CD single

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A CD single (sometimes abbreviated to CDS) is a music single in the form of a compact disc. The standard in the Red Book for the term CD single is an 8 cm (3-inch) CD (or Mini CD). [1] It now refers to any single recorded onto a CD of any size, particularly the CD5, or 5-inch CD single. The format was introduced in the mid-1980s but did not gain its place in the market until the early 1990s. With the rise in digital downloads in the early 2010s, sales of CD singles have decreased.


Commercially released CD singles can vary in length from two songs (an A side and B side, in the tradition of 7-inch 45-rpm records) up to six songs like an EP. Some contain multiple mixes of one or more songs (known as remixes), in the tradition of 12-inch vinyl singles, and in some cases, they may also contain a music video for the single itself (this is an enhanced CD) as well as occasionally a poster. Depending on the nation, there may be limits on the number of songs and total length for sales to count in singles charts.


Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms" (1985) is reported[ by whom? ] to have been the world's first CD single, [2] [ unreliable source? ] issued in the UK in two separate singles as a promotional item, one distinguished with a logo for the tour, Live in '85, and a second to commemorate the Australian leg of the tour marked Live in '86. Containing four tracks, it had a very limited print run. The first commercially released CD Single was Angeline by John Martyn released on 1 February 1986. [3] [ better source needed ] CD singles were first made eligible for the UK Singles Chart in 1987, and the first number 1 available on the format in that country was "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston in May 1987. [4]

The Mini CD single CD3 format was originally created for use for singles in the late 1980s, but met with limited success, particularly in the US. [5] The smaller CDs were more successful in Japan [6] and had a resurgence in Europe early this century, marketed as "Pock it" CDs, being small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. By 1989, the CD3 was in decline in the US (replaced by the 5-inch CD single, called CD-5). [6]

It was common in the 1990s for US record companies to release both a two-track CD and a multi-track (usually "remix") maxi CD. In the UK, record companies would also release two CDs but, usually, these consisted of three tracks or more each.

During the 1990s, CD single releases became less common in certain countries and were often released in smaller editions, as the major record labels feared they were cannibalizing the sales of higher-profit-margin CD albums. Pressure from record labels made singles charts in some countries become song charts, allowing album cuts to chart based only on airplay, without a single ever being released. In the US, the Billboard Hot 100 made this change in December 1998, after which very few songs were released in the CD single format in the US, but they remained extremely popular in the UK and other countries, where charts were still based solely on single sales and not radio airplay. At the end of the 1990s, the CD was the biggest-selling single format in the UK, but in the US, the dominant single format was airplay. With the advent of digital music sales, the CD single has largely been replaced as a distribution format in most countries, and most charts now include digital download counts as well as physical single sales.

In Australia, the Herald Sun reported the CD single is "set to become extinct". In early July 2009, leading music store JB Hi-Fi ceased stocking CD singles because of declining sales, with copies of the week's No. 1 single often selling as few as only 350 copies across all their stores nationwide. [7] While CD singles no longer maintain their own section of the store, copies are still distributed but placed with the artist's albums. That is predominantly the case for popular Australian artists such as Jessica Mauboy, Kylie Minogue and, most recently, Delta Goodrem, whose then-recent singles ("What Happened to Us", "Put Your Hands Up (If You Feel Love)" and "Sitting on Top of the World" respectively) were released on CD in limited quantities. The ARIA Singles Chart is now "predominantly compiled from legal downloads", and ARIA also stopped compiling their physical singles sales chart. "On a Mission" by Gabriella Cilmi was the last CD single to be stocked in Kmart, Target and Big W, who then concluded stocking newly released singles. Sanity Entertainment, having resisted the decline for longer than the other major outlets, has also ceased selling CD singles.

In Germany, CD singles continue to be regularly issued by all major and some minor labels, and both of domestic and foreign artists.

