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02nd Apr 2024

Why have albums gotten so short?

Anna Martin


I can’t be the only one who noticed that albums are getting shorter

Not to say it’s affected the quality of any artist’s work before all the fans of ‘X’ singer start coming for me, it’s more of an observation than anything.

Take Ariana Grande’s latest release Eternal Sunshine which dropped back on the 8th of March, for example, this marks her seventh studio album but also her shortest.

The entire catalogue totalled 35 minutes and 26 seconds, with 13 tracks that included an intro and interlude and while I’ve had We Can’t Be Friends, on repeat, there’s just not enough for me.

We had been waiting for years since Ariana’s last album Positions and so to get under 40 minutes of new music after being so patient was dare I say, a bit of a letdown.

Yet that brings up a new question, why have albums gotten so short? It’s not just our girl Ari who left us wanting more, Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts only lasts 39 minutes, Kacey Musgraves’ Deeper Well clocks in at 42 minutes and Paramore’s This Is Why is only 36 minutes, just to name a few.

So why have artists made the shift to shorter records?

“It has more to do with track than album length,” Chris McIlvenny, an artist manager at TaP Music tells Cosmopolitan UK.

“Music is consumed in much shorter forms, and the industry is encouraging shorter songs more and more.

“15 years ago, you could have a shorter edit for radio and a full-length version for a release itself. Now, what would be a radio edit is the definitive version of a song.”

So while you may have thought like me it was all down to our shorter attention spans these days, it’s all about making things with an artist’s time and effort.

Sönke Prigge, a music professor at the University of East London, notes how streaming platforms and the success of the single is the driving force behind this trend of shorter albums.

“With streaming, single songs are more important than albums,”Sönke explains.

“We are almost back to where it all started in the 1950s when the single was the all-important factor for artists.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 21: Olivia Rodrigo attends the 2021 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 21, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

“LPs became a thing in the 60s and by the 70s albums took over (i.e. Pink Floyd etc..). Until the CD entered the scene in the 80s, records were confined to an average of 22 min per side and their usual length was 40min. This is where we are again now with seemingly short albums.”

Streaming “providers don’t pay ‘by the minute’, but by the song,” which is bound to have an impact on how music labels are shaping artists’ releases.

Why bother making a four-and-a-half-minute song, when you can make a two-minute song that requires much less effort and can create more profit?