Singles: having a positive or negative effect on the music? #DB8

With the airwaves and music channels becoming increasingly flooded with catchy, radio-friendly music intended for the charts — alongside the decreasing volume of album sales – this week’s DB8 topic will be looking at the effect single releases are having on the music…

Singles have long been the quick fire way of launching an artist in to the mainstream spotlight. Think back to the beginning of your favourite artists career – whether it be Tinie Tempah and Pass Out, or Dizzee Rascal with I Luv U – a good single can elevate your notoriety to new heights. However; as minimal investment is required to pump out catchy club tracks – as opposed to a finely sculpted album – is the focus on single releases at present cheapening the overall substance and quality of music in general?

Many critics argue that the mere existence of such a formula is deterring record labels to invest anything in artist development. After all, which self-respecting major label wants to spend millions of pounds and years of tireless work and energy in to creating a credible artist and performer, when you can seemingly sign an individual with limited talent for the price of a far-off shot at becoming famous, eh? All that is required after that is a session with a hit-making songwriter, a glossy video equipped with standard procedure; women, cars and green screen and they’re set to go, right? And, who knows, if the single does well maybe the label will get straight to work on that follow up track. If it flops? It’s c’est la vie to the artist and on to the next one. Simple.

The industry will continue to remain profit driven, and that’s totally understandable; it is an industry after all. However, it seems clear to us that risk, investment and talent are what makes the most artistically and financially successful artists become so lucrative in the first place. With that being the case, shouldn’t it be the main aim of these record labels to help scout such talent, opposed to signing one-hit wonders? Of course there’s more risk involved with investing more in the artist, but the probability of earning a bigger buck in the long run has to be worth something, surely?

Although much of the industry is in a state of bewilderment when it comes to looking at how to adapt to the changes the music industry is currently experiencing, some have taken note and are attempting to be innovative in the way they approach constructing an effective business model. Take Roc Nation, for example; fronted by Jay-Z, the company covers a range of services from artist management, publishing and full recording contracts – all in-house services which can make for a firm infrastructure for an artist to build on. The organisation prides itself on investing everything they have to ensure their artists grow naturally. Although the money initially invested using method may be slightly greater than most labels are willing to risk, the potential of reaping sufficiently larger rewards later are much higher, too.

Rita Ora was snapped up by Roc Nation in 2009 and has only just began to start unrolling her campaign. The three years in between her being signed and appearing on your screens today would prove to be crucial in enabling her to find herself as an artist and organically experiment with her look, sound and image. Had she been rushed in the opening weeks/months of being signed to provide that hit song that everyone seems to be looking for, there’s a strong possibility that the number one singles and success she’s experiencing at the minute wouldn’t have been such a certainty, wouldn’t you agree?

And who needs singles anyway, eh? Speaking of Jay-Z, an artist which is arguably one of the most consistently successful artists of a generation; he is also a man with more consecutive US number one albums than Elvis. Despite this, he has only ever had one solo UK (Run This Town) and US (Empire State of Mind) number one single. But what does this suggest? After all, aren’t we all under the assumption that number one single = number one artist? Well, maybe that’s not the case.

Once an artist builds an honest and loyal following of a considerable size, their supporters know what they want and know where to look for it — they’re not going to be as easily lured in to a 79p impulse purchase from iTunes as, say, an unsuspecting music lover browsing the internet after a long day of listening to Radio 1. Therefore, investing in a credible artist and allowing them to express themselves freely would seem to be the most proven formula for achieving an extreme level of success, wouldn’t it? After all, Jay-Z has icon status, but Flo Rida has more number one singles; who’s your money on for Artist of the Year?

What do you think? Are singles watering down the quality of music? As always, you can join in with the debate using the #DB8 hash tag on Twitter or by hitting us up with your thoughts in the comments section below.  


Written by Ash Houghton