What is the function of a single in 2018?

My “Day in Duran History” desk calendar reminds me that on this day in 2011, BB2 announced that “Girl Panic” was the next single off of All You Need is Now.

Although I am the first to admit my memory isn’t what it used to be, I do remember hearing that “Girl Panic” would be the next single. I found that fascinating because up until that point, I hadn’t heard “All You Need is Now” more than a couple of times on the radio, if at all. I didn’t really understand the point of naming a single, unless of course we were talking about the physical release of a single – like on a 45. Sure, I’m dating myself here, but I really didn’t see the point, particularly if land-based radio wasn’t going to play anything the band released anyway.  I did buy the vinyl single, and like everyone else I waited on pins and needles for the video. But beyond that, I never quite got the necessity of the single.

My questions about singles lingered on through the release of Paper Gods, although on second thought I wonder if it’s simply that I have the wrong expectations in my head for what a “single” really means. Take “Pressure Off” for example. I never once heard the song played on any of the radio stations in Southern California. Not once. I didn’t hear about it being played anywhere, either. I don’t remember any kind of physical release, CD, vinyl, or otherwise for it…so what’s the point?

On the other hand, I know LA radio pretty well. In this market, there really isn’t a station that plays a genre that lends itself to recent Duran Duran. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard “Rio”, “Girls on Film”, “Ordinary World”, “Come Undone” and “Hungry Like the Wolf” on at least three, if not four stations in my area. It is rare that I can get into my car and drive the whole way home from work (45 minutes on a bad day) without hearing one of the above songs played. That said, as far as LA radio is concerned, Duran Duran hasn’t released even one song since 1993.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need to go into a full diatribe on that kind of stupidity, so I won’t.

I do have to ask though – what is the point behind putting out a single these days? Is it beneficial for Spotify? For subscription services like Sirius XM? What about internet radio? Does a band really need to release singles? I suppose that leads me to the question of an album, too. Are albums still necessary?

I know that recently Nick suggested that perhaps the studio time the band has casually thrown around in mention during their Katy Kafe wouldn’t necessarily lead to a full album. He’s said similar things in the past. I can’t say I’ve liked the idea enough to shout from the rooftops about it. I’m a big fan of full albums, myself. I like the idea of a complete story being told through music. I hate the idea of losing that format.

Are albums really any more necessary today than singles? I’m not sure.  Let’s not confuse this with whether we want more albums and singles. Rather, let’s consider their necessity and usefulness in this current business model and market.




One thought on “What is the function of a single in 2018?”

  1. I don’t think there’s any question that the “single” performances from Paper Gods have been a bit underwhelming. This was also the first time I ever went without hearing any of an album’s singles played on the radio. Even songs like Falling Down or All You Need is Now appeared on the radio a few times, which was a pleasant surprise for me at the time!

    Regarding the concept of singles in general… I think there’s definitely still a place for them in the music world. While the music industry has shifted a bit in the past decade or two, it’s not quite to a point where songs or albums go completely ignored. Songs still promote a band and an album and a tour. The industry seems to have shifted to releasing 3-4 songs on iTunes and Spotify before an album is released and usually counts them as the “singles” these days. I don’t know if that’s a perfect way of doing it, but it does get attention for a band. The blogs and tweets will say “Duran Duran releases (song),” which bring eyes and ears to whatever is coming out. Awareness will then bring attention to an album or tour in the process, which will bring ticket sales and purchases that keep a band funded and going. So yeah, it still makes sense in that respect!

    And albums in general? I think it’s pretty telling that most of the older acts are keeping up with that method. There is some artistic merit to working on 10+ songs and then releasing them into the world as some sort of statement. The waits can be a bit unbearable at times for bands I like, but I still enjoy the format today. And it probably makes sense from a financial and music industry perspective too. Bands can release singles or EPs all they want, but eventually that attention is going to wind down in the long run… maybe from both the band’s perspective and the fan’s. Albums are still events in a way and unless it’s a newcomer putting out an EP as a feeler of sorts for their record company, it’s probably still the best way for most acts out there.

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