21/03/2024EP vs album—Which is the best format for your music?

Deciding between releasing an EP or an album is a critical step. More than simply the number of tracks, it involves careful consideration – the stage of your career, the platforms you'll use, the type and size of your audience, your musical goals, and more.

Deciding between releasing an EP or an album is a critical step. More than simply the number of tracks, it involves careful consideration – the stage of your career, the platforms you’ll use, the type and size of your audience, your musical goals, and more.

We want to make this decision easier for you. TYX has helped many artists (big and small) create successful albums and EPS. We’ve been in this industry for a while and have remained successful within the shifting landscape. Because of this, we’re well-placed to advise you on each frormat’s benefits.

However, whether you release an album or EP is ultimately up to you. This guide will help you make an informed choice, so you can start with a bang, build your momentum, or perfect that new sound.

Let’s crack on!

Table of contents

  1. What’s the difference between EPs and Albums
  2. How the music industry has changed
  3. What’s the right format for your audience?
  4. What are the benefits of EPs?
  5. How to plan your EP release
  6. What are the benefits of albums?
  7. How to plan your album release

What’s the difference between EPs and Albums?

The main difference between an album and an EP is pretty simple. It comes down to:

The number of tracks – How many songs are included in the tracklist.

Total running time – The length of the entire project.

An album, also known as an LP (Long Play), is a complete collection of music. It is an entire release of 7 to 29 songs and lasts about 35 to 60 minutes.

An EP (Extended Play) is shorter. It has 4 to 6 songs and is about 15 to 22 minutes long, though it can go up to 30 minutes.

EPs are great for new artists trying to break into the scene or those wanting to drop something fresh without the wait.

Albums require more time and effort but can make a big statement, potentially leading to more opportunities in the music industry. Both have their place, so you need to pick what fits your current situation and goals.

How the music industry has changed

Record companies no longer hold the power and influence they once did. In the last 20 years, there’s been a rapid shift towards music streaming services and social media platforms. This has fundamentally changed how music is made, released, and consumed.

One thing is crystal clear: EPs are on the rise – and there’s a good reason for that.

While there may be fewer “gatekeepers”, not everybody views these changes for the better. it’s well documented that huge streaming platforms like Spotify don’t pay artists what they deserve. And making it as a smaller artist is arguably harder than it ever has been.

If indie artists want to succeed in this new world, they must adapt. So, before you begin working on that new album, or release an EP, you must have a rough understanding of the economics of this system.

Here are 5 key things to remember about the industry today:

1. Measurement and revenue

The music industry now operates under a new structure where streams are equated to sales (150 streams = 1 paid download, and it takes 1,500 streams on a streaming service for an album sale to be counted). This system has reshaped how artists think about releasing music. Given the volume required for significant revenue, artists often consider shorter, more frequent releases (EPs) to maintain engagement and visibility on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

2. Engagement over physical sales

With streaming services driving most of the music industry’s revenue, the emphasis has shifted from selling physical copies to engaging listeners online. Artists are now more likely to release EPs to keep their audience engaged between full album releases, adapting to the rapid consumption habits fostered by streaming platforms​.

3. Promotion and marketing

Streaming platforms offer a unique way to promote music, such as playlist placements, which can significantly boost an artist’s visibility. This environment favours the release of singles and EPs, which can be more easily added to popular playlists, over traditional albums​.

4. Virtual concerts and social engagement

The pandemic accelerated the importance of digital platforms for artists. With live performances on hold, artists turned to streaming services for music releases, virtual concerts and direct fan engagement. This environment encourages people to release music more frequently.

What’s the right format for your audience?

woman with tablet and guitar

Now we get to the crux of it. First, when targeting your music releases, you need to understand the listeners you’re targeting:

  • Explorers – These listeners are always on the hunt for new music. They’re the first you’ll want to catch with something intriguing.
  • Intrigued listeners – After grabbing their attention, these folks have shown a bit of interest. They’re your opportunity to build a core community.
  • Superfans – The ultimate goal. They started as explorers, got intrigued, and now can’t get enough of your music.

Each release, whether an EP or album, should strategically cater to where these listeners are in their journey with your music.

What are the benefits of EPS?

The shorter format of the EP aligns well with the fast-paced consumption habits on music streaming platforms, where listeners often seek fresh, concise content. EPs serve as a strategic tool for keeping audiences engaged by regularly providing new material (without the long gaps accompanying album production).

