Recently I was consulted to design EP albums for two bands with completely different styles and music genres. I was more than excited to be considered and challenged to design something new for each. I previously worked with both bands and already familiar with each’s branding, but it was still very important to sit down and discuss their vision for the artwork. Even though and EP and album vary, the design process and strategy isn’t different. I have created a list of questions that serve as a guidance when consulting with an artist; this helps gain a better idea of who they are and their style. Deciding what the front artwork can be a big decision, but even bigger for an artist is what type of album to release and how to make it work for them.
While I was researching I noticed more artists are releasing EPs rather than a full album. In the past, an EP was mainly used for promotional use between the full album release and was used to promote their tour. However, it is now becoming the new standard for building exposure. If you look at many artist’s website or merchandising table, almost all have EPs versus full albums. Is this killing the market for full album sales? It seems only the larger labels and bigger main stream artists are putting out albums these days.
I can see several pros for choosing EP instead of an album. The EP is about half the length of an album and so is the sticker price, but an increase in sales. The EP serves as a middle ground and can prove to be quite the marketing tool. The EP is becoming the benchmark on merchandise tables and can bring additional revenue from the existing fan base. Creating additional merchandise such as t-shirts and posters that can accompany the EP style can also increase bursts in sales. Selling a merchandise bundle pack of multiple items is one easy idea to sell additional items that may sell slower on their own.
The EP can help build a more solid branding foundation the more that are released. With the ability to push out a few EPs for the cost of one album, an artist is able to produce music more frequently. The structure can show how an artist arranges the songs to tell a story or set the tone for a full show for the entertainment value. Its dual capability requires a strategy for promoting and selling. This means you have to find a balance between your budget and the overall quality of the sound, design and packaging of you and your work. Keep in mind this is a representation of who you are as an artist.
Before you take a leap and set your release date in stone, you might want to tap the breaks and take the extra time to design a strategy plan. Look at several months in advance and how you will talk up something new but relative to what you are working on in the studio. Some suggest to look at a nine to eighteen month release plan. Now I am sure several of you are thinking, what the heck, a year and a half?! You need to think about it in terms of a long term investment. Do you want to put several thousands of dollars into a business that is only going to fail as soon as it is open and you lose all you invested? No one does so why would you look at your album in any other light than the same as opening a new business? If you do not have a marketing team behind you to put your plan into action then it is all up to you. Radar Music Videos has an excellent timeline laid out for an EP release.
If you do not have the time or team in place to promote your EP you might want to think about hiring a marketing service to help you out. The value in the fee comes from their networking connections and expertise in where and how to effectively promote you in the correct markets to see results. This doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and relax in your lounger while they do all the work, but it means you can focus on building a stronger personal fan base at your shows as well as do what you do best, making the music. No one wants it as badly as you do so if you are not willing to work hard to get the career you want you cannot expect anyone else to work harder.