It’s interesting to see how technology or trends are dictating how the artists write songs. The past year's songs have been very long. The majority has been close or over four minutes. Sometimes even though the radio usually doesn’t take long songs people have released up to five to six minutes. Why you ask is it a trend? Not really it was that many believed that to keep the listener you needed to make a longer song. If they finally got in there and listened to your song, then you should keep them as long as possible. Also, short songs were always under scrutiny by Spotify.
In the past few months, I have just been overwhelmed by songs that are just two and a half minutes. I was a bit puzzled in the beginning and thought it might be a trend against all the long songs that have been in the past years. Usually, a trend gets an anti-trend - that is how it works. Then I just realized that this came pretty much when TikTok changed format to allow a clip to be three minutes. Okay so the long songs can’t fit in TikTok's new format, so the bigger artists started to make shorter songs preferably under three minutes. Now this has reached the middle levels. It will take another year then everybody will be doing it in under three minutes but not have a clue why they are doing it.
What I’m more worried about is that our minds are just working like we all have some disorder and can’t focus for more than three minutes. I spent some time with a kid that is eight years old and he was using TikTok. During the ten minutes I was watching with him he jumped from clip to clip all the time. We watched the clip for around twenty seconds then if it hadn’t caught his attention he just skipped to the next one. I counted and he only looked at one clip for the whole duration and that was just one minute and thirty seconds long. How do I expect this kid to listen to a song that is six minutes long?
This is of course is nothing new. Why did we have long intros of each song in the 80’s? Easy during that era when the DJ’s became more important and for them to play your song they needed a long intro to be able to mix in the song from the last song in a nice way in the disco. Same here technology dictated how the artist was recording and writing songs. And history is full of these things that dictated a lot of how we write music.
This is kind of strange; one thing is how long an album was of course the length of the vinyl record. Today that is not a problem you can do a song as long as you want it. You can do it as long as you think your art should be. But every artist wants to have a hit and just follow how the audience is listening to things.
So maybe punk will get back in fashion again, there you had really short songs. And we are on our way into an economic crisis and a lot of political things with the environment. A good growing ground for punk and reggae. Or is a new era of music coming around with the new short format with political messages? If so, then I'm excited. Luckily we won’t hear so much of progressive rock and I’m very thankful for that.
Editor’s Note: Peter Åstedt has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. He has started record labels, distribution systems, and publishing companies. Peter also runs several major showcase festivals and is an advisor for INES and co-founder of MusicHelp/Discover Sensation. He has worked with the Top Ten most streamed songs and had music on both the Olympics and Super Bowl. Peter has currently taken up the seat of Station Manager of Cashbox Radio, working with MD, PD and station owner, Sandy Graham. As well he recently worked as the European Consultant for Heal the Earth – An Earth Day Celebration. His latest venture is a new Showcase Festival in Sweden, Future Echoes https://futureechoes.se/. As well, Peter is Co-Founder and Editor of the newly launched Record World International.