In China and South Korea, CD single releases have been rare ever since the format was introduced, due of the amount of infringement and illegal file sharing over the internet, and most of the time singles have generally been album cuts chart based only on airplay, but with the advent of digital music the charts have also occasionally included digital download counts.[ citation needed ]

In Greece and Cyprus, the term "CD single" is used to describe an extended play (EP) in which there may be anywhere from three to six different tracks. These releases charted on the Greek Singles Chart (before it abandoned tracking altogether) with songs released as singles.

Mini CD

Mini CD single
8cm CD single jacket.jpg
Mini CD single
Media type Optical disc
Capacity80 mm holds up to 24 minutes of music, or 210 MB (210 × 220 bytes) of data.
Standard Red Book
Dimensions8 centimeters (3.1 inches)
UsageAudio storage
Released1987;35 years ago (1987) [5]

The original CD single (sometimes mini CD single or 3-inch CD or CD3 in the US) is a music single released on a mini Compact Disc that measures 8 cm (3.1 in) in diameter, rather than the standard 12 cm (4.7 in). They are manufactured using the same methods as standard full-size CDs, and can be played in most standard audio CD players and CD-ROM disc drives. [5]

The format was first released in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, West Germany, and Hong Kong in 1987 as the replacement for the 7-inch single. [8] While mini CDs quickly fell out of popularity among most major record labels (partly due to their incompatibility with many slot-loading CD players), they lasted longer as a popular, low cost way for independent musicians and groups to release music. [5]

Capable of holding up to 20 minutes of music, most mini CD singles contain at least two tracks, often consisting of a single edit and an instrumental version in the same way as 7-inch vinyl singles. [9]


These were released in both a 5-inch size slim jewel case and long flip-out sleeve snap-packs. These sleeves could be 'snapped' and folded into a small 3-inch (8-cm) square, rather than the original 6 by 3 inches (15 cm × 8 cm) length when originally sold.

Beginning in 1999 some labels began to package mini CDs in 12 cm slimline cases. As the "tanzaku" sleeves slowly morphed into the use of slimline jewel cases, the mini CD single was haulted from production in the early 2000s.

As popularity diminished, one of the last Japanese 8 cm CD single released was a reissue and repackaging of "I Was Born to Love You" by Queen in 2004. Many of the artists who released 3-inch CDs are from that era, including Wink, Madonna, Phil Collins, Michael Jackson, Queen, U2, Prince, Metallica, Bros, Huey Lewis and the News, Bon Jovi, Kylie Minogue, Falco and George Michael. Some singles packaged in 5inch single jewel cases contained a 5-inch CD adapter.

Most were sold at around ¥1,000 (£6 or $9) at the time of release during the late 1980s, early 2000s to the present day.

However, there has been a small revival in the mini CD single with Japanese artists such as Hibari Misora with a reissue of her 1989 single "Kawa no Nagare no Yoni" in May 2019 in original long "tanzaku" form, by the record company Nippon Columbia. [10]

United States

US versions were often packaged in cardboard slipcases, either 3-inch square or 6-inch by 3-inch gatefold. Others were released in 5-inch slimline single cases, which allowed an adapter to be included with the CD. At the time of first release in 1987, their retail price was between $4 and $6, at least $3 less than even the least-expensive 5-inch discs. Delos Records, a small, independent label, issued the first commercially available 3-inch CDs in 1987 with 20 classical and jazz titles. The Massachusetts-based Rykodisc issued Frank Zappa's “Peaches en Regalia” the first pop 3-inch CD. Initially when released, 300,000 of the discs were shipped to retail outlets. [5] Noted oldies label Rhino had a series of over 60 3-inch CDs released throughout 1988 entitled "Lil' Bit Of Gold". [11]

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, 3-inch CDs were made mostly in a small square case/cover form only, some including a 5-inch CD adapter to use in normal compact disc players. Although the format was not widely available in the United Kingdom, several artists have released singles in the format.


