So an increasingly popular strategy in the music industry these days has been to release a bevy of EP’s rather than focusing on a full length. The strategy behind this is that full lengths are hard to write and it’s better to put out an EP every year then an album every two or three. Now I certainly understand and sympathize with that notion. It makes a lot of sense for one thing. After all, if we’re supposed to be generating constant content, then why not just put out a series of EP’s rather than focusing on longer formats that put you a lot more at risk? The variation on this is putting out singles once a month, or every quarter or whatever. The point being which is better, annual EP’s or waiting to put out a record? It’s one of those questions that divides opinions in the scene and forces us to pick apart the root of the problem. Of course – this whole thing is rather multifaceted, and there is a lot to dig in to and uncover within.
One thing I will say is that the people who are putting out EP’s regularly rather than albums tend to be lower level individuals in the music industry. I’m not trying to attack any bands who are a fan of the EP method – I just find that most bands with major management and labels tend to stick to LP’s. Now this is for a lot of reasons, obviously albums are a better return on investment since they sell far better. Furthermore – as an artistic statement, an EP is kind of a hard thing to make feel complete and when you are trying to create the most honest artistic statement that you can it feels to me that very often a band is selling themselves short. Don’t get me wrong, there are some EP’s that I love – but as a rule, they simply don’t perform as well commercially or artistically as albums. You need to balance this against the value of regularly having material come out every few months.
With these sorts of things I like to look at what major labels do when they are trying to break an artist. I can tell you that a lot of labels aren’t even interested in putting out EP’s because they know that they aren’t going to satisfy the bands artistic goals and won’t make as much money as on a full length album. However, I have also noticed that a lot of major labels counteract this by seriously drawing out the single release process. For example, one of my favorite bands, Florida Georgia Line who put out their first single on this album cycle a full four months before their album comes out. Something else that labels and major managers tend to do is to use EP’s to release extra material, be it covers, a few songs that didn’t make it on the album or a few live cuts. It’s usually better to have an extra release in your catalogue than a bonus edition after all. Furthermore, those sorts of EP’s can be put together for a fairly low cost and which enhance the discography without being a major effort that messes up the all important album release cycle.
I think that the role of the EP is, in the modern context, best used as an introduction to the world at large. Countless artists in recent years have gotten their start with an EP that turned into major label deals for full length records. Just look at pop stars like Kesha and Lorde, or even indie darlings like Modern Baseball. Sometimes putting out an EP with a good PR campaign behind it is a great way to test the waters and introduce yourself to the world. A good EP gives a glimpse at who the band is and what they are capable of. It shows that you are capable of a professional sound and gives you something much more solid to wrap your initial launch around than just a demo. If you want to come off as totally professional and ready for this whole screwed up industry, then using an EP as a sort of business card is going to be a great jumping off point for you to start talking to anyone from managers and booking agents to record labels.
Odds are that your band, after your first couple releases, isn’t going to have the resources to put out regular EP’s and would be much better served with focusing on full lengths. Full lengths feel more concrete. Established bands put out full lengths – baby bands put out EP’s. I know that’s not always true, but it’s one of those weird psychological things that’s going to put people off. Sure you have material a lot more often than many of your peers, but assuming you have your album release cycle on lock anyway then EP’s are going to be a lot less tempting. The only time where regular EP’s can really help is splits – but that’s a conversation for a different day, and one that has a whole different set of criterion when it comes to figuring out if that’s a good idea. The point being – be wary of regular EP releases. Even though it definitely does work for some bands, I feel like the fact that labels and management companies are increasingly leery eyed of using EP’s as anything more than a fun bonus is an important sign.
So yeah – I hope you take this advice, and realize that if you have been putting out EP’s regularly there’s nothing wrong with that either. Some bands DO use the EP model to great success. Good for them. All I’m saying is that in my experience EP’s are rarely be the better choice unless you have a ton of resources at your disposal or are trying to hype an upcoming major release. I mean – maybe I’m totally wrong, but I’ve always learned through observation and this has been the recurring theme that I have noticed in m own experience – take that as you will. The music industry is a weird place, so maybe it will all change tomorrow, but as for now, this is how things seem to work out best for the most people.