Music: moving towards shorter and shorter tracks

The music tracks are getting shorter and shorter! This is what emerges from a recent study by Michael Tauberg, a data scientist who delivered his analyses to the Quartz site.

Michael Tauberg analyzed the evolution of the length of time of titles ranked in the Billboard Top 100 over the past 20 years. And according to him, tracks tend to be shorter. But the pace has accelerated somewhat since 2015 when the number of songs less than 2 minutes 30 minutes long increased from 1% to 6% in the Top 100.

The median length of songs in the Billboard Top 100 over the years. Quartz © Quartz

Why this trend? Why did the artists suddenly decide to return to the short formats of the 50s and 60s, then imposed by the size of the vinyl 45s? Excessive laziness? Probably not. More like a marketing logic from streaming. Today, the more a song is played on digital radio or listened to, the more the artist is paid. So we might as well make it short to increase the number of listeners.

But streaming is not the only cause. According to the Quartz site, the time has come for immediate satisfaction. Human attention span tends to decrease and can explain our attraction to brief and simple things, as can be seen in the zapping mode of viewing videos on social networks, Facebook in particular.

Furthermore, not all musical genres are affected in the same way by this evolution. As a result, the duration of Rap songs has been in free fall since 2015! For Jeff Ponchick, the founder of Repost Network, always mentioned by Quartz, the attraction of rappers for short formats would come from the very essence of beat-making, which would be similar to a chain production where rappers create quickly and move on to other things almost instantly.

For others, such as rapper Tierra Whack, the short duration of the titles represents a real challenge that puts into practice her ability to adapt her music to all media.

But not all artists see things in the same way and are even disturbed by this evolution. “It’s a constant mental battle between making music that I want to listen to in my car and making music that will sell well, but that I won’t like, just to get my career off the ground,” says singer Naomi Wild in Quartz.