A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece on this here news site called The Age of the Single?, in which I pondered and postulated about the future of record sales. I think it’s worth re-visiting this topic for a few minutes, because it’s becoming more and more apparent that singles are playing a dominant role in the music industry these days—and I don’t just mean in terms of radio airplay.
It seems that more and more artists these days are focusing on the release of singles, while LPs become more and more of an afterthought. Let me submit the following to the growing body of evidence that supports this theory:
- One of the hottest pop tracks on the charts right now is “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, a former contestant on Canadian Idol. The song is actually a single off her latest EP Curiosity, which has been out for months now. The problem is—the EP itself is only available in Canada. Only the single is available everywhere else (which means we are stuck listening to this one tune over and over until we’re sick of it—which we soon will be).
- One of the hottest new “boy bands” around is The Wanted. They’ve been charting for months, but until last April, you couldn’t buy their debut CD in the United States, only in the UK. Their entire worldwide popularity over the past few months has been driven by a series of singles from the album, released one at a time.
- The latest band to jump on the singles bandwagon is recent Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famers the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Reports are circulating that before the end of the year, the band will release, not a new LP, but 18 individual singles, to be available in either digital or 7” vinyl format.
This isn’t the first time in the history of the music recording industry that singles have dominated the market place. My mom still has several old cases filled with 45 RPM records that she bought in the 1950s, another time when singles dominated record sales (in part because the teenage market could afford 45’s more easily than LPs). And even before that, in the days before everyone had a record player, popular singles were mainly sold in the form of sheet music, so people could play and sing the songs on their pianos at home.
But this time is different, somehow. Nowadays, I think the resurgence of the single in our day is for two big reasons. First—obviously, digital downloading is a contributing factor (again, it’s more affordable to download an individual song than a whole album). Second—I think in our microwave time of instant gratification, people’s attention spans are much shorter. We’d much rather listen to a single song we really like than listen to a whole album where we like maybe three songs.
So what do you think of the Age of the Single? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Are you a 45-type of person, or are you an LP-type of person?