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 different 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 commercial radio airplay and are expected to be the most popular. In other cases a recording released as a single may not appear on an album.
Despite being referred to as a single, in the era of music downloads, singles can include up to as many as three tracks. The biggest digital music distributor, iTunes Store, accepts as many as three tracks less than ten minutes each as a single.Any more than three tracks on a musical release or thirty minutes in total running time is an extended play (EP) or, if over six tracks long, an album.
Historically, when mainstream music was purchased via vinyl records, singles would be released double-sided. That is to say, they were released with an A-side and B-side, on which two singles would be released, one on each side.Moreover, traditionally, only the most popular songs from a previously released album would be released as a single.
The origins of the single are in the late 19th century, when music was distributed on phonograph cylinders that held two to four minutes' worth of audio. These were then superseded by disc phonograph records, which initially also had a short duration of playing time per side. In the first two to three decades of the 20th century, almost all commercial music releases were, in effect, singles (the exceptions were usually for classical music pieces, where multiple physical storage media items were bundled together and sold as an album). Phonograph records were manufactured with a range of playback speeds (from 16 to 78 rpm) and in several sizes (including 12 inches or 30 centimetres). By about 1910, however, the 10-inch (25 cm), 78-rpm shellac disc had become the most commonly used format.
The inherent technical limitations of the gramophone disc defined the standard format for commercial recordings in the early 20th century. The relatively crude disc-cutting techniques of the time and the thickness of the needles used on record players limited the number of grooves per inch that could be inscribed on the disc surface, and a high rotation speed was necessary to achieve acceptable recording and playback fidelity. 78 rpm was chosen as the standard because of the introduction of the electrically-powered synchronous turntable motor in 1925, which ran at 3,600 rpm with a 46:1 gear ratio, resulting in a rotation speed of 78.26 rpm.
With these factors applied to the 10-inch format, songwriters and performers increasingly tailored their output to fit the new medium. The three-minute single remained the standard into the 1960s, when the availability of microgroove recording and improved mastering techniques enabled recording artists to increase the duration of their recorded songs. The breakthrough came with Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone": Although Columbia Records tried to make the record more "radio-friendly" by cutting the performance into halves and separating them between the two sides of the vinyl disc, both Dylan and his fans demanded that the full six-minute take be placed on one side, and that radio stations play the song in its entirety.
As digital downloading and audio streaming have become more prevalent, it has become possible for every track on an album to also be available separately. Nevertheless, the concept of a single for an album has been retained as an identification of a more heavily promoted or more popular song (or group of songs) within an album collection. The demand for music downloads skyrocketed after the launch of Apple's iTunes Store (then called iTunes Music Store) in January 2001 and the creation of portable music and digital audio players such as the iPod.
In September 1997, with the release of Duran Duran's "Electric Barbarella" for paid downloads, Capitol Records became the first major label to sell a digital single from a well-known artist. Previously, Geffen Records also released Aerosmith's "Head First" digitally for free.In 2004, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) introduced digital single certification due to significant sales of digital formats, with Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" becoming RIAA's first platinum digital single. In 2013, RIAA incorporated on-demand streams into the digital single certification.
Single sales in the United Kingdom reached an all-time low in January 2005, as the popularity of the compact disc was overtaken by the then-unofficial medium of the music download. Recognizing this, On 17 April 2005, Official UK Singles Chart added the download format to the existing format of physical CD singles. Gnarls Barkley was the first act to reach No.1 on this chart through downloads alone in April 2006, for their debut single "Crazy", which was released physically the following week. On 1 January 2007 digital downloads (including unbundled album tracks) became eligible from the point of release, without the need for an accompanying physical. Sales gradually improved in the following years, reaching a record high in 2008 that still proceeded to be overtaken in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
In the late 2010s, artists began a trend of releasing multiple singles before eventually releasing a studio album. An unnamed A&R representative confirmed to Rolling Stone in 2018 that "an artist has to build a foundation to sustain" and added that "When artists have one big record and go run with that, it doesn’t work because they never had a foundation to begin with." The same article cited examples such as Cardi B, Camila Cabello and Jason Derulo releasing four or more singles prior to their album releases.
Singles have been issued in various formats, including 7-inch (18 cm), 10-inch, and 12-inch discs, usually playing at 45 rpm; 10-inch shellac discs, playing at 78 rpm; 7-inch plastic flexi discs; cassettes; and 8 or 12 cm (3.1 or 4.7 in) CD singles. Other, less common, formats include singles on Digital Compact Cassette, DVD, and Laserdisc, as well as many non-standard sizes of vinyl disc (5 in or 13 cm, 8 in or 20 cm, etc.).
