For many of us, the years of buying albums and vinyl records were before our time. We grew up on Limewire, a peer-to-peer music sharing app, that gave you a 50/50 shot at either downloading an mp3 file or a virus. It was the basis for the streaming services that we have now, giving listeners access to ALL of the world’s music all in one place.
The New Wave
The shift from purchasing music to buying subscriptions to streaming services dramatically reduced the value of each individual song, but greatly increased its ability to be found and enjoyed by a wider audience. Previously, you would have to purchase an entire album to listen to one song by an artist. Now, we can have curated playlists that give us 30 different songs from all around the world delivered on a platter once a week. With this new system, artists are paid roughly $0.004 per stream. For it to be counted, one must listen to 30 seconds of the song, at which point, the musician is paid.
Here Comes TikTok
Now, because of the popular social media app TikTok, the way in which songs are created has changed once again. Popular music has always placed a very heavy emphasis on an immediately memorable and catchy choruses that makes listeners keep coming back to sing their favorite parts. Now, the music industry is dominated by these “TikTok songs” that have a catchy 7 seconds that get repeated in every tiktok. These moments tend to have a relatable lyric that you can dance to or use over and over again in different contexts. These catchy stanzas are the ones that blow up and skyrocket to the top of the charts because you do not listen to the whole song in every tiktok. Rather you listen to the best part of the song 20-30 times a day if they are one of the most popular on TikTok at the time.
Let’s Cut That Down…
As a result of this change, many artists have started reducing the length of their songs and putting out many more in hopes that one of them sticks in the TikTok landscape. Music evolves over time and changes due to the way it is consumed. The only reason that a song is generally 2:30 or 3 minutes is because that was generally the amount of time a song that could be fit onto a vinyl record. Musicians were incentivized to create singles that could fit onto one disc so that they could get played on the radio which led to the songs as we know them to be roughly 3 minutes long. Now to get “radio time” in the way TikTok plays, people are shortening their songs even more to better fit our algorithm driven world.