Oct 20th, 2008 // 10 Comments

Many retail stores in the UK have now simply stopped carrying singles, including Zawi, HMV, and Woolworth’s. This means we may be reaching the point where you can no longer buy a physical copy of a single–and, as Popjustice points out, then how can you really buying something that doesn’t physically exist? If there’s no moment when a single reaches stores, then when is it released? And if something appearing online constitutes a release, then why does only the iTunes Store count? Shouldn’t something being released “virally” count too? And what kind of world do we live in where the only single you can buy are ones produced by Oasis? [Popjustice]

  1. Anonymous

    It can still be officially “released” to radio and television.

  2. Captain Wrong

    Man, that’s huge. I loved being in England an buying singles, even 7″ vinyl singles long before the so called vinyl resurgence started. I loved the fact that they still had ‘em over there.

  3. Chris Molanphy

    I’ll bet the labels will continue to do a handful of high-profile physical releases in mid-December given England’s weird annual fascination with the derby to score the Christmas No. 1 single. But otherwise, the shift to digital was inevitable.

    What makes the U.K. singles market an interesting comparison to the U.S. is that here, by the time iTunes launched, the singles market was dead. Whereas in England, physical singles were considered a viable market right up until the moment iTunes launched there, and physical singles were still common in 2006 when the U.K. chart authorities switched the rules to allow digital-only releases to chart.

    Long story short: in America, the industry first killed off the singles market slowly, over about a decade, before (begrudgingly) allowing it to reconstitute itself in digital form; in England, one market overlapped the other. And it took only two years and change for digital to swamp physical.

  4. Audif Jackson Winters III

    What are prices like for albums in the U.K. these days? I lived in the U.K. for a while in the late 90s, and I remember thinking that at least part of the reason the singles market was still viable was that albums seemed extremely pricey, the equivalent of $25 to $30 a CD.

  5. andrew_t29

    Wait, you can buy CD singles at a store?

  6. DocStrange

    I’ve always respected the UK charts because every genre is represented in the Top 40 and alternative rock songs actually have a very good shot into not only getting into the Top 40, but into the Top 10. And not only that, but as pointed out before, England is still a consumer of 7” vinyl singles and their artists actively record b-sides that are worth listening to (The Smiths and Oasis are the most obvious two, but Arctic Monkeys does it as well, as seen by their fine b-side instrumental “Chun Li’s Spinning Bird Kick”).

  7. byebyepride

    Album prices in the UK have dropped. New retail price for the AC/DC album = £9.99 which is c. $18 I guess. Sometimes they go back up to £12.99 after the first week of release, but they’re also discounted faster. I take this as a sign that it’s harder to sell records. The pressure on prices came from supermarkets doing what they’ve done with books, i.e. selling a few titles but much cheaper than the high street. Plus you can order most CDs for <£10 from play or amazon.

    But I haven’t noticed the stores dropping singles either – I’ll have to check next time I’m in Woolworths. The large Zavvi where I live (formerly Virgin) has shut down leaving only the small outlets in malls.

  8. Lax Danja House

    Isn’t it Zavvi?

    Either way, I haven’t noticed CD singles disappearing in shops- although, ironically, I have been getting more and more of them in the mail and now no used places will take them anymore.

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