From a technical standpoint, a 3-inch CD follows the Red Book standard for CD digital audio. The major difference is that the smaller physical size of the disc allows for fewer data sectors, meaning the disc can store less audio. The majority of audio CD players and CD-ROM drives have a smaller circular indentation in the CD tray for holding these discs. Most slot-loading drives, such as those found in some car CD players, are unable to manipulate the smaller discs or their adapters. Laptop drives generally only require the centre hole to hold the disc so the smaller diameter is irrelevant. In fact, software and drivers for some hardware are provided on the 3-inch discs.


In the United States and United Kingdom, the format barely lasted into the early 1990s, partly due to inconvenience of needing to attach an adapter on every disc (very few packages were issued with one) before playing. Sony remained in support of the 3-inch CD having had plans to launch a 3-inch CD player for the Japanese market in 1988. [9]

It was largely replaced by simply putting less music on a regular full-size CD, at least among major labels. The full-size discs are a more standard manufacturing process and so may end up being cheaper to press. The CD single format continued until 2000 for Japanese releases. Despite the unpopularity it survived with publishers adopting the 3-inch CD as an inexpensive way of presenting bonus material with books. [12]

Technical specifications

The slim jewel boxes used for 3-inch CDs are nearly the same size as 3.5-inch floppy disks, making storage boxes for 3.5-inch floppies usable for 3-inch CDs as well.

CD single sales in the United Kingdom

PeriodSalesPercentageOther sales
January–December 199934.3 million [15] Probably 95%+
January–December 2004 [16] Less than 50%DL: more than 50%
January–June 2006 [17] 19%

DL: ?/76.7%
7-inch: ?/1.7%
12-inch: ?/2.1%
Other: ?/0.4%

January–June 2007 [17] 8.1%

DL: ?/88.9%
7-inch: ?/1.5%
12-inch: ?/1.2%
Other: ?/0.3%

January–December 2007 [16] 8 millionDL: 72.6 million
January–December 2008 [18] 4.6 millionDL: 110.3 million
January–1 October 2009 [19] Less than 1.6 millionLess than 1.4%DL: 115.4 million
January - September 202160,000 [20]

In September 2003, there was talk of ringtones for mobile phones outstripping CD singles sales for the year 2004. [21]

Woolworths Group, which previously accounted for one third of all CD sales in the country, stopped selling CD singles in August 2008, citing the "terminal decline" of the format as customers moved to digital downloads as their preferred method of purchasing single tracks [16] [22] (the Woolworths chain itself would collapse the following November).

In July 2009, The Guardian reported that Florence + The Machine's single 'Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)' sold a CD and 7inch vinyl combined total of 64 copies, where it reached number 16 in the Mid-Week Chart. [23]

In March 2011, Mercury Records announced that they were to stop manufacturing CD singles for lack of demand and loss of money on the format in 2010. [24]

As of 2012, selected HMV stores sold a small selection of CD singles, mostly charity releases and acts from The X Factor .

'Bad Habits' by Ed Sheeran was the best-selling CD single as of September 2021 with 11,000 copies. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Single (music) Type of music release usually containing one or two tracks

In music, a single is a type of release, typically a song recording of fewer tracks than an LP record or an album. This can be released for sale to the public in a variety of formats. In most cases, a single is a song that is released separately from an album, although it usually also appears on an album. Typically, these are the songs from albums that are released separately for promotional uses such as digital download, or video release. In other cases a recording released as a single may not appear on an album.

A-side and B-side Two sides of phonograph records and cassettes

The A-side and B-side are the two sides of phonograph records and cassettes; these terms have often been printed on the labels of two-sided music recordings. The A-side usually features a recording that its artist, producer, or record company intends to be the initial focus of promotional efforts and radio airplay and hopefully become a hit record. The B-side is a secondary recording that typically receives less attention, although some B-sides have been as successful as, or more so than, their A-sides.

Extended play Musical recording longer than a single but shorter than a full album

An extended play record, usually referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but fewer than an album or LP record. Contemporary EPs generally contain four or five tracks, and are considered "less expensive and time-consuming" for an artist to produce than an album. An EP originally referred to specific types of records other than 78 rpm standard play (SP) and LP, but it is now applied to mid-length CDs and downloads as well.

