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Old 03-03-2002, 06:24 PM   #1
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Is the Music Industry Killing the Single?

I came across the following on-line:

News article:
Is the Music Industry Killing the Single?

The text is below:

These days, finding that song — without buying many more you don’t want — is becoming increasingly difficult.
The music industry is killing off the single.

Once the backbone of the business, singles sales totaled 31 million last year, down a whopping 41 percent from 2000, according to Soundscan. It’s believed to be the lowest sales figure since the late 1940s, when singles were introduced on vinyl.

Singles aren’t even made for many of the most popular songs because music companies think they’re so unprofitable.

Among Billboard magazine’s 40 most popular songs the week of Feb. 23, only five were available as singles on compact disc. Eighteen were on sale just as vinyl records.
Seventeen songs, including Creed’s “My Sacrifice,” No Doubt’s “Hey Baby,” Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero” and Alanis Morissette’s “Hands Clean,” were only available if you bought a full album.

LOSING A GENERATION
"I think they’re losing a whole generation of record buyers. You either have to steal it off the Internet or you just don’t buy it at all."
— CARL ROSENBAUM chief executive, Top Hits

Record retailers complain this alienates fans, particularly young ones, by forcing them to spend more than they want or — worse yet — retrieve songs online. “I think they’re losing a whole generation of record buyers,” said Carl Rosenbaum, chief executive of Top Hits, a Buffalo Grove, Ill., company that supplies music to 15,000 stores nationwide. “You either have to steal it off the Internet or you just don’t buy it at all,” he said. “The other option is to buy a full CD for $18. If you’re just introducing yourself to an act, you don’t want to do that. It’s hard to figure out what their thinking is.”

Music executives, in turn, blame retailers for discounting singles so heavily it’s impossible to make money. “We can’t work it out,” said Val Azzoli, co-chairman of the Atlantic Group of record labels. “We’re not an industry that works together.”

If the single dies altogether, the beginning of the end can be traced a decade back to the start of Soundscan, which provided the first precise measurements of music sales.
Executives who long suspected that singles cut into sales of the more profitable full-length CDs now had evidence to back that up, said Jordan Katz, senior vice president of sales at Arista Records.

DEBATE CONTINUES
There’s some debate about the extent to which that’s true, though. Bob Higgins, chief executive of the Albany, N.Y.-based Trans World Entertainment, which owns 950 music stores, said he believes singles hurt album sales in only about 15 percent of the cases.

Nickelback’s “Silver Side Up” album is currently in the top 10, seemingly unhurt by the CD single for the song “How You Remind Me.” And Santana sold boatloads of its most recent album despite a succession of singles, he said.

In the late 1990s, there was a brief period when record companies put singles by singers like Mariah Carey on sale for a money-losing 49 cents, artificially boosting sales to secure flashy chart debuts. To avoid manipulations of its charts, Billboard changed the way it computed the Top 40 to reflect radio airplay as well as sales. Therefore, it was possible to have a hit “single” without a song ever being released as a single. CD singles, which usually have two or three songs, generally retail for between $3 and $4. Many retailers routinely discount them by 50 percent or more, Azzoli said. And there are still music companies that encourage this by secretly giving singles away to retailers to inflate sales, he said.

“If I could get $5 a single and sell a million of them, hey, there’s a business there,” Azzoli said.

ROMANCE DISAPPEARING
"Nine-year-old puts his money down. Every scratch, every click, every heartbeat. Every breath that I held for you."
— ELVIS COSTELLO, from a new song about collecting singles

The demise of the single means more of music’s romance is disappearing, just like when colorful album covers were replaced by tiny CD booklets. In a song being released this spring, Elvis Costello waxes nostalgic about collecting stacks of 45s (a phrase already consigned to history, since it refers to the number of revolutions a 7-inch disc made each minute on a turntable).
“Nine-year-old puts his money down,” he sings. “Every scratch, every click, every heartbeat. Every breath that I held for you.”

Music companies recognize the danger, but “their short-term motivation is to get as much profit as possible,” said Ed Christman, retail editor at Billboard. “The fact that young kids aren’t buying records is a long-term worry.”

It’s not easy to find the section where singles are sold at the Virgin megastore in New York’s Times Square. Walk past the display of top albums, go down the escalator and wander to the dance section in a back corner. It’s close to where Jeannie Imperati of North Haven, Conn., was grumbling one recent day when she took her 15-year-old son shopping. “I’ll spend $100 on CDs just so he can get one song out of each of them,” she said. Her friend, John Cas, said he found the lack of choices in the singles section frustrating. “Most of the CDs have only one good song out of a dozen,” he said. “At 18 or 20 bucks a pop, you want to be able to enjoy the whole CD.”