They also allow you to experiment with your sound or explore new musical directions without committing to the extensive tracklist of an album. They work for both new artists (who want to create a presence) and established artists (for testing new ideas).

Platforms like Ditto Music have made the distribution of EPs simpler and more accessible. Ditto Music enables artists to reach global audiences without major label backing. This accessibility encourages a more dynamic interaction between you and your listeners.

For artists at any career stage, EPs can act as a bridge between major releases, maintaining fan interest and building anticipation for future albums. By leveraging the flexibility and efficiency of EPs, you can remain relevant and connected to your fan base.

Let’s break down the benefits of EPs in more detail:

1. Harnessing Modern Listening behaviours

Headphones on the globe

Listeners’ habits have evolved. Attention spans have been shortening, and the sheer volume of available music is making them shorter. Most people consume music in smaller doses and EPs provide a digestible listening experience. What’s more, the strategic release of singles from an EP can enhance visibility on influential playlists, making your music more accessible to potential fans.

2. Keeping the momentum going

Building a music career is a marathon, not a sprint. For emerging artists, the challenge isn’t only in capturing attention but maintaining it. Releasing an EP allows you to keep the conversation going with your audience, offering new material at a pace that can keep engagement high without the overwhelming pressure and financial burden of producing a full-length album.

3. Flexibility and experimentation

person at keyboard with notepad

EPs offer a unique opportunity to experiment with your sound or thematic content without the commitment of an album. This can be particularly valuable for artists exploring new directions or refining their musical identity. By gauging the reaction to an EP, you can gather insights and feedback that inform future projects. This ensures a later album release resonates with your audience.

4. Bridging gaps and building anticipation

Consider an EP as a narrative bridge between major releases, or a teaser that hints at what’s to come. This strategic use of EPs can generate excitement and anticipation for an upcoming album, while keeping your audience engaged with fresh content. It can help you explore and expand your musical narrative, setting the stage for a more comprehensive work.

How to plan your EP release

The approach to releasing music should be as carefully crafted as the music itself. With EPs, you can leverage the strategy of drip-feeding singles to build anticipation, allowing each track to shine and potentially land on coveted playlists. This selective process maximises exposure and allows for real-time feedback, enabling you to align your artistic direction with your audience’s preferences.

For releasing an EP, consider these steps:

  • Create music – Try to aim for a consistent style and theme, selecting the tracks that will have the most impact. Using our Recording Studios can ensure you get the best sound and advice possible.
  • Find a distributor – Choose a company like CD Baby, TuneCore, or DistroKid for distribution.
  • Focus on Branding – Develop a clear brand identity to attract and retain listeners.
  • Decide on a Release Date – Typically, releases are scheduled for Fridays.
  • Release Singles – Promote singles from the EP to build anticipation and attract new listeners.

What are the benefits of albums?

Now we get to the gold standard of music releases. What can we say about albums that you don;t already know? After all, there’s a reason those “Top Albums of All Time” lists get so many clicks. Despite their recent rise to dominance, we rarely see similar lists for EPs (food for thought).

LPs are part of the collective consciousness. A full-length album gives you an expansive canvas to weave intricate themes, emotions, and stories. This format provides the space to delve into elaborate concepts, allowing each song to contribute to a greater narrative, enriching the listener’s experience.

Remember, making an entire album is a significant commitment. It showcases your unique sound, allowing for a deeper exploration of themes. Unlike EPs, albums are musical journeys for both creator and listener. They foster a more profound connection with your audience, offering a detailed insight into your vision.

Moreover, albums often serve as landmarks in an artist’s music career. These pivotal moments can lead to greater recognition within the music industry, including awards and critical acclaim. With the traditional album format, you can create something timeless—a body of work that fans can return to, discovering something new with each listen.

Let’s cover these musical monuments in more detail:

1. The album as an artistic statement

An album differs from an EP in the sense that it is a more comprehensive artistic statement a deeper, more nuanced exploration of themes, stories, and musical experimentation. It’s an opportunity to present a full piece that truly reflects your vision. Unlike EPs, albums allow for the unfolding of a narrative – a journey listeners can lose themselves in.

