A Weird Side Effect from Streaming: Very Short Songs

Technology has always shaped the nature of music. We became used to the idea of pop songs being under four minutes because that was the maximum capacity of the 78 RPM record. Songs were shaped by what radio stations would play. And now streaming is having an effect. More artists are favouring shorter songs. From TheOutline:

Frank Ocean isn’t the only artist finding the conventional three minute song structure increasingly superfluous. With traditional radio being replaced by online streaming as the dominant source of music, new artists are discovering that many of the old rules don’t apply. Take the 22-year-old rapper Lil Uzi Vert, whose buzzing single ‘XO Tour Lif3’ sits just under three minutes (A remastered cut puts the track at 3:01). The Philadelphia rapper’s two breakout tracks, last year’s ‘You Was Right’ and ‘Do What I Want,’ clock in well under the three minute mark, and owe much of their success to memes.

The social feeds and apps where new music is shared has introduced a novel understanding of song structure. Vine, the now deceased social network famous for rhythmic, melodic loops, has been responsible for breaking some of the past year’s biggest songs, like Silento’s ‘Watch Me (Whip),’ or Lil Yachty’s ‘Minnesota.’ Songs that grew popular on the platform had just seven seconds to catch an audience’s attention. The result was a spree of hook-driven, melodic hits from the likes Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty, two artists with a penchant for punchy, readily looped tracks. Many of today’s biggest hip-hop songs have this earworm quality. Technology has maximized songwriters’ efficiency.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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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