MAXI-SINGLES
"We have to get kids in the habit of buying music. I’m trying to figure out innovative ways to have singles and albums co-exist."
— JORDAN KATZ, Arista Records

The space that music stores used to devote to singles is dwindling, or disappearing altogether. One worry for Rosenbaum's Top Hits is that the chains he supplies with music, like Eckerd Drugs, may simply use the space for non-music products. Now he's distributing golf balls as well as music.
At Arista, Katz is sensitive to concerns on both sides and is among executives experimenting with ways to make more singles available, though maybe not in the way many consumers would want.

In some cases, singles are made available before an album’s release but pulled from stores when the album comes out. Arista also makes singles for songs after they have cooled off as a hit. Pink’s “Get the Party Started,” currently in Billboard’s Top 10, isn’t a CD single now but may be in a couple of months.

Labels are also experimenting more with so-called maxi-singles. They may contain five or six songs — often different remixes of the same song — and are sold for between $7 and $8. The cost of manufacturing them are similar to regular singles, so profits are higher.

Some artists also release DVD singles with a video included with the music. “We have to get kids in the habit of buying music,” Katz said. “I’m trying to figure out innovative ways to have singles and albums co-exist.”

-END OF TEXT


I read this article with some enthusiasm, keeping in mind the rant presented on the Grammies the other night about people downloading music for free.

While it is easy to argue that artists should just make "better albums" to guarantee album sales vs. single sales - this is way to subjective of an area. For example, the overwhelming majority of us here adore ATYCLB and find it a brilliant album, worthy of buying. However, there are clearly plenty of people who disagree (otherwise ATYCLB would have sold 10 million copies in the U.S. by now). What is great music to some is garbage to another.

Therefore, that responsibility doesn't necessarily fall on the artist. Furthermore, I doubt most artists hope to only produce one good song and 11 tracks of pure garbage - because if they do, they know they'll kill their own careers pretty quickly.

When I was a youth, I loved buying 45 rpm records. The records were a dollar or less and it was a great way for me to get a song I desired without spending $7-8 an album (note, I first started buying records in the 70's - hence the lower prices). The record was a great way for me to become familiar with an artist - so much so that if I really liked an artist, I would buy the album to hear more songs. Plus the opportunity to hear non-album tracks, the "b-sides," existed as well.

Now, if I want a song, I often have only one legal way of getting it - to buy the album. I could try to record it from the radio, but while that was fun as a child, I don't have that type of patience or time to do this as an adult. And I often wonder how legal that is anyway. There simply is no single, CD, DVD or vinyl, that I can buy for a few dollars to "sample" the artist.

It's for this very reason that people are downloading songs at such an incredible pace. Bring back a single that can be purchased for a reasonable price and downloads will decrease. People will be willing to pay a $2-3 for a CD single that has one main song and at least one or two other songs on it. But faced with the alternative of just buying the album, people will download music.

Therefore, to the Grammy committee - I tell them to quit whining about people downloading music for free. It's the record companies that have caused this event. It's the record companies that failed to act YEARS AGO when downloading became a real possibility (and, oddly enough, most record companies STILL don't have a way to easily download songs - even at a cost). It's the record companies that drive up recording costs as they spend millions of $$ marketing flash in the pan artists.

Change the system - reintroduce singles in some form and I bet downloading decreases.
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Old 03-03-2002, 06:29 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho:
It's for this very reason that people are downloading songs at such an incredible pace. Bring back a single that can be purchased for a reasonable price and downloads will decrease. People will be willing to pay a $2-3 for a CD single that has one main song and at least one or two other songs on it. But faced with the alternative of just buying the album, people will download music.
I agree.




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Old 03-03-2002, 06:57 PM   #3
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BRAVO doctorwho!
I too bought 45 singles as a kid and I rember paying $1.5 or so back in the 80's for them. Of course this led to cassette singles and then cd singles, but idea should still be the same. A cd single used to guarantee a couple of unheard or rare gems to accompany the main song (good example is BD with SR and always). I would say a bad example would be the discoteque single with all of those remixes of the same song.

I think record company greed, if anything, is responsible for killing the single.
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Old 03-03-2002, 07:50 PM   #4
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When ATYCLB was released, I remember a quote from the Edge. He stated that he too was surprised that no CD singles from ATYCLB were being released in the U.S. When he inquired, he was told that CD singles are not profitable - and that it was egotistical to release a CD single in order to get a Top 10 hit.

This statement shows that it is not the artists who are in control - but it is the artists who are ultimately losing out. The labels are the ones who made the decision to not release singles, claiming that they cannot turn a profit. But if done correctly, singles can and do turn a profit and they can and do help the album as well. Furthermore, without the CD singles, people are forced into shelling out $18 for one song or illegally downloading them from the 'net. Considering the bulk of the music buying public are teens with a limited income, guess which option they will choose first?

