CD and vinyl singles (and romance) are officially dead

The death of the 45 – singles RIP

August 14, 1995. The day of reckoning for indie fans everywhere”¦ The respective labels of Blur and Oasis (Food and Creation) release their mega singles ”ËœCountry House’ and ”ËœRoll With It’ on the same day. For Britpop fans everywhere it’s time to nail their indie colours to the mast”¦ Khaki parka or zip-up trackie? Working class louts or privileged pretty boys?

In the end Blur sold 274,000 copies of ”ËœCountry House’ to Oasis’ 216,000 copies of ”ËœRoll With It’. Damon Albarn was even interviewed on the 10 O’Clock News. I felt like my trip to HMV had been a musical pilgrimage and I’ve still got my copy of ”ËœCountry House’ to this day.

So the news that Mercury Records has decided to stop producing singles in CD and vinyl format has broken my retro-loving heart.

I get the business thinking behind it. Physical versions of singles last year only accounted for around one per cent of chart sales. Rising manufacturing costs and the cost of dealing with excess stock have meant that in that sector, Mercury Records was operating at a loss. But it’s the public’s apparent insatiable appetite for downloads that has put the final nail in the coffin.

There was a time when music was something to savour. Now it’s the fast food of the 21st century – we want it here and we want it now at the click of a button.
”ËœIs that such a bad thing?’ I hear all you techies cry. In some respects, no – at least the fast turnover of sales means there’s always someone new at the top of the charts. Gone are the days when the likes of Wet, Wet, Wet had a stranglehold over the airwaves lasting all summer long. And when ”ËœBieber Fever’ strikes, at least it’s not too long before some other pop muppet gets their sticky mitts on the top spot.

At least our CD and vinyl racks aren’t still filling up at a rate of knots. You can be a muso now without scuttling around a gloomy maze of precariously balanced bootlegs. And come to think of it, just how many more free Spandau Ballet CDs from the Daily Mail do we really need?

That said, if we really are witnessing the death throes of the CD and vinyl single I am officially in mourning. If singles are in the firing line then surely albums can’t be far behind. And if we lose those, then cover art will become a relic of the past too. Think of a musical landscape without Andy Warhol’s iconic yellow banana which adorned the classic ”ËœThe Velvet Underground and Nico’ or Nirvana’s ”ËœNevermind’ and its disturbing image of a baby boy swimming towards a US dollar on a fish hook.

Are we really saying that there’s no place in this hectic world for the simple pleasure of browsing in a music store? Can downloading off the web really equate to the pure joy of discovering a mint condition seven-inch single by your favourite band (and – if you’re really lucky – for only 50p in your local charity shop)?

If CD and vinyl singles are dead then so is romance. What a sad day for music fans everywhere.

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  1. Vinyl singles will never die. Why? Because they are a useful marketing tool and the only physical outlet worth considering amongst true music fans. The issue is that tracks chosen as singles are a bit shit – The Vaccines are a case in point. Overrated garage-rock spunked out over two 7″ formats – cheers Sony. Whereas useful 7″ releases by indies, even 4AD, are worth picking up. Iron and Wine’s recent effort a case in point – no flim-flam, just a black vinyl issue with a sleeve.
    Perhaps we need a bit of imagination with regards to presentation from the big players. I hark back to the days of Virgin’s fancy packaging for XTC singles – XTC didn’t release any shit singles, they didn’t need marketing, but the doubles, coloureds and fold-out dice-game/postcard sets made it exciting.

    • Unfortunately, for all their fine presentation, XTC’s singles didn’t sell particularly well…:-(

  2. Vinyl has been long dead for the majors, hasn’t it?

    Are you surprised that Mercury don’t want to release Pixie Lott, Amy MacDonald, Razorlight etc on vinyl?

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