I’m not sure if the term “B-Side” means much to the kids today in this, the era of digital downloads and online music services, when even the idea of a record album seems as relevant as a rotary phone. Heck, I’m hardly a whippersnapper, as the increasing number of gray hairs popping up on my scalp demonstrate, and B-Sides barely resonate with me.
But back in the day, when monstrous thunder lizards roamed the earth and music came on vinyl disks and a CD was something you talked to your banker about, B-Sides were very much a part of the musical experience. In those hoary times, when you wanted the latest hit single, you bought a 45-rpm record. Side A contained the hit that was skyrocketing up the charts, while Side B contained a second song—sometimes a song of equal or greater value, occasionally another cut off the same album—that gave you another side of the recording artist.
Apple has decided to revive the era of the B-Side through the iTunes Store. The company has launched a Digital 45s section, which packages two songs from the same artist in one download.
Recent news events have you yearning for a throwback to Michael Jackson’s glory days? You can download his monster hit “Billie Jean” packaged in a Digital 45 with the lesser-known “Can’t Get Out of the Rain.” The Digital 45 section currently offers 28 double-downloads, from recording artists like Talking Heads, Otis Redding, Johnny Cash, Marvin Gaye, and R.E.M. among others.
“The vinyl 45 rpm record once ruled jukeboxes and helped bring artists into the hands of true music fans,” Apple says in its promotional copy for the Digital 45s section. “iTunes is bringing this concept into a new age with D45s.”
Prices on the two-sided downloads range from $1.49 to $1.99. Downloading those two Michael Jackson tracks separately, in contrast, would run you $2.28, so you’re getting two tracks for just a little bit more than what it could cost to download a single song.
Will it be enough to single-handedly revive the Age of the B-Side? Probably not. But it does give iTunes shoppers another avenue for rounding out their digital music collection at only a minimal added cost.