Why are there so few songs on a CD?

When I buy an album, there’s usually somewhere between 10-13 songs. But, when I buy a compollation CD of different songs by different artists, there’s at least 17 songs. So, if there’s room for more songs on a CD, why don’t they put more on the album?

I’m personally glad that not every musician feels compelled to fill the CD up. The songs are presented as a piece of work, that relate to each other in some way, with a begining, middle and end. Some of my favorite albums are only a half an hour long.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that the length of one of Beethoven’s works (a symphony, I believe) indirectly influenced the introduction of the 74-minute CD. I’m sorry I don’t know what work it was or have a cite, but I’m sure someone will back me up… hopefully.

Waaaaaaaaaaaay back in the olden days, music was sold on vinyl. 33 1/3 rpm, 12" phonograph records. These records held a total of 45 minutes of music & were called “albums”. I had quite a few. They warped and the sound degraded very badly if you didn’t store them properly.

When cassette got big in the late 60s, early 70s, most music was relaesed on both formats, vinyl & cassette. Often the cassette had an additional “bonus song”, but usually not. Cassette became the way that most of us bought our music through the 70s & 80s. As there was an overlap between vinyl & cassette, with albums being released on both media, the length of albums stayed the same. As vinyl (and cassette) was replaced by CD, we are able to fit more music on the disk. I think the length of albums has pretty much been standardized by vinyl though.

I saw this as well; there’s a yellow icon next to it, rendering the fact “undetermined”…

Kids these days.

One thing I have noticed about such compilation discs is that the songs are very often trimmed a little bit, usually at the end. While I seriously doubt that explains the situation in all cases, I honestly believe it’s part of it.

Perhaps it’s also partially because the artist(s) doesn’t/don’t have to create (or locate, for those who don’t write their own material) and perfect as many songs for a compilation CD or a greatest-hits-type CD as for a new one. Even in compilation CDs with all new material, each artist would only be contributing less new material than on a single-artist CD. Considering most artists are probably touring as well as recording (and some also do producing, and some write for other artists in addition to themselves) and that also leads to new single-artist CDs having fewer songs.

They put so many songs in compilations because they can. As long as there’s room in the disk, they may as well add more tracks. Then more stupid people will buy it for that one song they like.

Bands put so few songs on a CD because they can. Weezer’s Green Album was 28 minutes and it still did very well (though it made me hate them). On the other hand, some bands put too much music on. Tool’s last CD (Lateralus) squeezed in music down to the last second. One Nine Inch Nails’s CD was 120 minutes long. I guess it is the talent-sales thing. Weezer wrote 10 2:00 pop songs in 12 hours and shipped the tapes out to be processed. Tool experiments and thoroughly develops the music.

120 minutes on a single CD? I hope you mean two CDs.

Simple answer: studio time costs a hell of a lot, & pop music takes a lot of studio time. So most CDs of pop music are in the 40-50 minute range; some CDs are as short as 30 minutes–i.e. the timings are little different from back in the days of LPs. With a music like jazz that requires very little studio time (& also has a substantial improvisational element) most CDs take advantage of the extra length–new jazz releases are usually about an hour long.

Most CDs are too long not too short to my mind; the practice of adding bonus takes & discarded material to reissues I find mostly an annoyance. I’d rather hear something short & flawless.

It’s the same thing as asking why every book isn’t 600 pages long. The medium itself isn’t expensive, it’s the content. If you can say what you want to say in 200 pages, then there’s need for more.