Music’s Evolution – From the Album to the Single

August 2, 2008

As an amateur music fanatic, I was amazed by the difference technology has made in today’s music, from the actual sound to the marketing. Since the release of iTunes, music has turned into the singles market, where an artist will be forced to release a good single before his/her album for anyone to actually buy it. And most of the time, that single will be the most popular song for that artist, over-passing their entire album in sales. There will also be something I call the chain effect, where an album has one hot radio song after another. For example, during Kanye West’s album, Graduation, the first hit song was “Stronger.” It erupted all over the world, rocking the Billboard and iTunes charts. Then, it was gone, surpassed by the next song in the album, “Good Life.” This carried on for maybe a month until “Flashing Lights” got the green light. Finally, “Flashing Lights” was surpassed with the last hit song of his album: “Homecoming.” There were millions of people who at first bought the entire album, owned each and every song, but only listened to the songs that were hot on the radio and publically. This is one of the ways Apple’s music store makes all of its cash, with people buying albums with extra songs that no one will necessarily listen to.

The last phenomenon that really stuck me was the “one and done.” After listened to about 10 times an hour for a week, a hot single vanishes, and loses its reputation. It will almost guaranteed not to be played continuously again on the radio nor in someone’s earbuds. Before, a song would be played at a lesser rate, but over a long period of time. A great example of this would be the Rolling Stones. So because of this one and done craze, Apple can make crazy amounts of money just by supplying all the hot songs and advertizing them when they are hot. And after the single has been in a sense wasted, it will rarely be played again, sitting in the back of someone’s music library unnoticed, and Apple will end up with their well-earned ninety-nine cents. 

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