So I got a message to my Instagram profile the other day asking about release timing. (If you have a question feel free to DM me, @mattbacon666) It was a good one, I won’t go into specifics but it made me realize this isn’t a topic that I have covered a lot here. So let’s dig in for a bit. There are a few ways to approach release cycles but I think the general rule is, like with touring, you always want to have something on the horizon. The people who make the decisions, and I say this as one of them, are looking for bands who have shit going on. They aren’t looking for bands who have great music, that’s expected, that’s the base line. They need more than that. They need bands who have a proven track record of going out and doing shit, who a record of pushing forward and creating material that matters. So if you can have a release strategy that reflects this then you are going to be able to move forward much more effectively.
Now of course – I do want to say that the two year release cycle is the two year release cycle for a goddamn reason. You don’t want to overwhelm fans and you want to make sure that you are clearly working towards something all the time. Simultaneously bands need to take enough time to write a great record. That being said – it seems like two years is really all the time you get. If you take a break longer than three, even if you were touring the whole time the first thing you’ll hear is how ‘quiet’ you have been. That’s happening right now to one of my best friends bands and it’s weird. That’s not to say they made a bad choice – it was in fact probably the best choice they could have made, but be aware this is how peoples brains work. Simultaneously, if you can lock your band into a rhythm of regularly releasing material then people will come to expect it and they will dig it. People love reliability no matter what the form.
Simultaneously I want to say that people who push ‘innovative’ release strategies pretty much always fuck up. This is usually because they want to release a song every month. I have seen this happen precisely once in the underground world and that was with Protest The Hero. Not only did they not like doing it that way but they had a lot of trouble pulling it off. In most other cases where people try to write a month they start off with three or four tracks good to go but then tail off for whatever reason. It’s hard to maintain an artistic vision like that. Tied into this, you need to be able to pay for sustained PR over the course of a year which is obviously very difficult and furthermore – people in my experience don’t really care about singles unless they are tied into some form of album release at which point the album is really more the news than the single. Relatively random singles don’t work over a sustained period – even for major bands.
Similar to this is the band who tries to release an EP every quarter or whatever. The people who do that are shooting themselves in the mouth just as much. This is for two reasons. First and foremost, as with the regular singles thing – regularly producing that content is fucking hard and getting the PR engine boiling again is hard, because as strange as it sounds people take singles and EP’s with the same amount of seriousness. Unless the EP is seriously something special, or you are in a genre that really supports 7 inches it’s probably not worth it. This ties into my second thing – bands who only put out EP’s often will have labels and fans alike wondering ‘when they will do something serious’. If you are a band who routinely put out EP’s and take like 2 years for each EP and they aren’t GODDAMN MASTERPIECES you’re going to get shown the door.
This all being said there are a ton of exceptions and ways to put out content that is cool and meaningful regularly. I am a big fan of doing a lot of splits. For me a band like Primitive Man have the perfect take on content creation because they are constantly unleashing splits, seven inches and all that good shit on top of their regular albums and EP’s and constant goddamn touring. Other bands who do this well include Crowhurst whose big focus is on releasing a ton of cool electronic music and balancing it out with metal records. Figure out a content strategy that makes sense for you but make sure that it’s more than just releasing 15 minutes of music every three years. Make sure that there is a clear path forward and a plan with every release. I know it’s hard to think about releasing the next record after recording one but that’s how it needs to be. Have a vision and be willing to fucking bleed for it, otherwise you won’t get anywhere.
I know it sucks to have to always be writing and plotting your next release. Think about it this way – when label people are talking to you and serious about you, or even just generally curious they are going to ask ‘So what do you have coming up?’ and you have basically two options to impress them, it’s either an upcoming tour or an upcoming album, ideally both. If it’s just local shows you’ll get cast aside as another local band. So instead take the time to think about it and have a seven inch follow up to your album maybe six months after. Have an EP ready to go if you’re trying to write a concept album that’s taking you a while. It’s all good. It’s encouraged. Dig into it.