Therefore, instead of chastizing music fans for downloading song, that Grammy speech should have been scolding the record labels for not doing enough to make music readily available to fans.
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Old 03-03-2002, 07:56 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho:
that Grammy speech should have been scolding the record labels for not doing enough to make music readily available to fans.
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Old 03-03-2002, 09:00 PM   #6
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Yes! I saw another article recently about how this trend is killing the B-side. Could you imagine U2 putting out a best of B-Sides album with their Best of 90-00 album? It would be Summer Rain, Always and a bunch of originals from the AB era. I miss teh CD single.
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Old 03-03-2002, 09:36 PM   #7
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Actually, the bulk of record buyers are over 25. The largest 5 year demographic might be those in their late teens, but the over all majority are over 25.
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Old 03-03-2002, 09:40 PM   #8
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Your forgetting B-sides, North And South Of the River, Holy Joe, and Slow Dancing, not to mention they would probably put Stateless and maybe The Ground Beneath Her Feat on there too. I don't think they would include any ATYCLB material in a volume II best of.
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Old 03-03-2002, 09:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2:
Actually, the bulk of record buyers are over 25. The largest 5 year demographic might be those in their late teens, but the over all majority are over 25.
Well, teens truly have "disposable income" as most teens (and, of course there are exceptions) don't have any financial obligations. The jobs they take provide them with income for things like movies and music (as they do not have to worry about paying for rent, food, utilities, etc.). The teen market is a powerful one - it can make or break an album or movie. For example, "Titanic" never would have made a whopping $600M in the U.S. if it weren't for teenage girls seeing the film again and again.

Furthermore, I recall buying the most music during my teen and college years (early 20's). I'm sure this is still true - as this is the period where most people are learning about music, new bands, going to concerts, etc.

That said, even if the biggest music buying public is over 25, the point stands. Even I am more willing to download one song - a song that I would normally buy on a CD single if I could - than shell out $18 for an album of music that I might not like. I've done the latter all too often in the past and I'm not willing to do this again.

But if I had a CD single - with those luxurious b-sides - to buy, I know I'd rather buy that then illegally download the music. Therefore, the music business only has themselves to blame for their current predicament. Had they kept CD singles out - and at a reasonable price - or found a way to distribute the CD singles on the 'net BEFORE Napster and similar programs took over - then they wouldn't see slumping sales. But they kept to their old-style ways regarding albums and then virtually eliminated the single in the U.S. and now they complain. Stupidity at its best.



[This message has been edited by doctorwho (edited 03-03-2002).]
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Old 03-04-2002, 12:00 AM   #10
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Singles aren't popular where I'm from because they are outrageously expensive. Because most of them are imported in small quantities from the West, the final price comes up to about 2/3 the price of a regular 10-song album! My friends and I have long abandoned the practice of buying singles since even mediocre albums would be worth it, in this context...

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Old 03-04-2002, 02:39 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho:
Music executives, in turn, blame retailers for discounting singles so heavily it’s impossible to make money. “We can’t work it out,” said Val Azzoli, co-chairman of the Atlantic Group of record labels. “We’re not an industry that works together.”
Huh?

Sorry, I don't understand this music executive logic. The record company sells a single to a retailer, for a specific price. When that retailer is discounting the single, how can that hurt the record company? I mean, they already shipped (=sold) their copy to the retailer, so if he is losing money by the discount, the record company doesn't have to care.

Fortunately, I live in a country where the single still does matter. Without a single, a song isn't even eligible to chart! I also buy singles regularly when I like one song (or it's B-sides, I'm a sucker for live tracks), but as I buy too many albums already I don't want to buy an album just because I like one song on the charts.

At Billboard.com, there is also one person who comments on the Billboard charts (and answers reader's questions). His name is Fred Bronson and he also mourns about the disappearance of the single, for the precise reasons mentioned above. A whole generation of kids in the USA are raised without any record-buying experience.

I'll stop ranting here as I guess you all realise I agree with all your viewpoints.

Marty

P.S. Here is a nice article about the current music industry 'slump', saying there is nothing wrong. It's just that now Napster has been forced to shut down, the revenues are also to pre-Napster levels. But somehow, I don't think the record companies will learn from it... http://slashdot.org/articles/02/02/2....shtml?tid=141



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Old 03-04-2002, 09:08 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by foray:
Singles aren't popular where I'm from because they are outrageously expensive. Because most of them are imported in small quantities from the West, the final price comes up to about 2/3 the price of a regular 10-song album! My friends and I have long abandoned the practice of buying singles since even mediocre albums would be worth it, in this context...

foray
I agree - and note that many times I wrote "affordable" CD singles. Releasing a CD single with 7 remixes on it for $8-10 is not affordable. At that point, one may as well get the album.

