27. #42 by Mark Macarthur on May 6, 2014 - 5:59 pm

    Excellent post. I would be interested to know if the skip rate is at all influenced by time subscribing to the service. Do new listeners of the service skip more often (as their new ability to skip is still a novelty feature to be tested) and does this behaviour slow down over time? Is there a point where long-term subscribers eventually tire of skipping and start to just listen to the music?

  28. #43 by Barry on May 6, 2014 - 7:03 pm

    Interesting study and great presentation. As this is about a study of interaction with streaming music some of my comments may be better construed as questions. As out-of-the-past mentioned technology today might promote the “skip” phenom people listen to streams with choices of thousands of stations, genre, and millions of songs to pick from, the player device makes even storing them locally easy to carry around thousands of songs, and a button to “skip” with. They say People are soul searching for something maybe it shows in music play as well. Search till you find, at least till you find something close to what you think you need. It would be interesting to make tiered comparisons of the “skip” by Streaming, verses local mp3 device, verses home player, verses audiophile. I also have to agree with “Out” that it is not a good trend it seems to give bad marks to both music and cultural human behavior changes (bad things from good devices – data phones). There are a lot of anti-social things being cultivated through ear buds and 3 inch screens.

  29. #44 by Terry Gotham on May 6, 2014 - 8:35 pm

    Reblogged this on Terry Gotham and commented:
    This is an astonishing article about the nature of the streaming industry and the way music listening has changed over the last 15 years. Music Machinery took the big data idea and shoved Spotify data into it. Your track has a 24% chance of being skipped within the first 5 seconds. Additionally, you’ve only got a 50% shot that your listener will actually make it to the end of the song.

    This is what the new music landscape looks like y’all. Adapt or die.

  30. #45 by Chris on May 6, 2014 - 9:04 pm

    Hi Paul-

    Great data! I am curious though- how does the “Hold and Sample” function on the Spotify discover page factor into this data? If I leave a song to preview a song does that count as a skip if I go back to the original song? Does the preview of the song I am sampling count? If I “hold to preview” 5 songs during the normal course of one song, is that 10 skips- 5 for the sampled songs and 5 for the original song I am listening to?

  31. #46 by newscale62 on May 7, 2014 - 11:21 am

    As a former LP listener, I distinctly remember having a similar approach. If a song came on that was not liked or didn’t fit the mood of the moment, I would physically pick up the arm of the record player and advance the track. Today’s system of how music is set up for the consumer only accelerates a motivation that has always been present.

  32. #47 by Tom Glaser on May 7, 2014 - 1:25 pm

    I found your blog through a link on Digital Music News, which had the misleading headline: “48.6% of All People Skip a Song Before It Finishes.” In fact The Echo Nest report doesn’t seem to address the percentage of people who skip songs; it speaks to the percentage of song plays that Spotify users skip. This is entirely different.

    It would be more useful to understand how skipping behavior is distributed across the entire population of Spotify users. In other words, what percentage of the population skips 0-9% of song plays, what percentage skips 10-19%, etc? And for each of these ranges, what is the median number of songs played? This is important because the more songs someone skips, the more songs they can skip. Suppose you have 1 hour a day when you can listen to Spotify and all songs are 2 minutes each. If you never skip, you can listen to a maximum of 30 songs. At the other extreme, within that same hour, you can skip 1200 songs after 3 seconds each.

    So knowing how big each of these segments are is critical in terms of understanding Spotify usage. It could be that the heavy skipper segment is relatively small and that the light skipper segment is much bigger. Or not. But the key to doing any kind of meaningful analysis is to understand the relative size of these skipper segments.

    • #48 by spjohnson62 on May 7, 2014 - 1:57 pm

      I’d be interested to know if a track is skipped a few seconds before the end if this still triggers a payment to the label/artist? (or does 100% of the track have to be played for it to ‘count’?)

  33. #49 by Anonymous on May 7, 2014 - 2:19 pm

    Your definition of a skip ignores one of the flaws with the spotify player app. There is no way to “play next” a track. Because of this, when a user wants to real-time control the play sequence without building a playlist, each track picked to play is counted as a skip. Either the current song gets cut off before the end, or the player automatically transitions to a new song which is then over-ridden by the user. When I am engaged a music experience, I pick the song I want to hear next while I am listening.

    • #50 by Paul on May 8, 2014 - 5:53 am

      There is a ‘play next’ feature in Spotify. On the desktop client right click on the track and select ‘queue’. On mobile click the (…) next to a track and select ‘add to queue’.

    • #51 by Eddie Q. Bernard (@eddieQbernard) on June 7, 2014 - 12:02 am

      Yes – there is something in this. For example, if I search a track on Spotify and immediately click play, depending on where the track is sourced from (e.g. album) at the end of the track it’s very likely you’ll immediately get another song from the same artist that you didn’t want, which you will then pause whilst searching for another (again lending to the theory that people actively listening to music will curate much more strongly, and generate higher skip rate).

      This could basically make each “session” involving a searched song have a skip rate of 50%, all because of simple software behaviour.

  34. #52 by ZFP on May 8, 2014 - 11:12 am

    Excellent analysis, thank you so much !
    Reminds me a 30 years old analysis from Serge Gainsbourg:

    “One comes to a song because of the music, and one stays with it because of the lyrics”

    Another fascinating area of research!