The most common form of the vinyl single is the "45" or "7-inch". The names are derived from its play speed, 45 rpm, and the standard diameter, 7 inches.
The 7-inch 45 rpm record was released 31 March 1949 by RCA Victor as a smaller, more durable and higher-fidelity replacement for the 78 rpm shellac discs. The first 45 rpm records were monaural, with recordings on both sides of the disc. As stereo recordings became popular in the 1960s, almost all 45 rpm records were produced in stereo by the early 1970s. Columbia Records, which had released the 33 1⁄3 rpm 12-inch vinyl LP in June 1948, also released 33 1⁄3 rpm 7-inch vinyl singles in March 1949, but they were soon eclipsed by the RCA Victor 45. The first regular production 45 rpm record pressed was "PeeWee the Piccolo" RCA Victor 47-0146 pressed 7 December 1948 at the Sherman Avenue plant in Indianapolis, R.O. Price, plant manager. The claim made that 48-0001 by Eddy Arnold was the first 45 is evidently incorrect (even though as of this writing 48-0000 has not turned up) since all 45s were released simultaneously with the 45 player on the 29 March date. There was plenty of information 'leaked' to the public about the new 45 rpm system through front-page articles in Billboard magazine on 4 December 1948 and again on 8 January 1949. RCA was trying to blunt the lead Columbia had established in releasing their 33 1⁄3 LP system back in June 1948.
In some regions (e.g. US), the default hole size fitted the original RCA 1.5 inch hub which, due to a format war, was incompatible with the 0.25 inch spindle of a Columbia-system 33 1/3 RPM 12 inch LP player. In other regions (e.g. UK), the default was a small hole compatible with a multi-speed 0.25 inch spindle player, but with a "knock out" that was removed for usage on a larger hub player.
One could play a large-hole record on a player with a 0.25 inch spindle by use of a single puck or by inserting an adapter.
Although 7 inches remained the standard size for vinyl singles, 12-inch singles were introduced for use by DJs in discos in the 1970s. The longer playing time of these singles allowed the inclusion of extended dance mixes of tracks. In addition, the larger surface area of the 12-inch discs allowed for wider grooves (larger amplitude) and greater separation between grooves, the latter of which results in less cross-talk. Consequently, they are less susceptible to wear and scratches. The 12-inch single is still considered a standard format for dance music, though its popularity has declined in recent years.
The sales of singles are recorded in record charts in most countries in a Top 40 format. These charts are often published in magazines and numerous television shows and radio programs count down the list. In order to be eligible for inclusion in the charts the single must meet the requirements set by the charting company, usually governing the number of songs and the total playing time of the single.
In popular music, the commercial and artistic importance of the single (as compared to the EP or album) has varied over time, technological development, and according to the audience of particular artists and genres. Singles have generally been more important to artists who sell to the youngest purchasers of music (younger teenagers and pre-teens), who tend to have more limited financial resources.Starting in the mid-sixties, albums became a greater focus and more important as artists created albums of uniformly high quality and coherent themes, a trend which reached its apex in the development of the concept album. Over the 1990s and early 2000s, the single generally received less and less attention in the United States as albums, which on compact disc had virtually identical production and distribution costs but could be sold at a higher price, became most retailers' primary method of selling music. Singles continued to be produced in the UK and Australia, surviving the transition from compact disc to digital download.
The discontinuation of the single has been cited as a major marketing mistake by the record companies considering it eliminated an inexpensive recording format for young fans to use to become accustomed to purchasing music. In its place was the predominance of the album which alienated customers by the expense of purchasing an expensive format for only one or two songs of interest. This in turn encouraged interest in file sharing software on the internet like Napster for single recordings initially which began to seriously undercut the music recording market.
Dance music, however, has followed a different commercial pattern, and the single, especially the 12-inch vinyl single, remains a major method by which dance music is distributed.
A curious development has been the popularity of mobile phone ringtones based on pop singles (on some modern phones, the actual single can be used as a ringtone). In September 2007, Sony BMG announced they would introduce a new type of CD single, called "ringles", for the 2007 holiday season. The format included three songs by an artist, plus a ringtone accessible from the user's computer. Sony announced plans to release 50 ringles in October and November, while Universal Music Group expected to release somewhere between 10 and 20 titles.
In a reversal of this trend, a single has been released based on a ringtone itself. The Crazy Frog ringtone, which was a cult hit in Europe in 2004, was released as a mashup with "Axel F" in June 2005 amid a massive publicity campaign and subsequently hit No. 1 on the UK charts.
