Music When I was in Paris last year it was startling to see that CD singles in the chart didn't have any of the extra tracks we see in the UK. A Norah Jones single had simply the release track and nothing else. And they were the same price. Apart from feeling very lucky I wondered how continental visitors felt when they came here and saw what we have, and wondered what the internet import trade was from places like I like that singles here have to 'b' sides and a video. What I don't like is the price. Four pounds feels very steep and lately I've taken to buying albums in sales which I should have heard already for about £6- instead (hence my recent spate of buying World Music Rough Guides which are in sale at HMV currently -- more on which another time).

The massive dip in sales has been noted, and although it's taken for granted that downloading has some effect, this intelligent article from the The Guardian describes some of the other factors. For example, one of the known ways of promoting a single, airplay is increasing impacting -- they offer the example of a Pink song knocking around for thirteen weeks before release then not doing too well because the listener had heard it already (music on demand tv channels on Sky and Freeview aren't noted but I'm sure they're an issue as well).

There are some interesting solutions offered. One record company is seriously considering the release of all their singles on DVD format. Not too bad, although considering the sheer lack of invention in the promo of late this isn't so attractive. Watching VH-1 and seeing the sheer wacky inventiveness at play for something like the Pet Shop Boy's It's A Sin then clicking to Mtv Hits for yet another helping of hip-hop artists standing around in street shouting and gesturing into the camera hardly inspires confidence. The other option is to cut standard price of the single overall but decreasing what you're going to get -- to some extent follow the Paris model, returning to the A/B. If it means I'm going to get an album track and something new and shiny then fine, lovely. But if it's going to be Avril Lavigne failing to single coherently live again but only once rather than three times, no thank you.

I don't know what the answer is here. When I stand looking at the singles wall in Virgin every Monday and see what passes for our musicians beaming out, portrait shot after portrait shot I don't wonder that I was listening to Paris Café Music on my walkman today. I think that the reason that singles are experiencing a drop in sales is that we're just bored with what we're being offered. Like other forms of entertainment, musical taste has diversified to such an extent nothing being released on single has a universal appeal. I'm probably sounding like an old man, but I can't actually think of any song which is in the chart this week. I'm only 28. If they want to survive and increase sales, they should be selling to me as well. And I'm just not buying it.

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