Singles Vs EPs | How Should You Release Your Music?
In the past, things were simple. You'd release some singles to generate hype and then put out a full album. The singles were there to serve as promotion for the bigger piece of material. However, with streaming dominating the music world, listening habits have changed massively. The power is in the listener's hands. They can skip a song they don't like in an instant, very few people take time to solely listen to music without distraction and compilation playlists are almost like the new radio. As a result of these changes, things are a bit more complex and there are a few different routes you could take when putting your music out into the world. So which approach should you take? Here are some things to consider.
The pros of releasing singles
Releasing music as a steady stream of singles has become a very popular approach in recent years and with good reason. The main benefit of this approach is that you can maximise the amount of opportunities that come your way for every bit creative output. Think of your release as a shot at goal. When you release an EP, that's one shot. One single from the EP may get regular radio play or placements in a Spotify playlists. The EP would also be reviewed by bloggers as a whole piece of work, they're not going to write a seperate article for each track. However, split that EP up into a series of singles and you have multiple shots at goal, resulting in more opportunities for the same amount of creative output.
Another reason to spread your music out like this is to make the most of playlist features. This is pretty much the best and one of the most targeted ways to get your music in front of new listeners at the moment. However, most curators will only feature one song from a given artist at a time and Spotify's own playlist submission tool will only let you submit one track per release to their team for consideration. This means that the rest of your EP isn't able to get anywhere near the same amount of exposure as the lead single.
Being an independent artist is essentially running a small business, meaning your marketing needs to be on point so that you can sell your product. One of the keys to great marketing is staying top of mind and keeping up the momentum. In marketing there's something called "The Rule of 7", which simply states that it takes the average person 7 interactions with your brand before a purchase is made. It's the same for your music. When you release one EP every year, it's a lot harder to keep the momentum going, keep people interacting and stay top of mind. However, split that EP into singles and you've multiplied your ability to get into peoples newsfeeds and playlists and as a result, it'll be a lot harder for them to forget about you.
When you know you have five brand new songs ready to go and you're excited to share them with the world, it's only natural to want to put them all out at once, but if you're able to resist the instant gratification, you might be able to get a lot more out of each track. Treat the singles approach as the long game. The aim is to experience steady, natural growth more regularly.
The pros of releasing an EP
Although releasing singles can be the more sensible strategy for most independent artists, there are plenty of upsides to releasing an EP as well. Firstly, an EP can make a bigger impression on both your listeners and the press. A well thought out body of work can bring with it a sense of professionalism. It can be like a statement of intent, showing that you're serious about your art, which always leaves a good impression on music industry curators and professionals. It also lends itself to bigger coverage spots. You may be more likely to land that double page spread in your music scenes magazine of choice or an interview on the radio.
There's also more opportunity for physical copies with an EP. Even the most adoring fans probably aren't going to want to pay £1 for single CD, sheerly because it doesn't hold much value, but with a bigger collection of songs you have a more valuable product that your most admiring listeners can hold and cherish, be it on a CD, vinyl or cassette.
There's also a lot less pressure to be consistent and constantly working on your music with less regularly EP releases. Even if you do all of your production at once, which is rarely the case, the singles approach means that you'll be working on a new promotional campaign at least every couple of months, which can be tiring to say the least. With an EP, you can spread things out much more, making it easier to work in around everyday life and the day job.
Lastly, if there's a concept tying your tracks together or if putting them on the same EP is what's artistically intended for them, then that's what you need to do, so long as your goals and expectations are in line with this. Your true fans may also appreciate this more.
Is there a middle ground?
Absolutely. You could combine these approaches by releasing a "set" of 3 or 4 singles, like a drip fed EP. You can tie it all together not only with consistency in the concept behind the songs, but with the artwork as well. Furthermore, you could add in a couple more "bonus" songs (acoustic versions, live versions, a track that didn't quite make it) once the singles are released and put all of the tracks together into an EP. You might have strung out the process, but you will still have released a full product, while getting the most out of the opportunities that come your way with multiple releases. As long as the ISRC codes and audio match, the streams on the final EP will be linked to the singles.
Take this away
Consider these questions to choose the best approach for you:
- What is your goal over the next year? (Is audience building your priority? Or maybe you just want to get your art out there?)
- How does your budget play into this? (Singles are less costly, but you have to keep the consistency up. Whereas an EP will be a bigger investment at once)
- How do you want your music to be consumed? (Maybe you want it to be consumed as one, bigger product, played in order or maybe that's not important to you)
- What does your audience want? (Do they want an entire EP? Or are they constantly wanting new material from you? What are their listening habits like? Do you still need to build a solid audience?)
I hope this is helpful for you. Just remember that there is no one set path and no right or wrong. Think carefully about the questions above and plan out the strategy the fits what yourself and your fans need from your music.