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Why Are Pop Songs Short?

Pop songs rarely last longer than a few minutes. There are historical explanations for this regarding the development of early recording and music production. Can music theory and psychological reasons play a role that people still love to produce that they love to produce short songs? Technically, there are not many restrictions these days. As Now You Tech, we researched this subject for you.

Historical Background

In the 1950s, the first vinyl records had a diameter of 10 inches and were rotated at 78 revolutions per minute. Music recorded like this took about 3-4 minutes. 12-inch logs were also used but were around 4-5 minutes. In the first half of the 20th century, an artist was limited by these requirements and had to make a song of this length if he wanted to publish it.

In 1949, discs with 45 revolutions per minute were introduced to the market. These are made from vinyl, better and cheaper material than the shellac used previously. The length of the music remained approximately the same. Artists who wanted their music to be played on the radio or the jukebox needed 45 singles.

Of course, some artists recorded longer songs like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and Bob Dylan at the time. His songs exceed a few minutes in length. However, the average song length for many bands has surprisingly remained under 5 minutes to this day.

Commercial Reasons for Artists and Radio Stations

Technical innovations and progressive developments would make it possible to record longer songs later. However, there were commercial advantages to keeping short pieces of music. The shorter a song, the more commercials it could put between a radio station. At that time, copyrights could be claimed for a period of 3 minutes. With a few short songs, the artists paid more. So short songs were a win for both parties, artists and radio stations. Even with jukeboxes that were common at the time and placed in bars, it wouldn’t work if there were songs with different playtimes for one price. Offering different services for the same price would be incomprehensible.

Short Attention Period?

Numerous examples invalidate the claim that the human attention span is exhausted after about 3 minutes. In the pop field, there have always been artists who recorded much longer songs and were quite successful. Classical music as a whole with its long symphonies shows that people can focus and concentrate on recording music.

It’s probably a matter of attitude. In a fast-paced society, little time is spent on extensive listening. Stressful living conditions, overstimulation of various media and rapid boredom can strengthen this inner attitude.

Also, pop music currently appeals to a young audience. Short, clear songs with a succinct expression express the carefree lifestyle of young people rather than long-winded and dramatically composed music.

Music Theoretical thoughts

Most of the short pop songs develop on repetitions, easy-to-understand melody parts and a simple harmony scheme. This invites you to sing. It is usually a 2 or 3 piece song format that excludes dramatic musical developments. A movement towards simplicity and clarity is desirable. A song wants to speak directly. It is intended to presuppose a complex analysis through the mind.

3 – 5 Minutes is a good time to make clear explanations through text and music without being boring. If a piece of music lasted longer, it would be advantageous to expand the music structure to excite it. But would it still be a pop song as we know and love it?