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The 45 RPM Record

The 45 revolutions per minute (RPM) record, also known as the "single" or "single record," was developed as a format for shorter musical recordings, typically featuring one song on each side. The 45 RPM record was introduced by RCA Victor in March 1949 as a response to the 33⅓ RPM long-playing (LP) record introduced by Columbia Records the previous year.

RCA Victor aimed to create a format that was more suitable for shorter musical recordings, particularly popular songs. It would become widely embraced by young recorded music buyers.

Technical Specifications: The 45 RPM record featured a seven-inch diameter, smaller than the 12-inch LP record. It was designed to accommodate a single track on each side, typically with a playing time of around 3 to 5 minutes per side. The grooves on the 45 RPM record were wider than those on the LP, allowing for louder playback.

Adoption by the Music Industry: The 45 RPM record format quickly gained popularity, especially in the realm of popular music. Record labels began releasing singles on 45 RPM records, allowing artists to focus on promoting individual hit songs rather than full-length albums.

Jukebox Compatibility: One of the key advantages of the 45 RPM format was its compatibility with jukeboxes, which were popular in bars, diners, and other public spaces. Jukeboxes were often loaded with 45s, allowing patrons to select and play their favorite songs.

Competing Formats: While the 45 RPM record became the standard for singles, it faced competition from other formats, including the 78 RPM record (which was still in use for a transitional period) and the 33⅓ RPM LP record for longer-playing albums.

Color-Coded Labels: To distinguish between the different RPM formats and make it easier for consumers to identify records, record labels adopted color-coding and graphics for their labels. For instance, RCA Victor used a distinctive black label for 45 RPM records.

Impact on the Music Industry: The introduction of the 45 RPM record had a significant impact on the music industry. It allowed artists to release individual tracks more easily, and the format became synonymous with the rise of rock and roll in the 1950s. The convenience of the 45 RPM single contributed to the popularity of purchasing individual songs rather than complete albums.

Enduring Legacy: While technological advancements have since shifted the music industry toward digital formats, the 45 RPM record remains an iconic and collectible format. Vinyl enthusiasts and collectors continue to appreciate the unique charm of 45 RPM records, and many classic and contemporary artists release special editions or limited singles in this format.

Overall, the 45 RPM record played a crucial role in shaping the landscape of the music industry and remains a symbol of the single-track era.