People Liked Their Music Fastest in the ‘80s


(This post originally appeared here.)

That the pace of modern life has been accelerating is taken as a given. And in some ways, it’s actually true. Last year, people took 10 percent of all of the photographs ever created in the history of the world. And a mere glimpse at your email, Twitter, and Facebook feeds should confirm that information comes at us with ever-increasing frequency.

One exception: music. As everything else speeds up, the tempo (or beats per minute) of the music we like has remained fairly constant over past few decades.

There was, however, a time when the speed of our favorite music was accelerating.

Starting in the ‘50s, the advent of rock n’ roll may have combined with our growing obsession with the automobile and/or other factors to propel the tempo of our favorite music to new heights, leading to BPM highpoints in 1980 and 1983, as you can see here:


The fastest year for popular music was 1980, with 110 BPM like this:


The slowest year for music was 1960, with a BPM of 101 like this:


Music fans in 2013 prefer an average beats-per-minute of 107 like this:


Even as news cycles shrink to a matter of minutes, the rate of photography explodes, and information generally spreads and expands with historically unprecedented velocity, people have decided they like the speed of their music fairly consistent, for now.

(Top image courtesy of Flickr/Matt McKnight)