[Editors Note: This article was written by Hugh McIntyre.]
EPs are often overlooked and usually underappreciated in the music world, but there is so much you can do with a shorter format, especially as a rising talent with limited resources who is constantly trying to give more content to your fans. Writing, producing, recording and releasing a complete new album is expensive and time-consuming, and EPs can be fantastic products to drop in between campaigns to keep the wolves at bay.
Also, while fans expect albums to be, well, just albums (for the most part), EPs can take many different forms and you can put pretty much anything you want on them. If they flop, it usually doesn’t matter. If they perform well, you’ve done a great job.
Here are seven different ideas you may want to consider for your next (or maybe your first) EP!
Before we dive into ways you can get more out of the music you’ve already created, the most common EPs are ones that feature all new songs. You can write and record anywhere between three and eight tracks and compile them into a collection, or possibly more than one, depending on how many tunes you have kicking around.
It’s worth noting that while your superfans will always be thrilled when you drop something they haven’t heard before, EPs don’t typically garner the same attention from those who only somewhat know your work or the media, so you may want to keep them shorter, saving more cuts for later releases.
A recent trend that many of the biggest stars have adopted is to not just release a new EP in between full albums, but to tack an EP’s worth of material onto an existing collection, breathing new life into a set that’s already been out for a few weeks or possibly months. Re-release your album as a deluxe edition and you may convince your fans to buy another copy or stream the whole thing again, while those who are only casual followers may catch on for the first time.
Recording your shows can be expensive and tricky, but it’s becoming easier and easier as time goes on and technology advances. These days, some venues have that equipment ready, and if not, there are options out there for underground artists who wish to release live renditions of their best performances and favorite tunes.
Nobody is playing concerts right now, but when the world opens up again, spend some time investigating the possibility of recording your future shows. You may be able to release full albums, or possibly EPs here and there. You can organize them however you like—by date, tour, city or album—and release as you like. In fact, some acts, such as Dave Matthews Band and The Grateful Dead, have found incredible success with their live recordings, and you could develop that following as well.
Too often, demos are tossed aside and forgotten—what a waste! While they may not be your most valuable recordings, there’s no reason you can’t possibly make a few bucks sharing them with your most die-hard supporters. After you’ve released a single, EP or album, package together the demos you made during the recording process and drop them as an EP. You shouldn’t bother with having them printed on CDs, and adding them to streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music doesn’t have to cost much these days.
Will these collections be massive streamers? No, probably not, but it will please those who want to hear every version of their favorite cuts, excite fans who have been waiting for new material, and it gives you the opportunity to make a little something off of content that is otherwise just sitting around doing you no good.
A remix EP can be a great idea at times, but it can also be expensive, so make sure it’s a project you’re going to not only invest in monetarily, but also when it comes to your time and effort. You may want to further promote a big single, and reaching out to producers and remixers to put their own spin on your tune can be a fantastic way to attract new listeners…though you will likely need to pay all those people for their work.
You may want to release an EP of remixes of songs from one album, which is another option, though it doesn’t help highlight a single in the same way.
Acoustic EPs don’t work for everyone, because some musicians are already known for crafting that type of music. If you traditionally release tunes with just you and an acoustic guitar or a piano, this option probably isn’t for you. If you are a member of a band or create hip-hop or electronic art, re-recording any of your material in acoustic form can be fun, challenging, and it may help you realize that a few of the cuts you’ve already released still work when they sound completely different.
Like your oft-forgotten demos, the instrumental tracks you recorded when putting together your last collection are probably sitting on some computer or hard drive somewhere, waiting for their time to shine. Well, that time could be NOW! Release an all-instrumental version of your last album as an EP and let fans hear the beautiful music you made without focusing on the lyrics.
If you’re going to go this route, I’d suggest not only uploading these altered titles on streaming sites (where everything should be available), but possibly on your website, where they can be downloaded. Offering the music as an easy to acquire standalone piece encourages others to write their own songs or use the music in remixes, and while you may not always get the credit you deserve, it may lead to royalties or songwriting credits down the line.