Singles Market Unfortunately One Of The Music Industry’s Few Bright Spots

May 11th, 2007 // 9 Comments

vinyl_music_pillow_262818_l.jpgThe physical single may be dead to all but the most die-hard record consumers, but that hasn’t stopped a secondary singles market of sorts from popping up in the digital-music world:

While the vast majority of music consumers still buy CD albums, they are buying less of them, while digital tracks are exploding: According to Nielsen SoundScan, sales of physical CDs this year have declined 20 percent from the same point in 2006, from 112 million to 89 million. Digital tracks are up to 288 million from 242 million at the same period last year. And that’s not counting the millions of singles that are illegally downloaded.

“Now, we’re in a very difference place in terms of the single business,” Jim Donio, president of National Association of Recording Merchandisers, said in an interview. “The single business is alive and well, and it’s in the form of track downloads.”

This seems to confirm our suspicion that the albums market of the early millennium was artificially inflated by the relative lack of availability of singles. Remember 1998? After Billboard did away with the “physical release” requirement for Hot 100 inclusion in December of that year, more and more albums-that-shoulda-been-maxi-singles made their way into stores. While that fattened profits and sales tallies (the RIAA established the Diamond award, for more than 10 million units shipped) in 1999), we suspect that it also had the probably-not-all-that-inadvertent effect of making a lot of customers, including us, feel ripped off. (“You Get What You Give” may be a fantastic pop song, but any of you who have ever listened to the rest of that New Radicals album know what we’re talking about)

The single returns to haunt music biz [AP via Yahoo!]

  1. also-ran

    I still listen to the New Radicals record once in a while. One of my friends in college used to dj a lot of parties and would sneak in the first track once in a while. It always sounded good.

    Surely, there were a lot of hit singles moving worse albums. Chumbawamba?

  2. rogerniner

    Best part:

    “The question remains whether consumers are as interested in completing the albums as they used to.

    Ciara hopes so. The 21-year-old’s latest platinum album, “Ciara: The Evolution,” on La Face/Jive Records wasn’t designed to provide just hits, but as an entire experience about her development into a woman, complete with interludes between the tracks.”

    WOW! WHY DID I STOP BUYING ALBUMS? UMMMM… BECAUSE OF INTERLUDES!

  3. Hallux Valgus

    @watched pots: my first thoughts went to the Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray breakthrough albums, specifically because their hit singles sounded NOTHING like the rest of the album.

  4. ka-tet

    @ rogerniner

    Don’t forget the exploding amount of intros/skits/interludes/shout-outs/holla-backs/intermissions/exitudes on 98% of hip-hop & rap records.

    Wow, 22 tracks for $12.99!!!!
    Hey…..wait a second….

  5. rogerniner

    seriously, ka-tet. this is the sole reason the mainstream album must be jettisoned. Ciara has every reason to explore her womanhood, and why she’s different from Ashanti/Rihanna/other-R&B-act-with vowel-at-end-of-name. But a few snappy well written songs can do that, not some dramatic audio play about her freakin’ life.

  6. The Mozfather

    New Radicals crappiness aside, this whole evolution of the single is so interesting, especially since, during the nineties, the availability of singles just plummeted. If you look at the history of Billboard’s Hot 100, the nineties has a few singles staying on the top of the chart for months simply because there was no singles for people to buy except those few. It was part of a scheme on the part of the record companies to maximize sales, and it’s totally and completely backfiring on them now.

  7. Chris Molanphy

    @The Mozfather: Bingo.

    Before the ’90s, you could score a gold or even platinum album off a single hit, but it was difficult and rare, and sooner or later you’d try a second single. (In the ’80s, even Falco’s gold album with “Rock Me Amadeus” on it produced a moderate hit followup with “Vienna Calling”; and a-ha managed to get a platinum disc out of the “Take on Me” album only after “The Sun Always Shines on TV.”)

    After the ’90s singles-deletion phenomenon kicked in (starting with MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice; then all the grunge-pop acts; and finally, in the late ’90s, straight-up pop), the album sales the labels were pulling down from one lone radio hit were mind-boggling. And they got really, really greedy.

    Forget New Radicals; that record only sold a million, fairly slowly. Starting around 1997 or so, the kinds of albums that were hitting Billboard’s album-chart top 10 and selling maximum quantities off one single were getting more embarrassing by the month. I remember reading Billboard back then and being continually stunned at the one-hit albums that were selling in truckloads: Chumbawamba (triple platinum – and yeah, I liked the song too, but come on); Aqua (triple-platinum), Lou Bega (triple), Eiffel 65 (double), Verical Horizon (double). Say what you want about the “boy band” era, but at least Backstreet, Britney and *N Sync were scoring multiple radio hits to justify their multiplatinum sales. The really insane late-’90s records that built up the industry’s backlog of bad karma are the ones I listed above, the true one-hit-wonders.

    In short, the labels were due for a market correction, as we say in my day job, of epic proportions. They SO earned this.

  8. Tauwan

    Oh hell no. Don’t talk dirty about Ciara’s Evolution. Rid yourself of the interludes [oh albums in the iPod aga] and you got yourself a fine pop/R&B record.

  9. Tauwan

    and by “aga” I meant age. Sorry, as president of Ciara’s fan club, I let my rage get the best of me.

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