Written Jul. 17, 2009 by Larry Rosin in Content + Marketing + Research with 7 Comments
I have made this point for years, and no one ever has taken it seriously. Now, with radio struggling, and the record industry struggling just the same, I'm going to try it again.
If we want to help music radio -- stations should shorten the songs. If we want to help the music industry -- music companies will help radio stations by sending them shorter versions of songs.
I'm sure many reading this are saying "Huh"? And I know of course that this alone can't solve all our problems. But think about it.
Over the last forty years, the average length of pop songs (or country songs, or most rock songs etc.) has grown from a tight two minutes to an ungainly four. This has effectively cut in half the number of songs played per hour. Actually, it's worse than that of course, because spot loads have grown over the years too.
So what is the net effect? Vastly fewer songs are played. Radio stations get killed for not having enough variety. Music companies can successfully promote fewer songs, and the pool of what can become a hit is shallower. Way fewer novelty songs are played, because there is simply no room for them, thus radio is less fun.
Four minute songs have created a vicious cycle where fewer, safer songs are played more and more because they are the only ones that can rise to the top. Having risen, they just keep playing as recurrents and gold.
Music companies should think of what they send radio stations as 'trailers' for the full song that appears on CDs or as downloads. "Want to hear the whole, long version? Go to..." Radio stations should be thrilled. Shorter songs means they can play more songs, have more variety, please everyone. Stations should cut their older songs down in length at the same time.
I am aware that there was some kind of effort to market a Top 40 with shorter songs last year -- I'm honestly unaware of what happened with that. But regardless...we need this to happen. And frankly, how many times do we need to hear John Meyer sing "Say What You Need To Say" in one song? The version played by radio has this lyric FORTY times. Could we live with twenty?
So Radio and Record industries...what do you think? Anyone with me for this radical approach?