You don’t need a ‘Hit Single’ to sell albums anymore!

Remember when it was all about having that ‘smash hit’ single? That song that gets played everywhere, on the radio, in the clubs etc. The ‘hit’ that gives record labels the confidence to push the button and green light the release of a full LP.

It was of the impression that without having a big lead single that artists weren’t able to sell a large number of records. Of recent times, there has been an interesting development as more and more artists are seemingly bypassing the whole ‘needing a hit single’ and just releasing their albums out to the masses and surprisingly, still selling huge amounts of records and in some cases, more so than artists WITH hit singles out. The question now posed is – are the days of artists needing hit singles to sell albums over now?

You can make an argument that yes it is and there are many reasons for that. One being the case that its down to the development of technology within music and the digital era. It was much harder to find music when YouTube, Soundcloud etc didn’t exist. Radio and Television was the only place people heard music so for many artists, the only way they could be accessible to the masses was having a song that WAS played everywhere. Radio/Television was normally the indicator that a song was a hit through the amount of times they were played and coincidentally, many of the bigger selling albums pre-digital age where those songs (and the artist that made them) had more exposure via the media.As social media became the norm, it became easier to connect with the masses and many artists through word of mouth and consistency, developed their fan bases without even needing large exposure from the media, notable examples include Chance The Rapper, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, ASAP Rocky even Stormzy over here in the UK.
A result that many artists are beginning to realise is that once you truly connect with your fans, you don’t need to lean on having a smash single because you don’t need one. The recent example of Future is a good one – he sold 147,000 for his first week for ‘Dirty Sprite 2‘, more than double his last album which was released a year ago. His notable song released prior was ‘Commas’ but I sincerely doubt the success of DS2 was down to this song. There was a strong support on the internet and social media – even dubbing themselves the #futurehive, and with his consistency of music from his mixtapes, he managed to generate a big enough wave of momentum to propel him to number one and his biggest sales number ever. He’s had big songs before in prior albums so it’s clear to see the effect that connecting with his fans had.

J Cole another prime example. ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive‘ was released with 3 weeks prior notice, no singles, no warning and went platinum. The connection he has with his fans is undeniable. Kendrick Lamar released ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ with no big singles at all compared to his last album, with limited prior notice and still sold more than ‘Good Kid M.A.A.D City’. JME released ‘Integrity‘ independently with no promotion from radio and did very successfully. What they all have in common is that connection with their fans.
There are many examples of artists succeeding in regards to sales without needing that huge single. As a fan myself, I don’t pay attention to big singles anymore because all I care about is whether the whole album itself is going to be good. A good single these days doesn’t automatically equate to a good album so it’s largely irrelevant to me. What I care more about is if I’m confident that artist can deliver a quality project through investing in their artist development through projects, interviews, features and otherwise and I can confidently say that many other fans feel the same. To me, music fans and music have gone from the days of “That’s a hit, I hear it everywhere, let me buy the album” to “This is an artist that I know will deliver a quality project bigger than one song, let me support him” and that is a good thing. People say “People don’t buy albums anymore” but to those people I challenge them by saying, people WANT to buy albums, they just want to put money towards entire bodies of work they know they can invest in, rather than one or two big songs.

Words by @TonteBoDouglas

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