Skip to navigationSkip to content

Pop songs are getting shorter in length, thanks to streaming services.

The average length of a Billboard Hot 100 song last year was three-and-a-half minutes long, compared to over four minutes in 2000. The number of songs on the Hot 100 under two-and-a-half minutes increased from around 1% in 2015 to over 6% in 2018.

Musicians are adapting the way they make music as a result of how they get paid through streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. The shorter the song, the more it is favored to be played by platform algorithms, because they rotate in the cycle of data much faster than an eight-minute-long Led Zeppelin ballad. More plays mean more traction, which means more money.

By the time that money makes its way through the pockets of streaming services, labels, and distributors (not necessarily all three), the average amount a musician gets per stream is close to $0.004 cents, according to the CEO of Repost Network, Jeff Ponchick. As a result, it’s become increasingly important for musicians to understand how to pump themselves up in the algorithm.

Ponchick founded Repost for this purpose: to help musicians increase their chances of getting on a popular playlist or improve the general stickiness of a song once it enters the web. Repost’s programmers work to get a musician fans (called “listeners”) or even better, followers.  

Format has always had an impact on music, from cassette tapes creating the concept of a “mixtape,” to the invention of a 45 mm record being testament to what we now know as “a single.” But streaming services have completely transformed the game with a granular, data-driven approach that musicians and their teams are deeply invested in understanding.

To find out more, watch the episode of Quartz News above, where we dive into the changing dynamics of the music business—set to a soundtrack of some extra short pop songs.