The Return Of The Single

Way back in the stone ages, musicians released 45’s. The record (called a 45 because it played at 45 rpm on the player, you young’uns, look at me when I’m talking. Sit up straight.) had just enough room for a song, perhaps two on a side. So artists released singles, perhaps with some extra song (“the B-side”) on the other side. Singles were tantamount to the success of an artist. That all started to change in the 60’s and 70’s when the longer play (“LP”, I’m just full of arcane music history tonight, aren’t I?) records started putting whole groups of songs together into a 60 minute record. Bands used to go in and record that one hit single, but now they were going in and recording a whole album session at a time (“album oriented rock”, oooh, this should be a Music History paper.) For a long time, that has been the paradigm that we’ve lived in. When you think of bands and artists, you think of full albums. I say The White Album, Highway 61 Revisited, Thriller, The Joshua Tree, and you know what bands and artists I’m talking about.

Of course, releasing a whole album at a time isn’t always the greatest thing. The “one hit wonder” came to life and the music buyer was forced to shell out money for one song and nine songs of filler. The MP3 is changing the whole game again. Once it became no longer taboo to download music from the Internet thanks to iTunes and such, people started putting two plus two together and realized they could buy and download only the songs they wanted. Now, the artist is starting to take advantage of this new-old format. The artist doesn’t have to go into the studio and pound out a whole album’s worth of songs, but instead record and release them a few songs at a time.

There are two websites that are adopting this new method that I’ve enjoyed visiting. The first is the band Mae.. During the year of 2009, they are releasing twelve songs, one each month. The first four songs make up (m)orning, the next four make up (a)fternoon, and the final four make up (e)vening. The listener pays a dollar for each song each month and participates in the development of the songs by participating on the Internet with the band in discussion about the songs. It’s a very interactive procedure that helps pull down the wall between the artist and the listener a little bit and it lets the listener feel like they are on a journey with the band in the development of the songs. The second site that I’ve been visiting a lot is Brite Revolution. The listener pays a flat monthly fee and can download as many songs as they would like by a group of artists such as Caedmon’s Call, Waterdeep, Andrew Osenga, and Matthew Perryman Jones. The artists release new music monthly. No waiting for a new album to drop, there’s new material all the time. This gives me a chance to listen to artists I wouldn’t normally listen to, because I don’t have to pay anything extra to download tracks.

All of these are methods by artists to get their music directly to their fans. For years, we’ve heard a lot of talk about how the Internet will change the music industry and now we are starting to see the infrastructure to implement those changes. It’s an exciting time to be an aritst and to be a fan.