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Related: seven inch single - twelve inch single - music

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The 1950s and early to mid-1960s music market was a singles market. The concept album was invented in 1966 and since then the music marketplace has evolved towards album-driven sales. The contemporary MP3-era is once more a singles era, people are more likely to download one song rather than a entire album of songs. [Jan 2006]


In music, a single is a short (usually ten minutes or less*) record, usually featuring one or two tracks as A-side, often accompanied by several B-sides, usually remixes or other songs. Most singlesong, but some may have a double A-side (a famous example being Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane by the Beatles), where two tracks are given equal billing in the title of the single. Rarely, a single will not be identical in name to the featured track such as the Nine Inch Nails single, Closer to God.

In the older record format, there was no "track 1" as the disc itself was reversible, so the difference between an A-side and a B-side was one of promotion. CD singles do have a defined ordering of tracks, so that even on a double A-side single, one track has to come first. Some single releases have been released in two different versions, one with each track first (such as Muse's non-album single Dead Star/In Your World or In Your World/Dead Star, or with two CDs with one track each (such as Kent's single FF/VinterNoll2 Records with more than two A-sides are usually not considered singles, but EPs.

The lead tracks (and sometimes B-sides) of singles usually come from an album (either one already released or one about to be) and the release of the single is partly to promote sales of the album. Non-album singles are also produced. A typical number of singles to release from an album is two to four more is considered exceptional.

Singles often feature "radio edit" or "single edit" versions of the main song, which differ from the original recording in being edited to an attractive length for radio play, having expletives censored (often by re-recording with different lyrics), or both.

(*) The longest single release on a 45 rpm record, only in that format, was Grand Funk Railroad's "Inside Looking Out" at 9 minutes and 31 seconds in 1970. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_%28music%29 [Jan 2006]

From singles to albums (and back again)

In the Sixties, rock became the dominant musical form in America. And with the shift from singles to albums, which allowed for the marketing of personalities, it also became big business. The gilded formula froze into place. Today, scouts beat the bushes for young talent, squeeze a quick album out of the band, and put them on the road. "New" material is stressed. Albums featuring cover tunes of classics, as in the early Rolling Stones records, are discouraged. --Camille Paglia, 1992

The MP3 era is anew a singles era.

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