General Question

simone54's avatar

How do music singles work?

Asked by simone54 (7592points) June 9th, 2009

I don’t get it. What? Do they release an album, then release CDs with individual songs? I never saw a single for sale in a store.

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7 Answers

whatthefluther's avatar

Here is a list of single CDs at Amazon. They are usually three to four songs and are called EPs. I’ve never purchased a single or EP with less than six songs on a CD so I have nothing else to share on the subject. See ya…wtf

Randy's avatar

Yes. At least that’s how it was before. A single usually only has a couple songs on it and that was released to give a taste of what was on the album or to generate sales from those who wouldn’t buy an album just for a song or two that they enjoyed. I haven’t seen them in a store in a long while. Now and days, people can just download a single song online.

simone54's avatar

and they are only allowed to play the single on the radio?

Randy's avatar

I’m actually not quite sure about the relationship between the music industry and the radio. I would assume that it’s something like that though.

Darwin's avatar

In the old days, a single had two songs on it, and A side and a B side. The A side was considered by the record company to be the song from an album that was most likely to catch people’s attention and hence sell the album. Singles were given for free to radio stations to play (and then there were various forms of bribery or “payola” that induced the station to play the song a lot or a little).

Nowadays, the idea of a single has pretty much been replaced by MP3 downloads.

SecondGlance's avatar

Turn your question around a bit… they release individual songs first, then the album.

It can take 6 months or a year to record, edit, master, and produce an album. Artists (or their managers at least, lol) don’t want fans to sit around for a whole year between albums. So normally they’ll finish one or two songs and release them as singles. The rest of the album will come later when it’s all done. Sometimes they’ll release more than one single over time, if the album itself is taking a while to finish or something.

However, when they talk about “singles” on the radio, all that means is the one song the artist is currently letting people play. Even after the whole album is out, they want the media to focus on one song for a month or two, then drop it and start playing another one. That’s just marketing.

As @Darwin said – Yes, in the old days you could actually walk into a store and buy singles. Just one or two tracks on a tape or record, and maybe a couple of bonus remixes.

cwilbur's avatar

Also, in prior days, the single and the B side were meant to sell the album. This continued into the CD era, with one or two songs getting a lot of radio play and a lot of albums having one or two good songs and a lot of filler material.

Singles were very commonly sold on 45 RPM records. Cassettes with two songs on them (“cassingles,” as I recall) were a marketing flop – who wants to pay $8 for a “cassingle” when you can pay $12—$14 for the full album?

The music industry still tries to choose one or two songs to sell the album, but with the possibility of buying and downloading individual tracks, the idea of the single is dying.

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