Harry Styles photo by Lily Redman

Every second counts for songwriters in the streaming era…

The average length of hit singles has fallen from around four minutes to just three minutes, according to a new study of every hit single since 1952 conducted by the Press Association (PA).

One reason songs are getting shorter, the study found, is because song intros are shrinking or are being dropped altogether. Fade-outs have also fallen out of fashion with almost no number one tracks featuring a fade out these days.

And just to confirm this trend, Harry Styles’ huge hit ‘As It Was’ (only 2.45 minutes long, with a 14 second intro and no fade out) has been named Spotify’s most streamed song of 2022. It has attracted around 1.6 billion global streams on Spotify.

According to James Masterton, a chart analyst and historian, “Songs have lost their intros, with streaming to blame”.

He told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: “You only get paid – and a play only counts for the charts – if the listen lasts longer than 30 seconds. People will still not sit through a song they don’t like, so production is now focused on getting to the meat of the song as quickly as possible, to hook the listener in.”

Historically, most song intros were instrumental rather than vocal and were used to set the rhythm, tempo and mood of the song, and to pave the way for the vocals. On radio-friendly singles, song intros had to be a certain length (typically around 20-30 seconds) to allow radio DJs to talk over them with station IDs, weather and traffic updates.

Today, streaming is most consumers’ medium of choice for listening to music. And the first 30 seconds of a song is what matters most to the streaming providers, especially Spotify.

As a result, lengthy intros are now being ditched in favour of getting straight to the hook as quickly as possible to keep people listening for at least the first 30 seconds.

How music streaming is profoundly changing songwriting and song structure is highlighted in a new book, “How [Not] to Write Songs in the Streaming Age – 40 Mistakes to Avoid If You Want to Get More Streams”.

The book’s author Brian Oliver, an experienced music publisher, said: “It is now clear that songwriters are facing a period of great change—especially writers who want their songs to succeed on streaming platforms.”

He added: “Music streaming is transforming the way songs are being written, performed and recorded. No aspect of a song remains unaffected by the demands of the streaming ecosystem. And songwriters who want to get ahead in the streaming marketplace need to adapt to the new songwriting conventions that are emerging in this algorithm-dominated musical environment.

“Successful streaming now requires a different type of song.”

“How [Not] to Write Songs in the Streaming Age” examines the essential elements consistently found in the construction, melodies and lyrics of the biggest streaming hits. It highlights the most common errors made when these key components are built into a song—and aims to help new songwriters avoid such mistakes in their own songs.

The book provides 40 insightful tips and includes a comprehensive Checklist designed to help new writers create more streaming-friendly songs.

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“How [Not] to Write Songs in the Streaming Age – 40 Mistakes to Avoid If You Want to Get More Streams” is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, a Canada paperback, an Australia paperback, and across Europe.

It is also available as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle store in the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia, and across Europe—as well as Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.



“SURPRISING RHYMING” – The Alternative Rhyming Dictionary for Songwriters and Poets – is available from Amazon as a US paperback, a UK paperback, and across Europe. It is also available as an eBook from Amazon’s Kindle store in the United States, the UK and Europe, as well as Apple’s iTunes Book Store, Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store and Rakuten’s KoboBooks.

Read a FREE sample of the book HERE (USA) … HERE (UK) … HERE (CANADA).