What is a Music Single?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
The population density of Manhattan has decreased by nearly 25 percent since the early 20th century.  more...

October 14 ,  1962 :  The Cuban Missile Crisis began.  more...

A music single is a song which is released as a standalone item. Typically, singles are linked to or taken from an album, and they are used to promote the album and the artist. Singles have been a part of music distribution since the early days of recording, with a popularity which has waxed and waned. Thanks to the increasing tendency to distribute music digitally with downloads, allowing users to choose which songs they download, the music single has experienced a decline in popularity.

In a classic example of a music single, a song is selected from an album and packaged on its own for distribution to radio stations, with the hope that the song will get a great deal of air play, thereby encouraging people to buy the album. The single will also be distributed to music stores, sometimes in advance of the album as a promotion. Music singles are also targeted at buyers without a big budget, so that those buyers can pick up the single even if they cannot afford the album, increasing overall sales for the record company.

Many singles are packaged with several other songs. These songs are touted as a bonus not available on the album, and they may include remixes of the single song, covers, or entirely new songs. A typical single album can have between one and five songs. The music single will usually be significantly less expensive than buying the whole album, although some people like to purchase both.


In some cases, a music single may become a hit single, often becoming associated with an artist or band as a signature song. This is often because radio stations play the single over and over, lacking access to the full album, and consumers purchase the single in high volumes if it is available before the album comes out. In order to be considered a true “hit single,” a single must typically make it into the charts used to track music sales.

CDs tend to be a common medium for singles, as cassette tapes are not in common use. Some musicians also release singles on records, a trend which is more common in musical subcultures such as the hip hop and electronica communities. Buying a single in record format can be more costly, due to the increased expense involved in pressing and processing records, but some people prefer the sound quality and social cachet of records to CDs.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 4

My husband used to be involved in the music industry and he remembers the days when they were coming out with tape music singles.

That's right a single on a cassette tape. For those of you too young to know what that is, ask a grown up.

Of course, he worked in Nashville so most of his were southern music singles, but once he got to go to Chicago to help record singles for a "Top 40 Music Singles of the Year" cassette set, which was pretty cool.

Post 3

When companies come out with those collections, you know, "The Top 50 Music Singles of 2009" etc, how do they actually decide?

I know that there are Billboard ratings and things like that, but when you listen to those CDs, I always feel like there are about 10 songs you know and recognize, but the rest are just random things you never heard of.

How do those make it onto the "Top 50" cd when they obviously weren't really recognized as music single releases?

Post 2

When I lived in Nashville, there were so many artists trying to make their name that they would put CD singles of their songs in your mailbox with contact info and a little description about themselves.

I guess you never know where a record executive might live, but my roommates and I had so many of those things that we could have put together a "Top 100 Music Singles of Artists You Will Never Know".

To be fair, some of them were OK, but some of them...well, you can just see why they hadn't been signed yet. I think that it was probably for the best though -- if they had been signed the critic's music single reviews alone would have driven them crazy.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?