The term single is sometimes regarded as a misnomer, since one record usually contains two songs: the A-side and B-side. In 1982, CBS marketed one-sided singles at a lower price than two-sided singles.
In South Korean music, the terminology for "albums" and "singles" is unique and includes an additional term, the "single album" (Korean : 싱글 음반; RR : singgeul eumban), a category of releases that is not found outside of South Korea. In English, the word "album" in ordinary usage refers to an LP-length music release with multiple tracks. By contrast, the Korean word for "album" (Korean : 음반; RR : eumban) denotes a musical recording of any length released on physical media; it is closer in meaning to the English words "record" or "release". Although the terms "single albums" and "singles" are similar and sometimes may even overlap in meaning, depending on context, they are considered two distinct release types in South Korea. A "single album" refers to a physical release (like CD, LP, or some other media) collecting one or more singles, while a "single" is only a song itself, typically as a downloaded file or streamable song. The Gaon Album Chart tracks sales of all "offline" albums released as physical media, meaning that single albums compete alongside full-length studio albums (and all other albums). The Gaon Digital Chart, which tracks downloads and streams, is regarded as the official "singles" chart.
As a distinct release type, the single album developed during the CD era in the 1990s. Single albums, typically including about two or three songs, were marketed as a more affordable alternative to a full-length CD album. rpm record released before the advent of downloadable music.The term "single album" is sometimes used to refer to a release that would simply be called a "single" in western contexts, such as a 7-inch 45
To give an example of the differences between full-length albums, single albums, and singles: the K-pop boy band Big Bang has a full-length studio album, titled MADE , which was originally released as a series of four single albums: M , A , D , and E . Two singles were included on each of these single albums; the first in the series, M, contains the singles "Loser" and "Bae Bae".
A single album is distinct from a single even if it only includes one song. The single "Gotta Go" by Chungha was released on a single album titled XII, which was a one-track CD. Even though "Gotta Go" was the only song on XII, the two releases carry different titles and charted separately: XII reached No. 4 on the Gaon Album Chart, while "Gotta Go" reached No. 2 on the Gaon Digital Chart.
The terms A-side and B-side refer to the two sides of 78, 45, and 331⁄3 rpm phonograph records, or cassettes, whether singles, extended plays (EPs), or long-playing (LP) records. The A-side usually featured the recording that the artist, record producer, or the record company intended to receive the initial promotional effort and then receive radio airplay, hopefully, to become a "hit" record. The B-side is a secondary recording that has a history of its own: some artists released B-sides that were considered as strong as, or stronger than, the A-side and became hits in their own right. Others took the opposite approach: producer Phil Spector was in the habit of filling B-sides with on-the-spot instrumentals that no one would confuse with the A-side. With this practice, Spector was assured that airplay was focused on the side he wanted to be the hit side.
An extended play record, often referred to as an EP, is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single, but is usually unqualified as an album or LP. Contemporary EPs generally contain a minimum of three tracks and maximum of six 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 vinyl records other than 78 rpm standard play (SP) and LP, but it is now applied to mid-length CDs and downloads as well.
A phonograph record, often simply 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; 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 records, or simply vinyl.
RCA Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. It is one of Sony Music's four flagship labels, alongside RCA's former long-time rival Columbia Records; also Arista Records, and Epic Records. The label has released multiple genres of music, including pop, classical, rock, hip hop, afrobeat, electronic, R&B, blues, jazz, and country. Its name is derived from the initials of its defunct parent company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). It was fully acquired by Bertelsmann in 1986, making it a part of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG); however, RCA Records became a part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a merger between BMG and Sony Music, in 2004, and was acquired by the latter in 2008, after the dissolution of Sony BMG and the restructuring of Sony Music. It is the second-oldest record label in American history, after sister label Columbia Records.
The twelve-inch single is a type of vinyl gramophone record that has wider groove spacing and shorter playing time with a 'single' or a few related sound tracks on each surface, compared to LPs which have several songs on each side. This allows for louder levels to be cut on the disc by the mastering engineer, which in turn gives a wider dynamic range, and thus better sound quality. This record type is commonly used in disco and dance music genres, where DJs use them to play in clubs. They are played at either 33 1⁄3 or 45 rpm. The conventional 7‐inch single usually holds three or four minutes of music at full volume. The 12‐inch LP sacrifices volume for extended playing time. In the 1970s, a hybrid was created, the 12‐inch single.
