What are singles? Singles are generally songs chosen to promote or represent the album (or EP) an artist or group has released. Singles dominate the radio and, in fact, most radio stations can only service singles as they have restrictive deals with royalty and licensing companies. Of course, different countries and radio stations have various agreements and standards as to what they are legally allowed to promote. This seems quite restrictive for a platform that supposedly services art. It can almost stifle the integrity of not only the album but maybe even the client that’s “promoting” it.
As Music Designers, we listen to music the bulk of the day. When it comes to making decisions based on brands and target audiences, it’s almost painful to program that song you can’t escape from when there are other songs that are on brand and just as good (or often better) but will not get programmed because of the unfamiliarity of the song. It’s a double edged sword: for each person that loves that hit song, there could be two that are already sick of the overexposure. On the other hand, one could say a great song is a great song regardless of how many times you hear it.
So what do we do??! I suppose this could be one of the more difficult feats to accomplish as a Music Designer – bridging the gap between Top 40 singles and hits with album cuts, b-sides and other “less prioritized” music. Or you could say, picking “singles” for brands.
There is nothing wrong with playing the latest cut from Rihanna, Maroon 5 or Adele to satisfy that hunger for contemporary Billboard synchronicity but there is also a certain obligation to expose and offer something new and different (and most importantly on-brand). With nearly endless musical possibilities, it is ultimately up to a brand and their designer to decide what this sound is.
As a consumer, we are constantly changing what we want as we grow and evolve so shouldn’t the music that’s playing while we shop do the same?
The feeling you get when you hear something new that you love is powerful and is as ubiquitous as music itself. It can change your whole experience. When in a retail environment, this could mean the difference between browsing for an extra few minutes and making a purchase or high tailing it out to avoid insanity via repetition.
I offer this quote to keep in mind next time you’re creating a playlist, contemplating which movie to watch, or simply deciding which path to take in life. While it speaks specifically to literature, I think the message is universal:
Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. ― Albert Einstein
– Submitted by Tristan Bolden, Music Design