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Old 04-20-2021, 03:58 PM
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Default Has acceptable and desired song length changed?

I remember being told that optimally, a song should be no more than 3 to 3.5 minutes long. Listening to Pandora today, many of the songs were between 4.5 and 5.5 minutes long. Has the goalpost for song length changed, or is the 3 to 3.5 minute range still optimal? I do of course realize there have been many well known songs that are well over that length. I'm just wondering if the thinking is still the same, or if that thinking has changed with new listening options (streaming, etc.)?
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Old 04-20-2021, 04:39 PM
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The original radio goal was 2.5 minutes. In 1975, Linda Ronstadt's cover of "When Will I Be Loved?" ran 2:05 and left people wanting more, which is a great goal. The DJs loved it. Eventually, standard song length moved up to 3:00. In 1977, Dave Mason hat a hit with "We Just Disagree" at 3:02. In 1978, Genesis had a hit with "Follow You, Follow Me" at 4:01. Meanwhile, Joe Walsh's band Barnstorm had a 5:15 hit with "Rocky Mountain Way" in 1973, but DJs usually stomped all over the coda solo.

But we are talking about singles-based radio, here. In the FM, Album rock genre, the Allman Brothers were cranking out much longer tunes. In 1970, their first hit-oriented, shorter song ("Revival" - 4:09) topped out at #92 in its three-week run on the singles charts but their albums were played front-to-back on FM Album Rock stations.

What you give away when you go above air lengths is air time. If you aren't seeking air time, length is down to whatever your audience is willing to sit through. The last vocal single-type song I wrote came out at 2:52. My instrumentals typically run a little longer.

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Old 04-20-2021, 06:40 PM
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I just watched a video where the guy who wrote Brandy was being interviewed and he said Brandy came in over 3 minutes so they just lied on the record label and put a time under 3 minutes.

There were radio show format issues back in the day that made the <3minute length preferred but I don't think it matters today. Not all artists back in the day cared about it either. Bob Dylan sure didn't care. I don't think I've ever written a <3:00 song. Mine usually come in at 3:30-5:00.
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Old 04-20-2021, 07:28 PM
Glennwillow Glennwillow is offline
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If I were writing music for radio airplay, then I would shoot for 3 minutes, max.

Otherwise, the song length doesn't really matter.

- Glenn
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Old 04-21-2021, 09:02 AM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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I gauge it based on my own attention span, which is short. When you listen to other people's songs on this forum, do you listen to the whole thing?
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Old 04-21-2021, 09:39 AM
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And then there is the urban legend or myth about the days of 45s and 33 1/3 records played on radio station turntables which were adjusted slightly faster to turn that 3 plus minute song to under 3 minutes so during an hour there was time for one more add.
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Old 04-21-2021, 09:57 AM
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I could be wrong, but I think streaming music services favor better revenue for creators based on the time listeners spend listening to their music. So the tendency to longer songs is a reaction to algorithms (on streaming platforms, anyway).
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Old 04-21-2021, 10:44 AM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tahitijack View Post
And then there is the urban legend or myth about the days of 45s and 33 1/3 records played on radio station turntables which were adjusted slightly faster to turn that 3 plus minute song to under 3 minutes so during an hour there was time for one more add.
Nothing mythical about that. I used to be shocked by how low and slow my store-bought records sounded compared to the radio.
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Old 04-21-2021, 10:49 AM
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Old 04-21-2021, 11:01 AM
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The songs I post now are mostly 1.5 to 2 minutes. I just posted one the other day that was 2:54 and it seemed like a marathon. I used to post full length rags and I would get not exactly positive comments about how long they were. I guess 5-6 minutes of my playing is too much for most to handle!
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Old 04-23-2021, 07:42 AM
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There is a time function on streaming services (I think it varies), that a 'play' must be over 1min 37 sec (or some other time) to count as a 'play'. If your songs are longer, there would be fewer plays (by one listener) per hour.
But as already said, how long will YOUR listeners pay attention?
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Old 04-23-2021, 08:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glennwillow View Post
If I were writing music for radio airplay, then I would shoot for 3 minutes, max.

Otherwise, the song length doesn't really matter.
Glenn, I know that was important 40+ years ago but does that matter today? I just checked the top 10 songs on Billboard's Hot 100 list for this week. These are the times from shortest to longest...
2:12
2:17
2:36
2:45
3:18
3:23
3:28
3:35
4:02
4:02

Only 4 of the 10 come in under the 3:00 mark that was pretty close to a prerequisite 40+ years ago. Six come in over 3:00 and two of those come in at over 4:00. I just don't think there's a penalty anymore for breaking the 3:00 barrier.
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Old 04-23-2021, 08:55 AM
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For some reason, I just have a hard time saying anything in under 3 minutes. Heck, even staying under 4 minutes can sometimes be a challenge. I think in my case, I mostly make the music for me. I don't have any fans! [emoji1787]

As Jimmy Buffett said in his song "You'll Never Work in Dis Bidness Again":

"I won't make my music for money, no, I'm gonna make my music for me!"
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Old 04-23-2021, 08:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim1960 View Post
…I just don't think there's a penalty anymore for breaking the 3:00 barrier.
Hi jim

The penalty is listeners not listening to entire songs.

Musicians who monetize their YouTube channels check the stats often and tweak their posting habits to maximize listening times. Or they develop a diverse channel (like Rick Beato) which presents a lot of content during his 20 minutes.

The average length of a cooking tutorial on YouTube has dropped from 20 minutes 7 or 8 yrs ago to 3-4 minutes now.

Average listen time on FaceBook for songs is about 20 seconds, and YouTube is about 2 minutes.

Loyal fans and family members will listen to entire songs. Other listeners don't feel the constraint to finish what they've started.




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Old 04-23-2021, 09:26 AM
jim1960 jim1960 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ljguitar View Post
The penalty is listeners not listening to entire songs.
Glenn specifically said for "airplay." I assumed that meant radio play, not internet play, given the context of the conversation when he made the comment. My comment about song times was specific to radio play also.
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