Why Nearly Ten Minutes of Silence Was Once Worth 99 Cents

On August 10, 2017, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee — with an assist from Justin Bieber — were sitting pretty at the top of the iTunes most downloaded sone chart, as seen here. The duo plus Bieber were joined by other well-known artists such as Liam Payne (formerly of One Direction), Niall Horan (also formerly of One Direction), Charlie Puth (nope), Shawn Mendes, P!nk, Kesha, and many others. But the list had a debut by an artist who wasn’t a household name. Samir Mezrahi’s tune — titled “A a a a a Very Good Song” (and no, that’s not a typo) — debuted that week at number 46

And if you’ve never heard his song, don’t worry — neither has anyone else.

That’s the point, after all.

Allow me to explain.

There’s a good chance you own an iPhone. And there’s also a good chance you own a car. And if you are in both of those categories, there’s a decent chance that you’ve connected your car and your phone. Maybe you’ve paired the two using Bluetooth; maybe you’re more old school and go with the wired, cable connection (which has the advantage of also charging your phone at the same time). Either way, if you do this, you can use your phone to power your car’s “infotainment” system in some neat ways — for example, you can play the music on your phone through your car’s speakers. It’s really convenient.

But it also can be really annoying. Depending on a lot of variables — the type of car you have, whether you use a streaming music service or not, and what apps you have open when you first connect car and phone and hit play — there’s a decent chance that your phone-car combo will simply start to play music before you’re ready. Take, for example, my driving experience. I use Amazon Music (because it’s free with Amazon Prime and I don’t want to pay for a streaming music service) and have a few playlists on there. I also have a handful of songs downloaded on iTunes, including the entire soundtrack from Hamilton, even though I have no recollection of purchasing it. When hit the “Media” button on my car’s dashboard, I can ultimately get it to stream music from Amazon, but — out of what I can only assume to be helpfulness, not malice — my phone/car decides, no, let’s make him listen to something he downloaded from iTunes first. Without fail, the Volvo just starts screaming “1776. New York City!” at me followed by “Pardon me, are you Aaron Burr, sir?” and then “That depends–” but, by then, I’ve moved quickly enough to get Amazon Music open on my phone and the playlist of my choice playing. 

It’s not an accident that my phone has defaulted to playing that song first. The song is titled “Aaron Burr, Sir” and is the first one, alphabetically, in my iTunes library. Listening to the first few bars of a truly good song is probably the world’s smallest inconvenience, but, as Mezrahi figured, it was still one that man people would pay to avoid. Mezrahi recorded a “song” consisting of 9 minutes and 58 seconds of total silence (although there’s a rumore that, about 9 and a half minutes in, Mezrahi’s voice appears to tell you to change the track). He titled it “A a a a a Very Good Song” to all but ensure that it would be first in your iTunes library, and then put it up for sale on iTunes for 99 cents. The silent artist then tweeted “hey I released a blank song that will play 1st so that *one* song won’t play every time u plug ur phone into ur car.” The tweet went viral, with more than 5,000 people sharing his creation. And, he was right — people downloaded it, pushing his silent track into the top 50 on iTunes for over a week.

It’s unclear how much money he made — he doesn’t seem to have shared that info — but he did tell Stereogum that his goal was to hit that #1 spot. Alas, he failed to do so; as good as his A a a a a very good song was, it peaked at #41. But there’s still a chance; Mezrahi’s masterpiece is still available for download.

Bonus fact: In 1999, rap/rock group The Bloodhound Gang released an album whose title isn’t appropriate for this, a family-friendly newsletter. The album had a total runtime of 60 minutes and 49 seconds over 19 tracks. Track 17 was titled “The Ten Coolest Things About New Jersey.” It is ten seconds of silence.

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