What is an EP and why is it the best choice for emerging artists? An EP, short for extended play, is a musical release that is longer than a single, but shorter than a full-length album. It typically contains around four to six tracks. EPs are an ideal choice for emerging artists because they allow artists to showcase their music without having to commit to a full-length debut album. They are often used as a way to introduce an artist to fans and to introduce a new sound. EPs are also a great way to experiment with new ideas, as they are generally shorter and less expensive to produce. In this article, we will explore what is an EP and how it can help emerging artists achieve greater success in the music industry.
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1. A bit of history: what is an EP?
The single, the EP, the mixtape, the album- there are many different formats to release music! The industry of recorded music is ever evolving as listening habits evolve. As recording technology evolves with it, we have adapted our listening habits! Streaming and digital downloads have replaced CDs and cassette tapes, which in their turn replaced vinyl records and turntables. Sure, vintage vinyl and cassettes are making a comeback. But to understand where the EP originally came from, we have to go back in history to an era where vinyl was king.
The EP dates all the way back to the early 1950s! At the time, music releases were pressings on vinyl records. The larger the vinyl, the more recordings you could fit onto it. Thus, larger vinyls with more songs on them were more expensive to produce. To compensate for the production cost, the company RCA Victor, today a subsidiary of Sony, put the EP on the market in 1952. What is an EP? The EP was developed to provide a more economical alternative to a full-length album, or LP (long play) record. LPs were often too expensive to produce for smaller and independent labels and record companies. When the EP came out, labels could release shorter collections of songs that could be sold for a more affordable price. The shorter format allowed for more creative and ambitious projects to be undertaken as well. It became a widely accepted format that even was included in the Billboard charts.
In the 1960s, some of the most iconic musical acts in history rose to fame and along with them, the EP. Artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan all released EPs instead of full-length albums. The Beatles released their first EP, Long Tall Sally in 1964, followed by Four By The Beatles and The Beatles’ Second Album in 1965. The Rolling Stones released their debut EP The Rolling Stones in 1964 and followed it up with Five By Five in 1965. Bob Dylan released his debut EP, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963, and followed it up with his classic folk album The Times They Are A-Changin’ in 1964. While some EPs contained four or five tracks, the most common format featured two songs on each side of a 10-inch vinyl record.
By the 1970s, the format shifted to include more tracks and greater running time. As technology advanced, EPs could now include up to four songs on one side of a 12-inch vinyl record. In the 70s, there were a number of famous artists who released EPs, including David Bowie with his release of Pin Ups, Elton John with his EP 17-11-70, and Led Zeppelin with their release of The Song Remains the Same. All three of these EPs were highly successful and have since become classic staples in the music industry. Throughout the 80s and 90s, the EP remained a common format, but singles and full length albums took the lead in vinyl sales across record stores.
The EP format experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 2000s. The advent of digital music allowed artists to release EPs more frequently than ever before. Record labels also began to release more EPs in order to promote new artists and break them into the mainstream. Furthermore, EPs allowed artists to experiment more with their sound, enabling them to explore different musical styles and find their niche. Especially in the genres of electronic music, rap, and hip-hop, the EP was the perfect tool to experiment and define new genres.
2. Why release an EP over a single or an album?
An artist’s job, apart from creating music, is to promote their music and gain visibility and new listeners. From growing a fanbase on social networks to contacting medias with Groover, there are many ways to go about music promotion. To promote your music successfully, having an EP ready to share with fans and music industry professionals is essential.
To get your music heard by professionals in the music industry, having just one catchy single may not be enough. Even if the new single is a hit, you have to be able to prove that you have new songs that are just as good. Why not record a full album then? First of all, composing a full length album is ambitious, costly, and can take a long time. Secondly, whether it’s the media or the music pros, they may not have time to listen to your new album anyway- especially if they’ve never heard of you.
The EP, on the other hand, is the ideal format for emerging artists. Releasing an EP can be a great way for emerging artists to start building a fan base. An EP allows the artist to showcase more than one song, giving the listener a better understanding of their style. The artist must be extra careful in choosing the tracklist: every song counts. It also enables the artist to explore different genres and potential collaborations. An EP offers a longer marketing lifespan than a single, as the artist can promote it for an extended amount of time. Releasing an EP will cost less in terms of production and marketing and is a great way to get feedback.
For artists who are just starting out, it is normal to experiment with finding your unique sound. Working on an EP allows you to lay the foundations of your musical style. From a songwriting standpoint, it also allows the artist more freedom to explore different themes. The EP is a great tool to gain visibility because it acts as a teaser. When the upcoming album arrives later on, you will already have an established fan base ready to share your music.
| Also read: Building a universe around your project
3. When should you release an EP?
When deciding to release an EP, there are a few different factors to consider. Generally, it’s a good idea to release an EP in the early stages of a music career. Lots of artists begin their careers with a self-titled album, and you can do the same with a self-titled EP. However, this doesn’t mean that EPs are just for emerging artists! It is also a good idea to release an EP when the artist has a strong following and needs to keep fans engaged in between album releases. Were you in a duo or the frontman of a rock band and now want to go off on your own and release a solo album? Start with an EP instead.
