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ECONOMY OF EXPRESSION

“Lover” has Taylor Swift’s shortest songs, which could mean bigger bucks

The musician Taylor Swift
AP/Richard Shotwell
The songs end swiftly.
By Dan Kopf, Daniel Wolfe
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Taylor Swift released her new album Lover today. It might have been more apt to name it Shorter.

The average song on Swift’s new album is 3:26, as in three minutes and 26 seconds. That is the shortest of her seven-album career, and way down from the 4:47 peak of her 2010 album Speak Now. That album contained five songs over five minutes, including the 6:44 marathon “Dear John.” Lover has no songs over five minutes.

Lover‘s brevity is part of an industry wide trend. The median length of Billboard Hot 100 songs, the influential US music chart used to rank the country’s most popular songs, has dropped from over four minutes in 2000 to around three and a half minutes in 2018.

Although song lengths have been falling for decades, the trend seems to have been accelerated by the advent of streaming. Since Spotify and Apple Music pay artists and records labels by the stream, there is a strong incentive to keep songs tight—a 35-second song and a six-minute song generate the same amount of revenue.

Unlike her previous two albums, Swift has allowed Lover to premier on Spotify. She once objected to the streaming service because she didn’t like that it offered a free tier, saying it promoted the idea that “music has no value and should be free.”  She has changed her tune, and is now partnering with Spotify, offering exclusive content on the app.

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