    Thanks again
    P

  35. #53 by fieldingbandolier on May 8, 2014 - 1:10 pm

    You’re way off in your analysis. The mobile interface for Spotify is flawed, in that searches while a song is playing often (vexingly) result in an unintended song change. 98% of the “skips” I’ve committed have been for this reason, and I’m sure the same applies to many other users.

  36. #54 by bowlweevils on May 9, 2014 - 10:50 pm

    I am very much an enthusiast of statistical analyses, have read 1000s of research papers, conducted a few dozen experiments, taught some classes.

    But you seem to be using some over-reaching terms in describing your data, namely “we” and “people”. As in “Skipping has become an important part of how we listen to music.” or “How often do people skip?”

    In the social and life sciences, we would want to know more about the data pool and would be more circumspect with regard to describing the scope of relevancy. And what you’re doing is in the realm of the social sciences. You should have a section that describes the characteristics of the people whose data you are using. You would be even more helpful if you reported significant differences from other potential data pools.

    Because I will not claim to know much about the streaming music industry. Hell, I didn’t even know what a “Spotify” was until rather recently. But I would bet that most people in the country who are capable of using money safely enough that they don’t need a guardian watching them (e.g., not young children, not mentally disabled, not too old to press buttons, etc.) don’t subscribe to streaming music services.

    So how often do “we” or “people” skip? Nobody knows. How often do users of streaming music services skip? Surprisingly often (assuming that Spotify is sufficiently similar to other services).

    This article would be far more accurate if you replaced the general terms with the actual subjects of the research at hand. Change the “we” and “people” and “listeners” to “streaming music users” or “streaming music listeners”.

    Because I think we’re both pretty sure that streaming music service users probably skip more than any other group of music listeners. I think that this current sample of one avoids these services partly because he will probably have to skip too often. Skipping around here is close to zero since everything I listen to is something I bought on purpose, I can make a playlist for whatever I feel like whenever I feel like, and if there’s a song that really really annoys me on an album from a band that I like, I can zap it from the memory of all things digital and pretend I’m in a world where I didn’t hear Everybody Hurts a million times.

    But really, you have a self-selected sample that is engaging in self-selective behavior, which likely includes people who use the service precisely because it allows them to engage in self-selective behavior like skipping. This is kind of like examining frequency of use of alcohol with a sample of alcoholics or college students. You don’t have “we” or “people”.

  37. #55 by Clouds & Concerts (@CloudsConcerts) on May 12, 2014 - 8:08 am

    Thanks for a very interesting blog post! (… and for keeping your promise from the Q&A after your session at SXSW about keeping on blogging also after the acquisition of Echonest by Spotify :)

    Findings from the Clouds & Concerts research project at the University of Oslo on WiMP Music data in Norway show some similar skipping trends (which we have presented at the by:Larm festival in 2013 and 2014, cf. pdf: http://bit.ly/skipping120514).

    One finding in this research, that I find intriguing, is that mobile usage is more album oriented than desktop usage; especially when we take skipped tracks into consideration (cf. the third slide in the pdf above). My interpretation is that this is probably due to the ease of ‘starring’ and/or downloading a whole album offline in WiMP Music on mobile, and that it still makes sense for many users to explore music in the album format if given easy access to this option (The fact that number of streams decrease with rising track numbers in albums, is a similar sign of this). WiMP Music has a bias towards albums in the user interface both on mobile and desktop, often with recommendations of new and noteworthy albums by the editorial team (cf. http://bit.ly/WiMPMusic_090514). Still it is interesting how this plays out on *mobile*, where the affordances of album listening makes a lot of users listen in an ‘old school’ album mode – while at the same time using the mobile as a ‘remote control’ with a lot of skipping.

    The peak hours of skipping in WiMP Music coincides with what we may call ‘prime time for discovery’, aka around noon (when listening to editorial content is high) and evenings around 9-11 PM –- when search and playlist creation by users is also peaking (cf. the first slide in the pdf above). In other words: A lot of skipping can be attributed to users sampling songs to listen more closely to later in the context of a playlist. Hence, skipping is not only a sign of ‘restless souls with attention deficit’, but also a sign of music lovers surfing endless streams of songs when preparing playlists and future listening sessions with more sustained listening.

    Any insight into album / sequential listening patterns in Spotify would be very welcome here on the blog! My hunch is that there is a higher hit focus in Spotify, due to an increased focus on playlists rather than albums in the UI, and Spotify being more algorithm driven than curated service. But I would not be surprised if many Spotify users also explore music through the album.

    Looking very much forward to see what you follow up with in future posts!

    Arnt Maasø

    (Associate professor, U of Oslo, and lead on streaming study at http://www.cloudsandconcerts.com)

  38. #56 by manwithnoname on May 13, 2014 - 11:02 am

    what a lot of useless information,i skipped most of it

  39. #57 by ejain on May 13, 2014 - 8:50 pm

    Great post! I get data from Last.fm so people can correlate their music listening with their sleep, running, productivity etc on https://zenobase.com/. But I hadn’t thought about detecting skips and correcting the duration of each track–even though I skip quite a bit myself…

    I’m also curious how many seconds a track has to be played before Spotify is required to pay the licensing fee?

  40. #58 by CarlosLoureiro on June 21, 2014 - 12:47 pm

    Interesting thought. But Back then, as you said, we had to get up to click the LP, with means we where at home, relaxed on the sofa. The example you gave its about portable music, i dont see a link between those too.

  41. #59 by lucky one on June 30, 2014 - 3:04 pm

    Great study. I shared this with a musician community two month ago and we are all waiting for the next post on skipping behavior per genre. Will this be published soon? Thanks!

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