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Radio Friendly Song Formats

Pop songs are Short - Keep it short. As a rule, your song should be approx. 3:30 in length. Airtime is very valuable and advertising (the way stations make money) is sold on the quality of the programming. Read, the quality of your songs. Every second you want from them better be hit quality. There are obviously exceptions to this rule, and there are many songs from established artists that are longer, but you are a new artist trying to break into a tough market.

Have you ever noticed that a DJ will talk over the song intro, or fade the song quickly before the end? That’s because they are probably trying to squeeze a four-minute song down closer to three. Most hit writers tend to agree, that a song without the intro or solo breaks should be 2:15 – 2:30 so that when solos etc. are added by the recording artist, it doesn't exceed 3:30.

Pro radio DJ’s are very discriminating in regards to the music they play. Remember, time is money, especially on the radio. A long or awkward song structure is a dead giveaway that you are an amateur song crafter and will not get play. The reverse is true as well, a tight clever arrangement will keep everyone listening, and impress the DJs, program directors, sponsors and listeners alike.

The most popular song times for top 40 radio play remains
3:00 minutes to 3:30

Introductions - the most successful intro times are approx. 10 - 18 seconds

The general rule of radio is get to the vocals in less than 15 seconds. In the vast majority (90%) of radio-hit songs, the vocals are in by the 15- to 20 second mark, and there are a few that have no introduction or that start with the vocals.

Chorus - Very, very few songs make you wait longer than 60 seconds to get to the chorus. Some songs even start with the chorus! The vast majority of top 40 songs reach the chorus within 45 seconds. 35 – 50 seconds seems to be the magical range, well under a minute.


These times indicate fairly economical arrangements. Time your songs and find out how long it’s taking you to get to the various parts of your songs. Remember, not every song you write, is right for the radio. Do what's right for your song, for everyrule above, there's a hit song that breaks them!

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