If you are a child of the 70’s like me, you fondly remember your collection of 45s and the mysteriously vanishing spindle adapters used to allow the discs with large holes to play on 33-1/3 RPM turntables. But as the 70s gave way to the 80s and the AOR (‘album oriented rock’ or ‘always on radio’ depending on who you ask) of Styx, Foreigner, The Police and more dominated the airwaves the ‘single’ slowly became less and less popular.
Then CDs arrived in the mid-80s without a real equivalent to the 45. Sure there were CD singles, but the record labels priced them in a way (~$3-$4 compared to $10-15 for the album) to ensure you’d be better off buying the album. That trend continued to the point that the single as a format was pretty much deal by 2003 – and the record companies loved it that way.
But with the rise of digital music, the launch of iTunes and downloadable $0.99 singles, suddenly everything changed … to the point that in 2011 there were more than 1.2 BILLION singles sold in the U.S. along.
The record companies – and some artists – bemoan this shift. Personally I think it is awesome – no longer are we stuck buying a $10-12 album when there are only 2 songs we want. Of course, the down side is we can miss out on those hidden gems that require multiple listens to appreciate. What do you think?