Ah, the age-old question. Should you release a full length album or an EP? Or, if we want to complicate it even more, do you just release all singles? Depending on who you ask, you’re bound to get a ton of different answers. And it’s true, there are arguments for each.
But, after 12+ years in the music industry as both a journalist, a publicist, and a marketer, I want to shed light on the pros and cons of each so that you can make a decision based on what’s best for you. Plus, I’ll share which I ultimately recommend to independent artists.
First, albums. What are the pros and cons?
The first pro is that it’s cohesive. It’s a compilation of all your work packaged up with a neat little bow for the world to enjoy. It’s also an opportunity to showcase your body of work in a way that compliments and highlights the other songs. For example, you could do 5 high-energy songs and 3 ballads and one experimental track and it would all make sense together and even make the other songs shine. Plus, super fans will love the opportunity to dive deep into a full-length, as will the press.
They also give the opportunity for future merch, vinyl, etc. Of course, you can also do this with an EP, but with more material to work from on a full-length you have more to draw from. Also, more songs mean more opportunities that one of those songs resonates with someone, be it a fan, press, or industry professional.
The downside is, they’re long, which can be tough when you’re trying to get new fans to listen. They’re also costly and they take a lot of time.
EPs, what are the pros and cons?
The biggest pro to EPs is that they’re cheaper to make, quicker to make, and easier for new listeners to sink their teeth into. Asking someone who is just getting to know you to listen for 20-30 minutes is a lot more reasonable than asking them to commit an hour to it, and because of that, you’re more likely to bring in more fans quicker. It also allows you to move faster when it comes to releasing. As an independent artist, agility and adaptability are key, and EPs allow for quick releases, seeing what works, and then taking that knowledge and applying it to the next thing.
The cons are that you can’t release your music as an extensive body of work or experiment quite as much as you can with a full length. Plus, you have to think a bit more strategically about which songs make the cut.
Singles only release
The pros are you have a steady stream of singles to release throughout the year, and it allows you to truly experiment with your sound and style, as well as build streams and fan engagement because you’re constantly releasing new music. This works really well in some genres (hip-hop for instance) and less well in others (like rock).
The cons are that if fans want a comprehensive look at your music (especially from a certain time period) there’s no real way to view that because it’s all singles. It also can feel a little disjointed to continually be releasing single after single with none of it ever culminating into anything. For whatever reason, we as human beings tend to like things wrapped up neatly for us and so having an EP or album that a set of songs lives on, ultimately seems preferable most of the time.
Personally, I don’t think the never-ending single release makes sense for most independent artists, but I wanted to outline it as an option regardless.
So, which should you release?
Of course, this is just my opinion so take it with a grain of salt and think about what your fans have responded best to in the past. However, in my opinion, for the emerging indie artist who is still growing their career, EPs make the most sense.
This is because:
- It’s easier for new fans and the industry to absorb an EP. It’s a lot to ask a new listener to spend an hour or more with an LP of a band they don’t really know or like yet. It’s a little more reasonable to expect them to spend 20-30 min
- EPs are much cheaper and quicker to produce. At about half the songs of an LP, that’s going to help you save a little money that you can allocate towards the promotion of the songs. (press, marketing, touring, etc) This is important so that you can actually get your music heard.
- As a growing band, your sound and brand will evolve. Right now, you’re still figuring out what works and an EP is the way to do that. I believe an album makes more sense for a band that’s already hyper-clear on its brand and direction, and has a thriving fanbase that is going to support that kind of release. For most emerging bands still finding that, an EP is going to make a lot more sense.
What do you think? As a fan, which do you prefer from a band you’re just checking out for the first time? As a musician, what have you seen work for indie artists?