Smartphones have changed our lives like few other inventions; our customs are not the same, our priorities have changed, and our day-to-day life is different. Even the way we enjoy our hobbies, like music, is different.
Services like Spotify allow us to listen to the music we want when we want it, and at a much lower cost, all thanks to a subscription service, a fee thanks to which we have access to millions of records. A fee that Spotify divides between the artists we listen to, and which is increasingly important to their income.
Streaming encourages short songs
According to the RIAA (the American Record Association), streaming services already accounted for 75% of total revenues by 2018; by 2013 they accounted for only 21% of revenues. So it’s no wonder that more and more record companies and artists are betting on streaming services; and the competition is so high that they are even changing the way they compose.
As a result, current songs are shorter than they were five years ago. It is a phenomenon that is affecting most genres and great artists. In 2013, the average length of the 100 most popular songs was 3 minutes and 50 seconds; in 2018, the average length fell to 3 minutes and 30 seconds, no less than 20 seconds less.
Short songs are becoming more and more popular
Not only that, but more and more short songs are being produced. Topics of 2.5 minutes or less already make up 6% of the most popular songs. One possible explanation is that today the chorus is becoming more and more important, so many artists prefer to focus on that part and not spend as much time on the rest of the song. But it’s also because if they make shorter songs they earn more money.
That’s how they explain it in Quartz, where they’ve analyzed the changes that some of Spotify’s most popular artists have undergone. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar have shortened their songs by an average of two minutes. The trend is repeated in other genres and artists; in cases where these artists want to keep the same amount of tracks, that translates into shorter albums, but not always. Kayne, for example, also makes shorter songs but her latest work, Scorpion, is the longest of her latest albums thanks to the inclusion of 25 songs.
Why songs become shorter and shorter
To understand the reason for this trend, you have to look at Spotify and the way he pays the artists. When we start playing a song on Spotify, the servers record it, so the company knows which songs are the most played, and which artists and labels they have to pay.
The key is that payment depends on how many of an artist’s songs have been played, not how much time we’ve spent on each artist. If we spend 15 minutes listening to three songs by one artist, he will charge less than if we spend the same time listening to five songs by another.
That doesn’t mean that artists are writing songs specifically for Spotify, there are other factors to keep in mind, and artists have been presenting shorter and shorter songs for decades. The good news is that these lost seconds on every track don’t translate into worse quality. Artists who opt for short songs continue to win awards and remain at the top of the charts.
Not everything is so beautiful for everyone. We could say that Spotify’s system is unfair to musicians in genres that tend to have longer songs, such as classical music or progressive rock. In those cases, where an album can be made up of four songs, it may simply not be worth having the album on Spotify.