What Does 'Single' Mean in Music?

Mathew Ekundayo - BLOG

What is a Single?


As the oldest format for distributing recorded music, the single is something of music industry royalty. To review what we discussed in our look at the EP, the single was the only format for the first 50 years of recorded music, first sold on wax cylinders and brittle shellac discs and eventually on sturdier vinyl. This was simply out of necessity, as early disc-cutting technology and the limitations of the formats on which they cut music prevented more than one song per side.


But what even is a single in this new world of on-demand music? Much like the “extended play” EP, the name has been misleading over the years. In the analog days, a 7-inch single record was rarely a single song. There are two sides to vinyl, so the main song would go on the A-side and the B-side would be a sort of “anything goes” spot. Sometimes it would be a cover the band recorded that didn’t have a place anywhere else, or maybe a live version of one of their previous hits. To this day, the term “B-side” refers to a song of lesser importance than the rest of an artist’s discography.

Nowadays, major streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify determine what constitutes a single. But their designations aren’t that much different from each other and really aren’t that much different from what a single was in the ‘50s:

On Apple Music and iTunes

Releases that meet the requirements below will automatically have “- Single” inserted in the release title within Apple Music and iTunes Store.

  •       The release is one to three (1-3) tracks.
  •       The entire release is 30 minutes or less and all individual tracks are less than 10 minutes.

On Spotify

Your music will be classified under the “Singles and EPs” category if:

  •       The release is under 30 minutes.
  •       The release has three (3) or fewer tracks.



Single Distribution

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