In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) awards certification based on the number of albums and singles sold through retail and other ancillary markets. Other countries have similar awards. Certification is not automatic; for an award to be made, the record label must request certification. The audit is conducted against net shipments after returns, which includes albums sold directly to retailers and one-stops, direct-to-consumer sales and other outlets.
Music recording certification is a system of certifying that a music recording has shipped, sold, or streamed a certain number of units. The threshold quantity varies by type and by nation or territory.
An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), vinyl, audio tape, or another medium. 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 LP records played at 33 1⁄3 rpm.
A music download is the digital transfer of music via the Internet into a device capable of decoding and playing it, such as a personal computer, portable media player, MP3 player or smartphone. This term encompasses both legal downloads and downloads of copyrighted material without permission or legal payment. According to a Nielsen report, downloadable music accounted for 55.9% of all music sales in the US in 2012. By the beginning of 2011, Apple's iTunes Store alone made US$1.1 billion of revenue in the first quarter of its fiscal year. Music downloads are typically encoded with modified discrete cosine transform (MDCT) audio data compression, particularly the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format used by iTunes as well as the MP3 audio coding format.
The overwhelming majority of records manufactured have been of certain sizes, playback speeds, and appearance. However, since the commercial adoption of the gramophone record, a wide variety of records have also been produced that do not fall into these categories, and they have served a variety of purposes.
Record collecting is the hobby of collecting sound recordings, usually of music and/or the "spoken word", but, in some cases, even of other recorded sounds. Although the typical focus is on vinyl records, all formats of recorded music can be collected.
A CD single 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 CD. 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.
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.
The Beach Boys are an American rock band formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961. Their discography from 1961 to 1984 was originally released on the vinyl format, with the 1985 album The Beach Boys being the group's first CD release. The Beach Boys' catalogue has been released on reel-to-reel, 8-track, cassette, CD, MiniDisc, digital downloads, and various streaming services.
Rock 'n Soul Part 1 is a greatest hits album by American musical duo Hall & Oates, credited as "Daryl Hall John Oates" on the album cover. Released by RCA Records in October 18, 1983, the album featured mostly hit singles recorded by the duo and released by RCA, along with one single from the duo's period with Atlantic Records and two previously unreleased songs recorded earlier in the year: "Say It Isn't So" and "Adult Education".
Elvis' Golden Records is a compilation album by American rock and roll singer Elvis Presley, issued by RCA Victor in March 1958. It compiled his hit singles released in 1956 and 1957, and is widely believed to be the first greatest hits album in rock and roll history. It is the first of five RCA Victor Elvis' Golden/Gold Records compilations, four of which would be released during Presley's lifetime. It peaked at number three on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart. It was certified Gold on October 17, 1961, Platinum on May 20, 1988, 5x Platinum on March 27, 1992 and 6x Platinum on August 17, 1999 by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The LP is an analog sound storage medium, a phonograph record format characterized by a speed of 33 1⁄3 rpm, a 12- or 10-inch diameter, and use of the "microgroove" groove specification. 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 21st century, first by compact discs and then by streaming media.
Year Zero Remixed is the third remix album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released on November 20, 2007 in the United States, and on November 26, 2007 in the United Kingdom. It features remixed versions of tracks from the band's previous studio album Year Zero; these remixes were created by various producers and recording artists.
Merry Christmas is a compilation album by Bing Crosby that was released in 1945 on Decca Records. It has remained in print through the vinyl, CD, and downloadable file eras, currently as the disc and digital album White Christmas on MCA Records, a part of the Universal Music Group, and currently on vinyl as Merry Christmas on Geffen Records. It includes Crosby's signature song "White Christmas", the best-selling single of all time with estimated sales of over 50 million copies worldwide. The album has sold over 15 million copies and is the second best-selling Christmas album of all-time behind Elvis' Christmas Album, which has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide. The original 1945 release and subsequent re-releases and re-packages spent a total of 39 weeks at no. 1 on the Billboard pop albums chart.
That Bad Eartha is a 1954 studio album by American singer Eartha Kitt, her debut 12" vinyl album issued by RCA Victor. The album was recorded in four sessions between March and October 1953 with Henri Rene and His Orchestra. Long-playing records were introduced in 1948 by Columbia with 10" albums as the popular music format and the 12" album the format for classical music. RCA introduced the 45 RPM format shortly afterwards. In May 1953 RCA Victor released the 10" vinyl album RCA Victor Presents Eartha Kitt which reached No. 2 on the pop albums chart and featured 8 songs. By the mid-50s, 10” LPs were phased out, replaced by 12” ones for popular as well as classical music, and RCA Victor expanded and re-issued the album with 12 tracks.