2. Cultivating a dedicated fanbase

While EPs are excellent for attracting new listeners and maintaining engagement, albums play a crucial role in deepening the connection with your audience. They offer fans a fully mmersive experience, transforming casual listeners into dedicated fans. Albums are often seen as milestones in an artist’s career, and the anticipation for these releases can significantly enhance an artist’s profile and fan engagement.

3. Albums and longevity

Releasing your debut album is a significant undertaking that involves a considerable investment of time, resources, and creativity. However, this investment can pay off when it comes to your longevity and legacy. Albums have the potential to stand as lasting works of art, defining moments in an artist’s career and the music landscape at large. They offer a tangible piece of history that fans can return to, reinforcing an artist’s place in the musical canon.

4. Albums in the streaming era

Despite the rise of streaming and the shift towards single and EP releases, albums retain their importance. They provide a counterpoint to the transient nature of digital consumption, offering a more permanent, cohesive work that fans can engage with on a deeper level. Moreover, albums can drive significant streaming numbers as fans explore an artist’s work in depth, leading to increased visibility and revenue in the long term.

How to plan your album release

The release of an album requires careful planning and strategy. From singles serving as precursors that build anticipation, to the timing of the release to maximise impact, every aspect must be thoughtfully considered. Engaging with fans through storytelling, visual content, and interactive elements can enhance the album experience.

Releasing an album typically involves steps similar to an EP but on a larger scale. Consider these adjustments:

  • Craft Your Album – Develop a cohesive collection of songs that align with a central theme or concept.
  • Select a distribution service – Choose a reliable distributor that caters to album releases.
  • Establish your brand – Create a compelling visual and thematic identity for the album.
  • Plan the release date – Consider industry trends and timing for maximum impact.
  • Promote with singles and videos – Use singles and music videos as key promotional tools to generate interest.

Use social media to your advantage

For most artists (who don’t get a big lucky break), having an active online presence is non-negotiable. The majority of musicians don’t get signed by major labels based on quality alone. Bad news for purists, but that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. While some take to content creation easily (and have the necessary time and resources), many great artists may struggle to make headway.

The trick is to optimise your social media management and marketing as much as possible. That way you can reel in those who will genuinely take the time to listen to your music.

Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube aren’t just great promotional tools. They serve as spaces for building a community around your music. Here are some tailored strategies for leveraging social media in your music release:

Showcase live performances and behind-the-scenes content – Fans are eager to see artists in action, whether live shows or day-to-day. Sharing these moments can strengthen your connection with your audience and make your social media profiles more engaging​.

Interact with your audience – Engagement goes beyond posting content. Responding to comments, sharing user-generated content, and participating in conversations can make fans feel valued and deepen their loyalty to your music​​​​.

Utilise analytics – Understanding which posts resonate with your audience can guide your content strategy. Tools like Social Blade and Sprout Social can track the performance of your posts, helping you refine your approach to social media marketing​​.

Optimise your social media profiles – Ensure your profiles are up to date with links to your latest releases, tour dates, or merchandise. A clear and consistent bio across platforms helps new listeners quickly grasp who you are and what your music is about​​.

Leverage short-form video content – With the rise of platforms like TikTok, short-form video content has become a powerful tool for music promotion. These videos can showcase your music, personality, and creativity, often leading to viral trends​​.

Promote across platforms – Linking your social media accounts can help funnel followers from one platform to another, maximising your visibility across the digital landscape​.

Smart tagging – Tagging other musicians, brands, or venues in your posts can increase their reach. This strategy can introduce your music to new audiences by tapping into the followers of the tagged accounts​.

Consistency is key – Regularly updating your social media profiles with new content keeps your audience engaged and informed. A consistent posting schedule ensures that your music remains top of mind for your followers.

TYX – your partner in musical success

That wraps up our guide to EPs and albums! As we said at the beginning of this article, the choice is up to you and depends on what you want to achieve. Just ensure you research carefully and get the feedback needed to inform your decision.

Need more advice on which formats you should choose? Or are you interested in booking one of our studios? Don’t hesitate to reach out. Let’s build your music career together!

OUR MOST ASKED QUESTIONS
For new artists, EPs are generally recommended as they allow for an introduction to the market without the extensive commitment an album demands. They provide a platform to showcase your strongest work and gauge listener interest​​​.
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A dynamic EP evolves over time, starting as a single track and growing with each new release until it forms a complete EP. This strategy, akin to a "waterfall," keeps content fresh and audiences engaged, mirroring the episodic consumption trends seen in other media​​.
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