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Death of the CD Single?

July 16, 2009

slimline case

What is happening with the single nowadays? The release format is undergoing a change of sorts. Is it for better or for worse? What questions does it pose for the industry? It’s an interesting, maybe quite extraordinary situation right now for this format, considering what has happened in these last few weeks alone. The first event that should be focused upon is the introduction of the new combined digital and physical single charts by ARIA, which was way overdue in the first instance. People were making purchases online (Purchasing music? Online? Yes, I can imagine a lot of you scratching your heads right now, but people do actually do it, so hear me out!) for an eternity prior to the introduction of this new chart, and while ARIA dithered around trying to find an accurate indicator of what music sold in this country, people like Scott Cain* claimed number 1 spots before hurtling out of the Top 50. I do remember an industry type person tell me that nowadays what a single needs to do to gain a number 1 single in this country was to sell around 1,000 units which is quite micro like in the scheme of things nowadays post-internet. Of course the allocation of Platinum and Gold selling status’s is another topic, but not really one I’m wanting to go into in this post.

With JB Hi-Fi discontinuing their singles sections from all their stores, we see now a music purchasing culture that determines their own singles. The Black Eyed Peas were in an interesting situation, where a released song, “Boom Boom Pow” was sitting pretty at number 1, while another song, which had actually not been officially released, “Gotta Feeling” replaced it at number 1 – something never seen on the chart before here in Australia. It’s a phenomenon never seen in the old days when CD singles ruled the chart, mainly because release schedules between successful songs were not usually close together. However, once digital tracks were allowed to chart, we see the public determining what is hot or not. Some things stay the same, radio predetermines what is still cool to buy through consistent airplay, although it could be argued that the medium is not relevant anymore due to the savvy nature of Gen X’s and Y’s following the myriad of online resources of blogs and other media that identifies their tastes.

Additionally of course we got the whole Michael Jackson whizzymagig which has played out this month too, which has seen a whopping 18 re-entries into the top 50 and seeing rather fascinating chart occurrences which have never, ever been seen before. The last time a major event had influenced the chart (aside from Elton John’s rejigged Candle In The Wind for Princess Diana) so much was when some footy anthems got to the top 50 of the chart during the finals of a year in the late nineties which escapes me.

Why do I bring this up? Well, it describes an interesting change in the trend of music buying. People are becoming fans of more of specific tracks nowadays, and no longer of bands themselves. This trend has been going on for some time, but I would think it’s a trend that will skyrocket. It also shows that people are willing to forgo music quality of a 128kps file as opposed to the physical stuff, which in itself is an issue that could be worth looking into one day. How record companies will tackle all these issues will consequently be fascinating as well. Suffice to say, it looks as if the idea of what constitutes a “single” is dying fast. Here’s some further reading on the subject for you which I found fascinating.

* That wiki that I linked to states that Scott Cain “currently works at Harvey Norman in Taylors Lakes, Melbourne”. Nothing more needs to be said about Popstars I think.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 25, 2009 5:08 pm

    Lots of interesting change going on in music nowdays, nobody really knows what it’s going to look like in the next five years.

    On a similar topic i saw this interesting post by Trent Reznor a short while ago, its his suggestions to unknown bands on how to go about promoting themselves: http://forum.nin.com/bb/read.php?30,767183

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