Senior Editor and Researcher
How long do songs last on the radio?
It’s an interesting question – one with many possible answers.
There’s no limit to how long a song can keep its place on a radio station’s playlist.
If a piece of music stays popular, relevant, and attuned to the station’s values, it can remain in rotation indefinitely.
You’ve probably noticed that some songs, considered by many to be among the most popular tunes in the world, are played more frequently.
For instance, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police was written in 1983, but it’s one of the most-played radio songs of all time to this day.
Today, we will take a closer look at the lifespan of songs on radio, from how long they’re likely to stay on the charts to when they might be transitioned out of rotation.
How Long Do Songs Last on Radio in General?
Generally, there’s no limit to how long a song can stay in rotation.
If you’re listening to a genre-specific station, you’ll hear certain songs several times throughout years or even decades.
Country radio stations, rock and roll broadcasters, and even classical music stations generally get fewer new releases added to their monthly roster than general stations or Top 40 channels.
They must fill their playlists with older (but still popular) tunes.
Certain types of music can also appear year after year on multiple radio channels.
For instance, many top stations worldwide have specific Christmas playlists that contain a handful of new hits and chart-toppers throughout the years.
Even chart-focused radio stations can keep songs in their playlists for years. These stations typically base their playlists on data about each song’s popularity and its number of sales and streams.
That’s not to say songs are never removed from rotation. Suppose a piece falls out of favor with the public. In that case, it usually appears on the radio less and less until it disappears completely.
Still, stations are not stopping returning those songs if they regain popularity.
For instance, “Running up That Hill” by Kate Bush suddenly surged back into popularity after its appearance on the Netflix show Stranger Things.
Most stations can play anything relevant to their audience if the song hasn’t been banned.
How Long Do Songs Stay in the Radio Charts?
While songs can stay on the radio forever, they won’t necessarily appear in the charts.
Popular radio charts, like the Billboard 100, are constantly changing. The songs on these playlists are dictated by a few factors, such as airplay, streaming time, and sales.
Most songs stay at number one or in the top 10 charts for a few weeks.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X stayed number one for a record-breaking 19 weeks.
“Despacito” with Justin Bieber stayed there for 16 weeks and spent 51 weeks on the Billboard 100.
Some artists have even spent years within the top 100. For instance:
- Lifehouse – “You and Me” (62 weeks)
- Carrie Underwood – “Before He Cheats” (64 weeks)
- Adele – “Rolling in the Deep” (65 weeks)
- Jewel – “Foolish Games” (65 weeks)
- One Republic – “Counting Stars” (68 weeks)
- LMFAO – “Party Rock Anthem” (68 weeks)
- LeAnn Rimes – “How Do I Live” (69 weeks)
- Jason Mraz – “I’m Yours” (76 weeks)
- Awolnation – “Sail” (79 weeks)
- Imagine Dragons – “Radioactive” (87 weeks)
What Influences Chart Longevity?
The length of time a song spends in the charts can vary.
A report from Vox found that artists can survive for up to two decades on the charts.
However, their staying power depends on several factors, including the song’s release period and genre.
Typically, songs move up and down the Hot 100 steadily.
However, in recent years, it’s become more common for new titles to debut at high ranks, thanks to big streaming debuts, then eventually decline when the marketplace changes.
Since Billboard Hot 100 rules prevent catalog titles from returning if they debut under number 50 on the charts, it’s uncommon to see unpopular or older songs reappear.
However, it does still happen occasionally. Old songs can rapidly jump back into the public eye when they’re shown in pop culture or appear on social media channels like TikTok.
The genre also has a significant impact on song staying power. According to the Vox report, rappers have the lowest musical lifespan on average (12.2 years).
However, rock and R&B artists can remain on the charts much longer. One reason for this is how quickly preferences change in specific spaces.
In hip-hop, old songs start to feel outdated very quickly.
In R&B, rock, and even pop, however, certain pieces can resonate with audiences throughout generations. We still hear songs from older bands like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles on the radio today.
Even seasonality may be a factor. For instance, Christmas songs are more likely to last decades than everyday hits.
Plus, October and March are excellent months to release new music, which means charts can change rapidly.
Do Songs Stay in the Charts Longer Today?
The charts have been relatively consistent over the decades. New songs rise to the top, while older songs gradually fall through the rankings.
However, popular tunes’ longevity has undergone some changes over the years. In the early ’90s and ’00s, songs often debuted with lengthier premier streaks, staying in the top 10 for several weeks.
In the 2010s, songs would arrive on the charts and stay in premium positions for just a week or two before falling from grace.
Now, in the 2020s, we’re seeing a resurgence of longer-lasting chart toppers, according to a report from Bloomberg.
In 2022, Wallen’s album Dangerous broke the record for the longest stint within the top 10 album charts. It stayed in the charts for 88 of the 89 weeks since it was released the previous year.
The song that spent the longest in the top ten was “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd. This song spent 57 weeks in the top ten between 2020 and 2021.
All the top five songs with the longest tenure in the top 10 charts were released after 2019. Bloomberg’s report suggests a variety of reasons for this trend.
For instance, executives at record labels say it’s harder than ever to have songs and albums get into the charts and stay there.
Many new media are competing for attention in today’s world. Music fans are discovering music on the radio, online, and through streaming platforms.
Artists are also taking advantage of the benefits of the streaming market, creating more songs faster rather than just focusing on one epic tune at a time.
How Long Do Songs Stay on the Radio?
Ultimately, there’s no one answer to “How long do songs stay on the radio?”
Depending on the genre, the radio station, and the tune’s popularity, pieces can last in the radio landscape for decades. Some songs even stay on the charts for years at a time.
There’s a positive side to this, of course. If you make it on the radio and your song is a hit with your audience, your music can become a part of the radio landscape for years.