Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Alternate meanings: Single
In music, a single is a short (usually ten minutes or less) record, usually featuring one or two tracks as A-sides , often accompanied by several "B-sides"—usually remixes or other songs. Most singles have a single A-side and are named after this song, but some may have a double A-side (a famous example being Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane by the Beatles), where two tracks are given equal billing in the title of the single. Rarely, a single will not be identical in name to the featured track - such as the Nine Inch Nails single, Closer to God.
In the older record format, there was no "track 1" as the disc itself was reversible, so the difference between an A-side and a B-side was one of promotion. CD singles do have a defined ordering of tracks, so that even on a double A-side single, one track has to come first. Some single releases have been released in two different versions, one with each track first (such as Muse's non-album single Dead Star/In Your World or In Your World/Dead Star . Records with more than two A-sides are usually not considerer singles, but EPs.
The lead tracks (and sometimes B-sides) of singles usually come from an album (either one already released or one about to be) and the release of the single is partly to promote sales of the the album. Non-album singles are also produced. A typical number of singles to release from an album is four - more is considered exceptional.
Singles often feature "radio edit" or "single edit" versions of the main song, which differ from the original recording in being edited to an attractive length for radio play, having expletives censored (often by re-recording with different lyrics), or both.
Singles have been issued on various formats, including 7-inch, 10 inch and 12 inch vinyl discs (usually playing at 45 rpm); 10 inch shellac discs (playing at 78 rpm); cassette, 3" and 5" CD singles and 7 inch plastic flexidiscs . Other, less common, formats include singles on digital compact cassette and DVD, as well as many non-standard sizes of vinyl disc (5", 8", etc.)
The sales of singles are recorded in charts in most countries in a Top 40 format. These charts are often published in magazines and numerous television shows and radio programs count down the list. In order to be eligible for inclusion in the charts the single must meet the requirements set by the charting company, usually governing the number of songs and the total playing time of the single.
In popular music, the relative commercial and artistic importance of the single (as compared to the EP or album) has varied over time and according to the audience of particular artists and genres. Singles have generally been more important to artists who sell to the youngest purchasers of music (younger teenagers and pre-teens), who tend to have more limited financial resources and shorter attention spans. Perhaps the golden age of the single was on "45's" in the 1950's and early 1960's in the early years of rock music; albums became a greater focus as artists like The Beatles and others created albums of uniformly high quality and coherent themes (one of many examples being the concluding medley on Abbey Road). Over the 1980's and 1990's, the single has generally received less and less attention as albums, which on compact disc had virtually identical production and distribution costs but could be sold at a higher price, became most retailers' primary method of selling music. The single became almost exclusively a promotional tool for radio play and to appear on television via the video clip.
Dance music, however, has followed a different commercial pattern, and the single, especially the 12 inch vinyl single, remains a major method by which dance music is distributed.
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