The music single is an old idea, but one that’s still popular and relevant today.
What's in a single? A record single gives an artist a chance to pack a powerful punch into one single track – and often one B side – to tell more of his or her story in a shorter format. That’s been the strategy forever – but a lot of other things in the music business have changed quite a lot.
Traditional Music Singles
The traditional single track came in the form of a 45 RPM vinyl disc. These small 7-inch records still float around in a collectible market, showing the enduring legacy of the music industry at that time.
These little platters illustrate the power of the single – you hear one song, and you're done. You form your opinion an impression of the artist from that one track alone.
Where 33 RPM LPs provided longer play, they were also a much different format.
Modern Music Singles
In some ways, the fundamental role of the music single hasn't changed, but the format has, and the business has become a lot more high-tech, obviously.
Hardly anyone releases the 45 rpm vinyls.
Today, one of the major aspects of the music single is the music video. Artists put a lot of money into these music videos, and a lot of time and effort, to represent themselves in very particular ways, some of which have to do with where the industry has been and where it’s heading.
The music video dates back to its heyday in the 1980s, when even pop and rock bands routinely put out these sorts of short cast videos.
But artists are still putting out music videos with their top hit singles, and they're using them as an opportunity to brand themselves further.
In a short three or four minute video, you'll see a lot about the artist – who often shows up directly in most of the shots or provides footage of actual tour video.
Some music videos are also highly conceptual and use abstract art and similar ideas, but the majority of music videos showcase the artist visually and in terms of audio.
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