Phonograph record Disc-shaped vinyl analog sound storage medium

A phonograph disc record, or simply a phonograph record, gramophone record, disc record, long-playing record, or record, is an analog sound storage medium in the form of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove. The groove usually starts near the periphery and ends near the center of the disc. At first, the discs were commonly made from shellac, with earlier records having a fine abrasive filler mixed in. Starting in the 1940s polyvinyl chloride became common, hence the name "vinyl". In the mid-2000s, gradually, records made of any material began to be called vinyl disc records, also known as vinyl records or vinyl for short.

Digital music store Online retailer of audio files

A digital music store is a business that sells digital audio files of music recordings over the Internet. Customers gain ownership of a license to use the files, in contrast to a music streaming service, where they listen to recordings without gaining ownership. Customers pay either for each recording or on a subscription basis. Online music stores generally also offer partial streaming previews of songs, with some songs even available for full length listening. They typically show a picture of the album art or of the performer or band for each song. Some online music stores also sell recorded speech files, such as podcasts, and video files of movies.

Album Collection of audio recordings

An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), vinyl, audio tape, or another medium such as digital distribution. Albums of recorded sound were developed in the early 20th century as individual 78-rpm records collected in a bound book resembling a photograph album; this format evolved after 1948 into single vinyl long-playing (LP) records played at 33+13 rpm.

Optical disc packaging Case or other packaging used to protect optical discs

Optical disc packaging is the packaging that accompanies CDs, DVDs, and other formats of optical discs. Most packaging is rigid or semi-rigid and designed to protect the media from scratches and other types of exposure damage.

Michael (Franz Ferdinand song) 2004 single by Franz Ferdinand

"Michael" is a song by Scottish indie rock band Franz Ferdinand. It was released as the fourth single from their eponymous debut studio album on 16 August 2004 through Domino Records. The song was notable for its homoerotic lyrics such as "stubble on my sticky lips" and "beautiful boys on a beautiful dancefloor". It was released in multiple formats, including a 7" vinyl, two 12" vinyls, and two CDs. The second CD that was released was pulled from stores a day after its release due to chart ineligibility as it had three tracks on it instead of two, which is the allowed number of tracks for the CD2 format. It was later re-released with only two tracks.

Mini CD 8 centimeter diameter compact discs

Mini CDs, or pocket CDs, are CDs with a smaller diameter and one-third the storage capacity of a standard 120 mm disc.

CD Video Hybrid analogue video/digital audio format

CD Video is a format of optical media disc that was introduced in 1987 that combines the technologies of standard compact disc and LaserDisc. CD-V discs are the same size as a standard 12-cm audio CD, and contain up to 20 minutes' worth of CD Audio that can be played on any audio CD player. It also contains up to 5 minutes of LaserDisc video information with digital CD-quality sound, which can be played back on a newer LaserDisc player capable of playing CD-V discs or CD-V-only players.

Maxi single Music single release with more than two songs

A maxi single or maxi-single is a music single release with more than the usual two tracks of an A-side song and a B-side song.

UK Singles Chart British singles sales chart

The UK Singles Chart is compiled by the Official Charts Company (OCC), on behalf of the British record industry, listing the top-selling singles in the United Kingdom, based upon physical sales, paid-for downloads and streaming. The Official Chart, broadcast on BBC Radio 1 and MTV, is the UK music industry's recognised official measure of singles and albums popularity because it is the most comprehensive research panel of its kind, today surveying over 15,000 retailers and digital services daily, capturing 99.9% of all singles consumed in Britain across the week, and over 98% of albums. To be eligible for the chart, a single is currently defined by the Official Charts Company (OCC) as either a 'single bundle' having no more than four tracks and not lasting longer than 25 minutes or one digital audio track not longer than 15 minutes with a minimum sale price of 40 pence. The rules have changed many times as technology has developed, the most notable being the inclusion of digital downloads in 2005 and streaming in July 2014.

