It’s not a myth, and it’s not your mind playing tricks – songs are getting shorter in duration. A recent study of the Billboard charts showed that, over a space of five years (2013-2018), newly released songs decreased from an average length of 3 mins 50 seconds to 3 mins and 30. This trend shows no signs of changing.
The move away from physical media and traditional radio to streaming services has surely played a big part in this. Much has been written concerning our shortening attention spans, and it seems record executives and music influencers have taken this onboard, with Facebook’s Client Partner for Film and Music, Vanessa Bakewell claiming that, when it comes to content, you have to “grab people within the first three seconds.”
In reality, there is no hard evidence that our ability to concentrate has diminished. Many argue that it is the overwhelming sea of content which is causing the problem, and thinkers such as Bakewell are helping to perpetuate the effect.
On the other hand, it may be that this is part of a natural cycle. According to The Billboard Experiment, the average length of a single in the 1950s was just 2 mins and 36 seconds. This increased to 4 mins 10 in the 2000s, before the current trend set in.
Will the shortening of songs continue? Ironically, only time will tell.