I've always wondered about this. The only reason I can think of is because radio stations don't like songs longer than that and won't play them while songs under a certain length leave the listener sort of POed. thoughts?
Yeah radio stations play about 3 minutes of a song and fade it out if it goes on for longer. You ever sang karaoke? American Pie goes on for a lot longer than the radio version, and Meatloaf's "Dashboard Lights" goes on forever. I used to hate when someone requested that song when I was a karaoke compere. I think it lasts 13 minutes, but on karaoke those could seem like the longest 13 minutes of your life!
Songs were first made popular in the early 20th Century when they were recorded on vinyl. They were generally recorded at 78 rpm's. The size of the record was set and only allowed for roughly three minutes of playing time (That's usually what it takes to sing the verse once or twice.) When the recording speed moved to 33 rpms and when records were later made larger for albums they still played the roughly 3-minute songs. I imagine it is merely tradition that radio played songs of 3 minutes each. Longer recording times would certainly lose many listeners. I don't see any reason why anyone would want to change it.
Great answer - I did read that once, but I'd forgotten it.
Actually, pop songs have been getting steadily longer. When I first started jazz dancing years ago, most songs were under 3 minutes, the ideal length for a dance solo. These days, songs can be 5 or 6 minutes long - a bit too long to keep audience attention - so dancers always have to cut them. Which is annoying!
Because most listeners these days are usually multi-tasking and not particularly focused on the song itself. If it goes on too long without changing noticeably, you're more likely to tune it out and focus on other tasks, or switch to a different tune. Change is good.
Back in the late 60's, when FM radio became a popular medium with hippies (after the domination of AM radio's 2-3 minute pop tunes), it was common to hear a complete side of a vinyl LP (~18 mins.), such as Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida". Back then there weren't as many media to entertain us, so sitting down with rapt attention was very common.
So now the pop song has come full circle, but for somewhat different reasons.
It's always been a puzzle to me also. One of my favorite songs is only 2.3 minutes long, and it ticks me off lol. I would so have loved it if it were longer.
Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses is approximately 6 minutes, and I'll Make Love to You by Boyz II Men is around 5. I love it, the longer the better in my opinion. Especially slow ones,,,great for getting up close and personal
Billy Joel mentions it in his 1975 song, The Entertainer...
"I am the entertainer, I come to do my show. You've heard my latest record, It's been on the radio. Ah, it took me years to write it, They were the best years of my life. It was a beautiful song. But it ran too long. If you're gonna have a hit, You gotta make it fit-- So they cut it down to 3:05."
He was talking about another song he wrote, Piano Man, which was originally 5:38, but the studio made them cut it down to a more "marketable" 3:05. Although actually it comes in at 3:48.
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