Songs Are Getting Shorter and Streaming Is To Blame
6% percent of Hot 100 songs were 2 minutes 30 seconds or shorter in 2018, up from 1% in 2013, according to an analysis published by Quartz. From Drake and Kanye West to country superstars Eric Church and jason Aldean, songs are getting shorter.
As an example, the study sites Kendrick Lamar.
"The average track length on Lamar’s breakout 2013 album good kid, m.A.A.d city is 5 minutes 37 seconds. All are 3 minutes 30 seconds or longer. On Lamar’s most recent album DAMN., the average song is 3 minutes and 57 seconds. DAMN. won the Pulitzer Prize for music, going to show that this trend isn’t necessarily lowering the quality of music."
Spotify and music streaming are to blame.
Like on the radio, all tracks are paid equally, regardless of length. But unlike radio, for the charts, streams are aggregated to equal sales. Nielsen Soundscan and Billboard count 1,250 premium audio streams, 3,750 ad-supported streams or 3,750 video streams as equal to one album sales.
So, in era of short attention spans and unlimited access to music, the easiest way to get more streams and rise up the charts, is to make each track shorter. Now, when a fan listens to a full album of 20 short songs instead of 12 onger ones, the total number of stream for each album played just jumped 66%.
“[T]here has never been this kind of financial incentive to make shorter songs,” tweeted former Pitchfork editor Mark Richardson.
will be interesting to see how this tracks over time b/c there has never been this kind of financial incentive to make shorter songs. If you stream one artist for 15 minutes, that could be 4 songs, or 8. they get paid twice as much if it's 8, no?
— Mark Richardson (@MarkRichardson) December 30, 2018