Albums Vs EP’s Vs Single Tracks, Covers and Other Thoughts

Albums, EP’s, and Single Tracks

Streaming has certainly changed things in regards to the longevity of the product life cycle. Music just doesn’t stay with the listener as long as it used to.

“Playlist culture” has certainly changed things in regards to the consumption of music. The entire album is listened to a handful of times, then favorite tracks are added to playlists.

These two big shifts have a lot of up-and-coming artists thinking long and hard about albums vs EP’s vs single tracks.

Here’s what I think: single tracks and EP’s are absolutely the most efficient way to release music, but albums are the most effective. The fragmented, easy-to-digest, playlist-friendly route of EP’s and single tracks is certainly the most conducive to current consumption trends and allows you to release more frequently, which helps you stay in front of the listener, but….neither come anywhere close to the impact a good/great album can have. A good album let’s the listener fully sink their teeth in, and allows them to get to know the artist and their music.  An album has a much stronger identity and can potentially turn a decent concert experience in to a great one. An album is what puts you on the next tier and turns casual fans, into loyal ones, and loyal fans in to super-fans. It’s what really gets people talking on Twitter and sharing links through text messages.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely a place for EP’s and single tracks, but they should be just an occasionally compliment to a catalog of albums. Eventually the chips and salsa no longer satisfy, regardless of how good they are, or how often they keep refilling them. You want an entre. Something with substance. Something that will leave you satisfyingly full. And you’ll only wait so long for it….

An EP is a fine route to go on your debut effort; when you’re still trying to find your sound and hone your writing, but after that, your next two releases need to be albums.

Look what “Humble Folks” did for Flatland, “The Limestone Kid” did for Parker, and what “Noise Complaint” did for Koe! What was the last EP you remember that completely captivated our scene and catapulted an act to the next tier?

But don’t just put out an album, to put one out. It has to be good all the way though! If all you have is 5 solid songs, and then a few that are just okay, put out a 5 track EP. Don’t waste your time and money with the other tracks, because listeners won’t waste their’s. They’ll just skip over them. A killer EP, is better than a watered-down album. But if you have an album’s worth of solid songs, there’s no question which route you should take. Even if it means you’ll have to wait a few more months to put it out.  Just get the best of both worlds:  scattered a few “grat tracks”out a long the way of the album release.

 

Covers

If you’re at the point where you are playing mostly originals in your set, and you have a few covers scattered in there, make sure you put some good thought in to those covers.  Sure you can get some easy crowd engagement with songs like Wagon Wheel and Friends In Low Places, but I think the key is to find one or two songs that really catch the attention of the audience.  Perhaps it’s the unique way you play it, or it’s a song that your band can absolutely own, or maybe it’s a song that the audience likely hasn’t heard in a while, but should know; either way put some good thought and effort in to you covers  and you’ll likely be rewarded for it.

 

Seasoned Tour Managers and Road Crew Members

If you’re ever at a show and get the chance to strike up a conversations with a well-experienced TM or a seasoned road crewmen, I strongly encourage you to do it.  These guys have some of the most fascinating stories you’ll ever hear.

 

Sit Down, Shut-up, and Listen

There are some shows where it is acceptable to talk, and there are some shows where it’s not. Learn the difference. If it’s an acoustic songwriter show, where the audience paid money to get in, and 99% of the audience isn’t talking, that probably means the 1% needs to get a hint.  How some people can be that oblivious is beyond me, but it’s way more common than it should be.  If you want to talk during a show like that, go outside; it’s that simple.  Don’t be that guy (or girl). And yes, it is perfectly acceptable to tell these people to be quiet.

Keep Track of Your Numbers

If you’re creating some buzz and starting to consistently sell tickets as a headliner, but haven’t gotten picked up by a booking agency yet, make sure you’re keeping track of your numbers. Booking agents live by the numbers. If the first part of your pitch to them contains a significant sample size of recent dates, rooms, and tickets sold on those dates and in those rooms, they’re much more likely to read/listen the rest of your pitch.

 

The Next Generation

The next generation of music fans doesn’t watch TV, doesn’t listen to the radio, and doesn’t have Facebook.  They’re great at tuning out ads, and put a lot of stock in to peer reviews and peer referrals.  Everything is word of mouth with them; so if you want them to be your fans, you’re going to have to get them to talk about you.

Author: Chris Fox

Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I'am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.

1 thought on “Albums Vs EP’s Vs Single Tracks, Covers and Other Thoughts

  1. Thank you. You just answered a few of my thousand of questions. I have no idea how to do any of this. I do, however, have great songs and an amazing guitar player that is also my son. We are trying to get more gigs and wondering about Singles, EPs and albums and if we even need them. So, thanks.

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