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Songs and Albums Change to Maximise Streaming

Streaming has made music listenership skyrocket (1 trillion streams in the US alone last year), but the royalty equation is also changing how artists are making music - shorter songs, longer albums, and a creative injection of global appeal.

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While mainstream artists are still mostly adhering to the traditional song writing playbook, others are tuning their songs in order to maximise their ability to earn royalties from the streaming platforms (such as Spotify, Apple, Tidal, Deezer and Amazon - to name but a few), and are starting to break all the norms.

So, what's the new hit equation? Well, when it comes to streaming, there’s a tried and tested formula for a viral bop, according to Howie Singer, the former Chief Strategic Technologist of Warner Music Group, and Bill Rosenblatt, the President of media tech consulting firm GiantSteps. These are:

Immediate hooks: In order to keep “skip rates” low, musicians are trying to introduce their hook or chorus in the first 30 seconds. That's crucial because unless the listener stays interested for 30 seconds, a song doesn't counts as a “play” for the purposes of royalty payments.

Shorter songs: After the 30 second 'hurdle' is achieved, making it through the whole song is how it gets recommended by streaming platforms, so artists are keeping tracks to around three minutes long, according to producer Mark Ronson. It's a fair bet to assume that they will get even shorter. Two minute songs may become the new normal.

Longer albums: With shorter songs, there’s more space for albums to have a lot more songs in order to boost royalty opportunities. Drake’s album, Certified Lover Boy, had a whopping 21 tracks.

International flavour: Artists are working across genres and languages (especially Latino and K-pop) because, besides being creatively interesting, it allows tracks to pop up on more searches / playlists and thereby reach a wider, global audience.

If you think this may seem like a lot of facets to be gamed by musicians for maximum exposure and profit, you’d be entirely correct. Indeed, a particularly good example is British indie rock band The Pocket Gods who recently released an album called 1000X30 Nobody Makes Money Anymore, which consisted of 1,000 tracks that were just over 30 seconds.

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