Coldplay discography

British rock band Coldplay have released nine studio albums, six live albums, six compilations, four video albums, 16 extended plays, 37 singles, 14 promotional singles, three charity singles and 62 music videos. According to Parlophone, as of May 2021, their first eight albums have sold over a combined total of 100 million copies worldwide, making them the most successful band of the 21st century and one of the best-selling artists of all time. They are also the act with most number-one albums in the United Kingdom without ever missing the top, achieving ten million-selling singles in the country as well. Meanwhile, Nielsen SoundScan reported that the band sold over 18.2 million albums and 33.6 million songs in the United States.

Fill My Little World 2005 single by the Feeling

"Fill My Little World" is a song by English rock band the Feeling, originally released in the UK on 7 November 2005 as their debut single but was unable to chart due to chart rules. The following year, it was re-released as a digital single in the UK, entering the UK Singles Chart at number 28 on 21 May 2006 based on download sales alone. The following week, it climbed to number 10 after a physical single became available on 22 May.

LP record Analog sound storage medium

The LP is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterized by: a speed of 33+13 rpm; a 12- or 10-inch diameter; use of the "microgroove" groove specification; and a vinyl composition disk. Introduced by Columbia in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from a few relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound, it remained the standard format for record albums until its gradual replacement from the 1980s to the early 2000s, first by cassettes, then by compact discs, and finally by digital music distribution.

Whats It Gonna Be (H "Two" O song) 2008 single by H "Two" O

"What's It Gonna Be" is a song performed by British bassline duo H "Two" O and British bassline vocal group Platnum. Digital formats were released to online retailers in the UK on 11 February 2008. Physical formats, including a two-track CD single, a maxi-CD single, and a 12-inch vinyl disc, were released in the UK on 18 February 2008. The track was licensed by dance label Hard2Beat and peaked at No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart for three weeks.

This is the discography of the British rock band Marillion. Mostly associated with the progressive rock genre, they emerged as the most successful band of its second wave, neo-progressive rock, but they have also achieved over 20 UK Top 40 singles, including four which reached the Top 10. They have released nine albums which reached the Top 10 of the UK Albums Chart. Their discography includes two albums which have been Platinum-certified by the British Phonographic Industry and five which have achieved Gold status, all of which were released during their commercial peak in the 1980s.

Ed Sheeran discography Pop recording artist discography

The discography of English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran consists of four solo studio albums, one collaboration album, seventeen extended plays, one video album, forty-three singles, including seventeen singles as a featured artist, seven promotional singles, one box set, and 71 music videos, 12 of which have been UK number-ones.

Record sales Economic activity related to selling records through record shops or online music stores

Record sales or music sales are activities related to selling music recordings through record shops or online music store. Record sales reached the peak in 1999, when 600 million people spent an average of $64 in buying records, bringing a total of $40 billion sales of recorded music. Sales continued declining in the 21st century. The collapse of record sales also made artists rely on touring for most of their income. By 2019, record sales had accounted for less than half of global recorded music revenue, overtaken by streaming. Following the inclusion of streaming into record charts in the mid-2010s, record sales are also referred to as traditional sales or pure sales.

Dynamite (Westlife song) 2019 single by Westlife

"Dynamite" is a song by Irish pop vocal band Westlife. It was released on 5 July 2019 as the third single from Westlife's eleventh studio album Spectrum. It is their third single released under Universal Music Group and Virgin EMI Records. This is released on band member Shane Filan's fortieth birthday. This is written by Ed Sheeran, Steve Mac and Andrew Wyatt. Their third work released from 2019 and the 2010s decade for the group. Mac also produced the original mix and the Cahill remix of the single, his third one from Spectrum. Midnight Mix of the single were produced by Red Triangle and band member Markus Feehily. This is the second Westlife single Red Triangle co-produced while this is the first single of Westlife to be produced by Feehily and by a Westlife member.


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