Releasing an EP can be a great way for an artist to introduce new material, build anticipation for a full album, or even to just release a batch of new singles. Some artists choose to release an EP live album or an EP compilation of bonus tracks, instrumental tracks, or unreleased music. Lana Del Rey released a self titled EP in 2012 and then rereleased the same songs as part of her second studio album Born to Die. If you take a look at some of the best albums and the discography of famous artists, you’ll find songs released previously on EPs.
The successive release of EPs has been used by many successful artists, such as Billie Eilish, Hozier, and Lorde. By releasing multiple EPs, these artists have managed to gain large followings and create a unique sound. Let’s take the example of French rapper Laylow. Today, this artist is considered highly successful, with listeners waiting patiently for every new release. Before reaching this point, with the successful albums Trinity and The Strange Story of Mr. Anderson, he released 5 EPs. During these EPs, he was able to develop his artistic identity and grow his audience. Releasing music more frequently also helps to get the attention of the Spotify algorithm and boost your streams.
As you can see, the EP format can be useful throughout one’s career- not just for emerging artists. It’s important to release EPs in between bigger projects in order to keep the momentum of your career going. As the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot. Making a second album takes a lot of time. The EP is a way to capitalize on the success of your recently released album while keeping your fans interested.
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4. How much does it cost to produce an EP?
The cost of producing an EP will depend on the scale of the project and the budget of the artist. Music creation can cost anything from almost nothing to thousands of euros. It all depends on what you decide to do, how you do it, and your budget and resources. Let’s explore some possible scenarios.
When we say that music creation can cost almost nothing we mean in terms of money, not time. The time spent on producing an EP is hard to quantify. Some artists spend years producing an EP and others will do it in a matter of days or weeks. More and more artists, however, are choosing to produce music at home in a more DIY and low budget context. Regarding the material needed to record and produce music, once again, all prices exist. You can decide to invest in a home studio instead of going to professional studios. Investing in a home studio can be expensive at first, but in the long run it will be advantageous. To get basic equipment to set up your home studio (without the computer and DAW), you can expect to spend anywhere between 400€ and 2000€.
If you want to record in a professional studio, there are several ways of going about it. It is strongly advised to use a sound engineer during your sessions, but it is obviously not mandatory. You can usually book professional studios with or without a sound engineer present. Booking with the sound engineer will of course be more expensive. If you don’t have band members, you will need to set aside a budget for hiring session musicians to play: a guitarist, drummer, bassist, pianist, second vocalist for harmonies, a synth player, etc. This fee will depend on the rate of the musician and will either be by the hour, by the day, or by the track.
Some studios offer off-peak hours which are less expensive than recording during busy times. Expect to pay between 35 and 60€/hour in Paris and its surroundings for time in a professional studio. As you can see, the less time you spend in the studio, the less money you need to invest in your EP. This is another reason to choose the EP as your first project: it is shorter by definition, thus requiring less time and investment.
Then comes the mixing and mastering. Some talented artists also double as sound engineers and do the mixing and mastering themselves. However, we strongly advise you to call on professionals to get the best sound quality possible. Mixing and mastering an EP can cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand euros depending on the complexity and length of the project. Professional mixing and mastering services will typically charge an hourly rate or a flat fee per project or per song. It is important to research the quality of the engineer’s work before making a decision. Quality mixing and mastering can enhance the sound of your project and make it sound more uniform across streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. The cost of mixing and mastering an EP can also vary depending on the engineer’s experience and the length and complexity of the project.
Last but not least, don’t forget to have a plan or a small budget for the EP cover art. Visuals are an important part of your release, especially for new artists, so make sure you choose an EP album cover that will make an impression.
Conclusion: What is an EP and why is it the best choice for emerging artists?
In conclusion, releasing an EP as an emerging artist can be a great way to start building your music career. It can help you to establish a fanbase, generate revenue, and get your music heard. The EP is a versatile tool that spans music from all genres; pop music, punk, rock n roll, disco, funk, psychedelic music, and more. Testing out a new style of music? Try releasing a first single before an EP and follow it up with a first album. Want to focus on playing live instead of releasing new albums all the time? Some independent artists nowadays manage to start touring just after releasing their first EP. You don’t need to be on your third album to book tour dates!
In recent years, indie artists especially have been able to gain substantial fame through the release of EPs. A prime example of this is singer-songwriter Billie Eilish, who released her debut EP Don’t Smile at Me in 2017, which earned her a Grammy nomination. Indie-rock artist Phoebe Bridgers released her debut EP Killer in 2017, and has since earned international acclaim for her music. As you can see, an EP can be a powerful tool in launching your career and reaching a wider audience.
– Translated by Mackenzie Leighton –