I'm talking about releasing a CD single with maybe one remix, a live song and a b-side (preferably a new, non-album track) or some combination thereof (2 b-sides and a remix; 2 live songs and a b-side; etc.)

"Discotheque" went GOLD in the U.S. and I'm 100% positive it did this because of the 5000 variations that were released. I have at least 5 different CDs of the song, not to mention several 12" versions and even a 7" version. Collectors - like me - bought all of them inflating sales. But one advantage there is that there was a version available to everyone. If one just wanted a song and the b-side, it was available - at a reasonable price. If one wanted vinyl, it was there. If one wanted a CD with 7 remixes on it, it was there. The versions allowed fans to get the song cheap or pay for the versions that contained more - but at least there were choices. Contrast this to ATYCLB where the U.S. has NO CD or vinyl singles released.

So again, not only should CD singles be released, but they should be made affordable - and both can happen with the record company STILL turning a profit.
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Old 03-04-2002, 11:13 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by doctorwho:
So again, not only should CD singles be released, but they should be made affordable - and both can happen with the record company STILL turning a profit.
How is it that singles are still rather "big" in Europe, and are still being released in Canada (as far as U2 goes)? All the ATYCLB singles released in Canada, I was able to buy for $4-$5 Canadian, which is about $2.50-$3.50 US (rough estimate). In any case, I think that is still rather affordable, so I'm wondering what the difference between the US and Canada/Europe/Australia is when it comes to releasing singles?
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Old 03-04-2002, 11:28 AM   #14
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You made some excellent points, doctorwho. I agree completely -- I would most definitely be buying more albums if I could hear at least a sample, especially because of indie artists who don't make videos and such. For example: Gavin Friday. Everyone says he's great, but I have never heard one second of a song by him, and I'm interested, but I don't know if I'll like it or not. Or the Strokes -- I have only heard one song and been mildly interested, but I'd probably buy the album if I could hear a few more songs. It's so stupid these record companies aren't figuring this out.

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Old 03-04-2002, 04:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram:
How is it that singles are still rather "big" in Europe, and are still being released in Canada (as far as U2 goes)? All the ATYCLB singles released in Canada, I was able to buy for $4-$5 Canadian, which is about $2.50-$3.50 US (rough estimate). In any case, I think that is still rather affordable, so I'm wondering what the difference between the US and Canada/Europe/Australia is when it comes to releasing singles?
On my recent trip to Toronto to visit Mrs. Edge, the only thing I wanted to buy was U2 singles, since I can't go the music store and buy them in the US...I would buy them if issued here, but I'm not going to pay the extra shipping to purchase them from Amazon or CDNow.



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Old 03-04-2002, 10:16 PM   #16
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*bump - just in case others have comments

Also, I want that cool flaming folder for my thread.
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Old 03-05-2002, 02:16 AM   #17
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Originally posted by Iron Chef MoFo:
Whatever happened to the "mini" single? Back in the day, albums were on 12" vinyl, and singles... weren't. They were small, they were distinct, they were cool. Albums were albums, singles were singles, and it was pretty tough to confuse the two.

So why do they now waste a 74 minute CD with twenty minutes or less of music? Why not use the mini-sized CD's for singles. I bet the James-Bondish-high-tech-chicness of them would do a fair bit to boost demand, and thus sales. The raw material costs would be less, which (one would think) would also mean cheaper prices at retail. Cheap product means more people would be willing to buy it.

Am I the only one who thinks this would be a good idea?
I think there were technical difficulties with the mini-single. Some (many?) players could not load the CD or only when the single was put in some kind of tray. The mini single could also hold only 20 minutes or so, which was too little for some singles. Plus, it might be that the buying public didn't have a right perception of the mini single (maybe thinking it was too small to treat it comfortably and thinking the artwork was too small).

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Old 03-05-2002, 03:43 AM   #18
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I was going to post a (kinda) similar thread the other day, but the site crashed as I was hitting the submit button.

Whatever happened to the "mini" single? Back in the day, albums were on 12" vinyl, and singles... weren't. They were small, they were distinct, they were cool. Albums were albums, singles were singles, and it was pretty tough to confuse the two.

So why do they now waste a 74 minute CD with twenty minutes or less of music? Why not use the mini-sized CD's for singles. I bet the James-Bondish-high-tech-chicness of them would do a fair bit to boost demand, and thus sales. The raw material costs would be less, which (one would think) would also mean cheaper prices at retail. Cheap product means more people would be willing to buy it.

Am I the only one who thinks this would be a good idea?
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