Album vs EP: 7 Reasons Why You Should Stop Releasing Full Length Albums

Picture yourself being in a new band. You release a demo but then and your bandmates decide to release full length albums going forward. You release the album and it gains plenty of exposure, so you go on tour to support it. After the album touring cycle now what? You need to release something new ensuring your band remains relevant.

So you begin the writing process, trying to fund the new album, going into the studio to record, promoting the upcoming release, playing one off shows in between, and all the while you’re fan base is sitting around waiting for new music for over a year after the initial release.

Shouldn’t there be an easier approach? Why put in all that effort in releasing 10-12 songs on one album? Instead you could release various EP’s or singles throughout the year. You can keep your fans not only consistently engaged, but to keep them engaged with new music consistently. Here’s 7 reasons why you should stop releasing full length albums and switch to EPs or singles.

1: You can release more music over a span of time

Most bands will release a full length album with let’s say 12 songs on it. That number is a bit on the higher side, but we’ll use it as an example. Out of those 12 songs you may get 3-4 singles out of it. The problem is with the new model you typically release 2 songs and a music video prior to the release of the album so those singles are already done for. You now have an entire year in hopes that the remaining songs are strong enough to keep the album a float.

Instead what you could do is release those 12 songs in the form of EPs or “Extended Plays” separately over a span of time. You could release 3 EPs containing 4 songs each every 3 months which will give you at least 9 months’ worth of consistent material. However, you can play with the timing. You could release an EP, wait 4 months, release another EP, and repeat to maximize your time. With that approach you just kept your fans engaged with new music for a year.

If you want to break it down even more, you can take the Single approach instead. With a single it’s just one song. You could release 1 song a month for an entire year and support it with an occasional video. A lot of artists are gravitating towards singles model, primarily Hip-Hop and just releasing a video. See Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” which gained nearly a half a billion views with no album to support.

2: Reducing costs by paying for less recording time

When recording 12 songs and spanning them over time you maximize your release schedule. You could record all the songs at once and proceed to space the releases out or there’s another approach where you can minimize spending on recording.

Recording costs can vary but let’s say the average recording is $500.00 per song. If you record only 4 songs that’s $2,000.00 as opposed to spending $6,000.00 at one time for 12 songs. You can then release the album digitally, do a limited run of merchandise, and raise money for the next one. Costs will vary as well based on merchandise you get along with album art. However, if you price point merch and music accordingly you could very well pay for the next EP.

Same goes with singles except with singles you could do one at a time. Pay the $500.00 to release the single, use some basic artwork to support it for digital distribution, and promote it. Singles are a little tougher to recoup unless you’re getting 500 downloads at $1.00 each or getting thousands of streams on Spotify and Apple Music. Below is a nice streaming royalties calculator you can use as a guideline for streams needed to raise $500.00.

Now if you were savvy enough to record on your own, EVEN BETTER! Costs will be minimal to get started but ultimately mastering and album art may be the biggest expenses if you choose to outsource. You can save a lot of money recording on your own and when you’re ready to release, profits will be higher due to less overhead. You could put that money to good use such as re-investing in your studio.

3: It helps boost streams, downloads, and overall revenue

Touching up upon the revenue portion a little more. If you were to release EP’s and singles instead of full length albums you can create a steadier stream of income. With a full length album most of your earnings are pre and a few most post album release then profits start to taper off. With releasing an EP every 3-4 months a new release will encourage continuous sales and exposure for past releases. Same goes for Singles. When you’re releasing something new every month you can maintain consistent downloads or streams through the years.

Per my personal experience when new music is released I have seen an increase in plays from older releases as well. If you’re consistently releasing new music your fans won’t be just listening to the new music, they’ll be going back and listening to other stuff in your catalog as well.

If you plan on releasing an EP or Single I would recommend releasing it on these services.

  • Spotify
  • Apple Music
  • Tidal
  • Bandcamp

With Bandcamp I recommend setting your pricing as “Name your price” to maximize your return. Having music set for free can be intimidating but fans will support you if they like it enough. I found that naming your own price will yield either free downloads of your music or people paying sometimes more. Either way, your music is being heard!

4: More EP Release Shows!

People still like going to shows but you know what they like more? Music release shows! Because you’ll be releasing an EP every 3-4 months you could put on a show to support it. It’s now more than just a show, it’s an experience. People want an experience when they go out. Play the EP start to finish for a 1st set and then do a second of older material, covers, or even a new song from the next EP to make it even more of an experience.

However you wish to release the EP is completely up to you but whether it’s a CD, 7″ Vinyl, or maybe just download cards. Either way the crowds will come out for a release show.

With Singles you may not want to take this approach as a “Single Release Show” doesn’t hold the same weight to release show. Also you will flood the market with too many home-town shows playing once a month.

5: Splits with other bands

Reaching a new audience is more important now than ever, so why not take the 3-4 songs you’re going to release on an EP and combined them with 3-4 songs of another band? Split albums are great for cross promotion as people can be into multiple styles of music. For instance, you may not think that a split album of a heavy metal band and a hip-hop group will work BUT some people actually do enjoy both styles music.

Some of my favorite soundtracks of all time included a mix of metal and hiphop. For instance, “The Crow: City of Angles” soundtrack. Granted the movie wasn’t all that great but the soundtrack contains tracks from Deftones, Korn, Filter, Tricky vs. Gravediggaz, and Above The Law which contains a mix of hard rock, punk, and hip-hop.

6: You will always appear active

Has anyone ever asked you “so what is your band up to?” and you either have nothing to say or a laundry list of items? Wouldn’t it be better if the fans didn’t ask, and they just knew? Because you’re releasing music consistently fans can now say “ohh they’re going to be putting out some new music soon I’m sure” when talking about your band.

Appearing active is key in the music industry due to declining attention spans among teens and adults. As artists we have to compete for sound and screen time against other artists as well as social media feeds being flooded. When not appearing active people tend to forget you. They stop following you on social media or even going to your shows.

Releasing consistent music is a way to change that and it will also help with the lulls of trying to figure out what kind of content to post on social media. You will be able to appear active, keep your fans up to date easier knowing what’s coming, and giving everyone what they want. More music.

7: You keep those creative juices flowing

Downtime is an artist’s worst enemy. Unless you’re practicing or writing constantly, you’re more than likely to get rusty and get “WRITER’S BLOCK!” When you’re releasing music consistently, you’ll always challenge yourself to write and record. You’ll be making a commitment to yourself and the fans to consistently put music out there for the world to hear because that’s what you love to do and what you’re good at.

When creating music consistently it will be practice. You’ll constantly be writing, homing in on how to write best and more effectively. Before you know it, you’ll be able to write songs in no time that fit your vision that you can release quickly.

In conclusion

It’s all about being consistent as an artist in regard to releasing music and content. People want to know you’re still around and as an artist music is best way to show that you are. Making money as an artist is also getting hard so its key to have a way to generate a steady revenue stream. So, release those songs or EP’s, play those release shows, increase your revenue, and most of all have fun!

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