Songs were already getting shorter because of streaming. TikTok is accelerating that.

A few years ago, a couple of artists realized that shorter songs could equal more streams. Take Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road.” At less than two minutes, it was over just as you really got into the song. So what did people do? Play it again. And again. And again. Streams went up and revenues rolled in. Other artists noticed and the trend for shorter songs took off.

Actually, songs have been getting shorter since about 2000. A result of shorter attention spans? The long-term effect of having a “skip” button on our digital music players? A culture that demands information in soundbites? Probably all of the above. The average Hot 100 pop song has shed 40 seconds, dropping from 4:10 in 2000 to around 3:30 in 2018.

Last month, Lil Yatchy released a track called “Poland” and SoundCloud. With a running time of 83 seconds, people couldn’t get enough of the two hooks in the song. The result is that it’s been heard 40 million times. The accelerator? TikTok.

I’ll say it again: TikTok is a monster. People are addicted to its short-form videos. This seems to be shrinking attention spans ever further, which seems to bleed over into music.

How this will affect the long-term nature of music is still to be seen, of course. But once again, technology is shaping art.

Read more at Billboard. More to come.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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