Friend Within caused a combination of surprise and dismay when he posted on his Twitter feed the other day that he was now being sent records that were less than 3 minutes long.
People keep asking why this is happening more and more. I’ve written in the past about how this is to do with wider trends about music getting shorter. PRS For Music ran the results of a study in 2019 which confirmed the average pop song was 73 seconds shorter than in 1998.
In the past, radio restrictions and the limited room available on a 7″ vinyl record meant records had to be between 3 and 5 minutes long. Those restrictions no longer apply, but songs have still got shorter. I’m certain that streaming is responsible for much of this trend.
But in the case of dance music? I don’t think that’s the sole reason for all these DJ unfriendly mixes popping up. I think it’s basically the resurgence of a past problem, only in a different context.
I frequently remember encountering DJs complaining about records being hard to mix into in the early 90s. This wasn’t because the records weren’t long enough, however. It was because many of them were made by producers who didn’t really understand what DJs were looking for in those early days.
This is why in those first few years of house, it wasn’t unusual for tracks to start with a piano or something like that. Great for starting a set with, great for just throwing into a set with no real mixing – but terrible for DJs who prided themselves on smooth mixing and transitions.
Years ago, there was a disconnect between producers and DJs. You could make enough money from one without needing to get involved in the other. Hence why it took producers some time to start understanding that many DJs needed something to work with on each side of the track.
I believe there’s a disconnect there today as well, only this isn’t to do with money. In years gone by, in order to hear dance music, you had to go to clubs. You had to go to record shops and buy the vinyl. You would undoubtedly hear some on commercial radio, but this was only a thin slice of a big pie.
These days, it’s all much more simple. You can hear the latest dance music online. Spotify has it. Beatport has it. Traxsource has it. iTunes has it. It’s easy to find. Paradoxically, it’s harder than ever to get a hit record, but never easier to give it a try.
Many of the people that want to make records, therefore, don’t especially have clubs in mind when making records. They’re thinking more about streaming services, radio and so on. This is the context they’re operating in – hence why we’re ending up with records where even the extended mix comes up to barely 3 minutes.
So the clock has basically gone back to the beginning – only for different reasons to the past.
Am I right, or am I taking nonsense?