EP or album

Should your next music release be an EP or an album?

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Different types of releases – singles, albums, EPs, and mixtapes – all have their place in your music promotion strategy. But every music release should be an opportunity to build your fan base.

It’s not always easy to know what you should be releasing as a musician. Should you go all out and create a 14 track album right away? Should you release a single as soon as you’ve recorded your first track? While there’s no right or wrong answer as different music release strategies work well for different aims, here is a plan I’ve seen work well for many independent artists.

Why this strategy works

Before you start focusing on putting this strategy into practice, it helps to be aware of why it works and what you’re trying to accomplish with your music release.

First, you’ll do more than just get people to listen to your music. As you’ll see, there’s a big emphasis on collecting contact info, which helps in your effort to make these people long term fans of your music.

If you were to just release a song but not capture contact info, there’s a chance these people will never come back to your website and listen to you or your song again! So you want to release music not only as a way to potentially make money, but also as a trade: you give people something of value (your music) and they give you something of value (their contact details). Let’s look at one way to do this.

1. Record an EP

Before you actively release anything to music lovers in your genre, you need to get the back end of things set up. Namely, you’ll need to record an EP which you can use to exchange with website visitors for their contact details. This will be your bargaining tool.

2. Set up a web page to promote the EP

Create a page on your website which doesn’t have too many (if any) other distractions. On here you should have a song of yours to listen to, preferably in video format. You should also let them know that if they want more tracks of you for free, you’ll email them a link or send them your new EP if they add their contact details. You can create a form in Mailchimp, Aweber, or other email marketing tools.

You’re mainly interested in a name and email address, but you can always ask for more details if you like. Be warned though: the more details you ask for, the less people will likely fill it out. Don’t create an unnecessary barrier, and make sure to have a picture of your EP on the page to get them more excited about what they’ll receive.

Now that you’ve got your bargaining tool set up and ready to tempt fans to give you their email address, you’re ready to release your first piece of music.

3. Launch a single

The first thing you should release to the public isn’t an album, EP, or mixtape; it’s a single! I’ve looked a lot more at why this is in The IMA Music Business Academy, but in short:

Singles are cheaper to produce than EPs, CDs, or mixtapes. Don’t invest a lot of time and money into recording a full-length music release before you start seeing results that your music is resonating with an audience.

The main aim for this single will be to raise awareness of you and your music and drive any people who hear and like the song to your website. Here you’ll offer them the free EP in exchange for their email address.

Keep promoting this single, and promote the EP they can get for free alongside it at every opportunity. The more people who download the freebie, the more people you’ll be able to email and promote your future music to.

Pro Tip: By the way, make sure the single you promote is offered to fans as a paid option. You want to give them the opportunity to give you money if they want to. Some fans will.

4. Release more singles, leading up to another EP or a full-length album on CD

Once you’ve finished your EP and released your first single, it’s usually best to release another single. After a few singles are released and you have a few songs under your belt, you’ll want to go on to release bigger works. This can be either a mixtape, another EP, or possibly a CD if you’ve built up enough buzz.

The good thing is there should be some songs which your fans like that are more popular than the rest, so you can include these on your next release. This will add to the value without you doing any additional work.

Conclusion

While every musician should have a mixtape or album after they’ve been making music for a while, it makes more sense for newer musicians without many songs under them to release singles initially. Do this, build up your fan base and your catalog, and email your newsletter subscribers each time something new comes out.

So what do you think about this plan? Do you have anything to add which you feel will make it even better? Let us know in the comments.

This article was written by Shaun Letang of Music Industry How To. If you found it useful, you’ll want to read his free music marketing ebook, a must read for musicians trying to promote their music.

Planning your album from beginning to end

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Planning your album: your CD release (and post-release)
ISRC, Gracenote, and CD-Text explained (and provided) here!
An independent musician needs to make CDs
Building your online presence

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14 thoughts on “Should your next music release be an EP or an album?

  1. I have been scratching my head on what to release, how many songs, when? And how far apart between each release? So this article gave me a great idea! I am releasing a single, and each month release a single so I will have 3 songs in my collection using the same cover art, but only the title is changed. After releasing the 3 singles, I will have another 2 songs to record, then I can release a 5 song EP. Anyone has any thought? Also, nobody really talks about how far apart the singles should be released.

  2. This is one of the strategies that does work. In my case when I released my CD Smooth Elegance, it is 14 songs from previous CDs that I have not released to the public. Therefore, my CD is a compilation of songs that I have written and recorded between 2000 and 2009

  3. Great article! I read a comment about this subject some time ago from guitarist Brian Ray (Paul McCartney) on YouTube about the current musical climate/industry and releasing singles vs a full-length release, it made complete sense to me. In my opinion, the Internet/Social Media is simply inundated with great music and crap creating “option anxiety” and who can keep up with it all? It’s about pacing yourself giving your fan base an opportunity to “digest” your brand/type of sound and style…less is more.

  4. These are some excellent points and good information! Singles are so important in today’s music environment, or constant turnover. And the comments above about how singles can stretch out the timeline for your new music staying relevant are dead on and something I did not think of! Great job…

  5. Which product would you suggest using for a college radio promotional campaign. And at what point would you start that campaign (either using a service or DIY)?

  6. According to Recording Industry Association of America, an EP is defined as 3-5 songs OR under 30 minutes, whereas a single is allowed to contain up to 4 songs.

    and..to the above classical composer, Mr. John Newell – “Some classical music albums released at the beginning of the LP era were also distributed as EP albums—notably the seven operas that Arturo Toscanini conducted on radio between 1944 and 1954.”

  7. I pretty much agree. If you record enough tunes for an EP, album, or mixtape and release all at once, you are putting all you eggs in one basket, you have shot your wadd. You have nothing left, no more ammo. Getting behind each tune as a single release and promoting each strongly will get more buzz and have more impact per tune/track/buick$ than releasing them all at once on a CD, EP, or mixtape. You are stretching out the commotion over your music over a longer period of time. Recording tunes takes money and time. You would be fortunate to be able to release another CD or EP 10 – 12 months later. Whereas, with singles 12 tracks could last you 18 months – perhaps a little more, perhaps a little less. Use your judgment. When buzz falls off of a single, wait a couple weeks and release another single. Adjust as necessary as you go along. You should be recording in the meantime – during that 18 months you should record an additional 6 tunes. If circumstances justify it, you could release an EP, or CD. However, I caution against doing that unless the circumstances truly call for it. Because – even then you could shoot your wadd and have nothing for a while. Maintain a reliable, predictable flow of your music. Avoid “dead air” at all costs.

  8. I’m a little confused… If I have done the EP, and promoted with the website, how is the single the first thing that I released? Or do you mean that the single is the first thing I offer for sale? And should this single be a new song (not from the EP)?

    On a related note, I have many many songs written that I just have never produced. I will soon complete a home studio and expect to really ramp up production. After the EP and the single, then a follow up EP etc… what would be the best way to release a large quantity of previously unreleased material. Or should I just accept the fact that most of what I write will never be released?

    Thanks

    1. I’ve always heard it as “Extended Play”, but really a shorter multi-song release. It’s usually an album of only 3 – 5 songs, shorter than a full album but more than one single track.
      They’re rare in stores really, and even online. But with the speed in which a recording can be from my home studio to the internet for sale, I can see EPs becoming a more prominent part in the marketplace. Cheaper than full albums (to purchase and to produce) but more than a single.

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