Music is Getting Shorter

Michael Tauberg
5 min readApr 27, 2018
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

(and Drake is taking over the world)

Like Rob Gordon, I think that if we can understand popular music, the soundtrack of our lives, then maybe we can understand ourselves a little better.

With that goal, I’ve done an even longer analysis¹ of Billboards Hot-100 data, Spotify track info, and song lyrics to figure out what trends we can observe in music over the last two decades. The results are fascinating and point to some big changes.

Attention Spans are Shortening

In the age of Instagram and instant gratification on the internet, it’s not surprising that we have less patience than we used to. What is surprising is that this trend has been going on for over 18 years.

Using Spotify data to determine the length of a song and then weighing that data by how many weeks it spends on the Hot-100, we can see that the average duration of a track has been steadily decreasing each year.

From well over 4 minutes to now around 3 and a half, the average hit song is getting markedly shorter.

Similarly (as I showed in my last post) the length of song titles is changing. New hit songs are more likely to have 2 words in the title instead of 3

While the number of words in a track title has gone down, the number of words comprising a song’s lyrics hasn’t changed much. As such, there is even more lyrical content per song. Lyric density, or the number of words/second in a song has increased, especially in the last few years.

Hip Hop Isn’t Dead

Whatever Nas may say about the commercialization of hip hop, rap music is more popular than ever.

Michael Tauberg

Engineer in San Francisco. Interested in words, networks, and human abstractions. Opinions expressed are solely my own.