Long Songs on the Longest Day of the Year
This Friday, June 21st, is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. This year, on the longest day, KEXP will dedicate the daylight time to celebrating beauty and joy of a declining trend - long songs.
All day, KEXP DJs will only play tracks longer than 6 minutes and 13 seconds, the length of Bob Dylan’s classic Like a Rolling Stone. When the track was recorded in 1965, Dylan’s label Columbia Records was reluctant to release it, deeming it too long for commercial success. However, after the track was leaked to an influential DJ and played on the radio, the song eventually became a global hit, reaching #2 on the Billboard Music Charts.
“Its remarkable that which music can be played on the radio would be restricted by the length of a song,” said KEXP Morning Show host and Director of Programming, On-Air, John Richards. “For the most part, it was (and still is) a rule that songs must be around 2-3 minutes to work on most stations. Of course, the powers that be were wrong in the case of Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, and the song proved a hit. This programming is a reminder that KEXP has never been a station that cares how long a song is!”
In popular music, there continues to be a clear trend towards shorter songs. According to Quartz and writer/researcher Michael Tauberg, pop songs on the Billboard Hot 100 have been declining rapidly in length over the past two decades - from 4 minutes in 2000 to 3 minutes, 30 seconds in 2018. And the share of hit songs under 2 minutes and 30 seconds has risen even more dramatically in the past 5 years.
Researchers have suggested that music consumers’ move to streaming services is to blame; artists are incentivized by the payment structures to focus effort on creating many short tracks rather than fewer longer ones, because they are paid per stream regardless of track length. For years, the trend on commercial radio has been to pack more songs into shorter time periods to allow more time for commercials, which has also benefited shorter tracks.
But KEXP is not a radio station that follows convention. DJs at KEXP still believe long songs have enormous value, even if the streaming services are making long songs less common, and even if corporate radio prefers short songs.
“All great music matters,” said Kevin Cole, host of KEXP’s Afternoon Show and Chief Content Officer. “Celebrating the longest songs on the longest day of the year is a way to not lose sight of how a three minute build-up, a two-minute bridge, or a four minute instrumental breakdown can get our hearts pumping and our bodies dancing. In a world of short attention spans and instant gratification, this is an aural reminder that some of the most enriching experiences in life take time—sometimes even more than 6 minutes and 13 seconds!”
“KEXP listeners love that feeling when you lose yourself in a song and you don't want it to end,” said Midday Show host Cheryl Waters. “It's exhilarating to take listeners on an emotional journey through music on KEXP.”