EP vs LP

 “An EP is to be used for promotional and demonstration purposes. It can sell well at concert events, if accompanied by a compelling concert performance. A complete LP album serves the same purpose as an EP in regards to promotion, and demonstration, but has the potential to achieve media attention because it is a complete, newsworthy, sellable product.”

 TWO DIFFERENT EP SCENARIOS…

 BAND 1:  In 2003 I was deeply involved in the operations of an independent record label in Nashville, TN.  On our roster we had a band that was scheduled to do a fifteen-show Christmas tour; however, they had no Christmas recordings to sell on their merchandise table.  This tour, along with some large single-event concerts leading up to the tour, prompted us at the label to get some Christmas material recorded and onto the merchandise table post haste.  Having spent a lot of money the year before on a full length studio album for this band, we did not have the budget for a full length Christmas project and we decided that a 5-song EP was the solution.  During the 2003 Christmas tour we sold roughly 4000 units of that EP – a combination of sales via the band’s website and concert dates – for a price of $10.  Obviously that generated around $40,000 of revenue.  That $40,000 gross revenue was used to recuperate the initial recording costs of the five songs, and left enough cash remaining to fund the recording of five more songs the next year, resulting in the 2004 release of a ten-song Christmas LP.  Once the label / band had a full length 10-song LP, we were able to implement a complete marketing plan with a full media blitz, including radio promotion, television appearances, magazine reviews, etc.  It took two Christmas seasons (2003 EP and 2004 LP), but we were patient.  That record was tremendously successful for us as a label and the band.  Everybody won.

 BAND 2:  A band came to Advantage Music Production (AMP) wanting to record their first project to launch what seemed to be a promising career in the music business.  At the very least, this recording would be a good litmus test for the band’s viability in the marketplace.  Of course, as it often goes with new acts, money was really tight and they could only afford to record a 5-song EP.  They reasoned that a 5-song EP would be less financially risky – if the band was unable to compete in the marketplace, they would have only spent money on five songs.  But, they hoped it would be a launching pad to a great and successful run for their band.  AMP gave it our best efforts and attention, and delivered a solidly produced 5-song product.  The band was happy.  But in the end, their EP wasn’t financially successful enough to afford them the opportunity to come back and record another five songs, completing a 10-song LP.   

 These are two real life scenarios, with seemingly similar plans, but opposite results.  Why? Was the result a matter of luck, or was there some other factor that contributed to the success of one, and the demise of the other? 

First, it is important to realize what an EP will NOT do for an artist’s career.  An EP is an unfinished product in the eyes of a consumer, therefore the media (radio, newspapers, magazines, online reviewers and television) will not view the release of the EP as a newsworthy event.  The articles, interviews, and reviews that are the backbone of creating buzz about an artist’s release will be nonexistent.  With very little community buzz about this EP release, its success at retail and radio will be dramatically affected.  No community buzz means consumers won’t go to stores – both web and brick and mortar – to buy the product.  Stores will not put it on their shelves.  If the recording is not on the shelves, radio stations are reluctant to spin your songs because it frustrates their listeners when they can’t find the product to buy.

 Acknowledging an EP’s lack of “buzz potential, then, when SHOULD an artist release a 5-song EP?  The answer, in my experience, is when the artist cannot afford to take the risk spending their cash on a complete LP.  An EP is a fantastic solution for lower budgets when it used properly as a demonstration of an artist’s sound, which, in turn, builds audience awareness.  In this setting, an EP (used as a demonstration) is necessary when trying to book and promote concerts, and it will also sell well on the concert merchandise table, provided the artist puts on a compelling performance, that makes the audience want to take a piece of their experience home.    If the EP is not selling well at the concert merchandise table, a detailed evaluation of the band’s performance is in order.

 Now that we have a clear understanding of an EP’s purpose, we can then deduce why BAND 1 succeeded with an EP, while BAND 2 failed.

 ANALYSIS – BAND 1:

Before working on their 5-song EP, BAND 1 had previously released two full-length studio albums, with a marketing plan that included multiple concert dates, and extensive media coverage to support each album release.  This resulted in four years of “brand awareness / education” to media and the public, and created a purchasing fan base.  Behind the scenes at the record label, we carefully calculated the situation, determining that even without mass media coverage, and retail rack positions, we could still achieve our sales goals through the band’s core fan base attending concerts, going to the website and purchasing the product direct via the band’s online store.  Our calculations were correct.  

 ANALYSIS – BAND 2:

BAND 2 had high expectations for their EP that were not founded in experience or reality.  BAND 2 took their EP to media, radio, and retail.  Because they had an unfinished product, the recording project was met with rejections.  As requests for full length products, prior performances and other evidence of “history” or “commitment” grew, the EP looked less like a serious effort and more like a false start.  Frustrated that their EP did not bring them the success in the areas they had hoped, BAND 2 deemed the recording effort a failure.  As we can see, it wasn’t necessarily that the recording was a failure, but rather the recording was being used for the wrong purpose.  It should have been used to demonstrate the band’s sound, garnering new fans, getting more concert dates and driving up the ticket sales to existing concerts.  Without a substantial fan base and an established concert / performance plan, an EP will fail to generate enough buzz to “move units”.

 To recap, an EP’s best use is for promotional and demonstration purposes. The EP helps demonstrate the artist’s sound, in order to help secure bookings, and it allows music fans to become familiar with the artist’s sound.  Sales of the EP at concert events can be good, provided the artist delivers a compelling performance.

 A complete LP album serves the same purpose as an EP in regards to promotion and demonstration, but has the potential to achieve media attention because it stands as a complete, newsworthy, sellable product.  This creates more community buzz, that can result in retailers stocking the product, and radio playing “the single”, as radio can be assured that there is a full-length product for fans to purchase.

 

 

5-Song EP vs. 10-Song LP

   
  EP LP
Demonstrates artist’s sound

X

X

Builds an audience

X

X

Promotional use

X

X

Concert merchandise sales

X

X

Media coverage

 

X

Consumer confidence

 

X

Retail stores

 

X

Radio spins

 

X

 

Are you in a position to record a complete LP, or is an EP a better fit?  Answering the following questions may help you determine which is best for you.

 

  1. Do I have the finances to risk on a 10-song LP?  Your music career is an investment.  As with any investment there is a certain amount of risk.  Can you afford to take the financial risk on a 10 song LP?  If not, consider sticking with a lower risk investment, such as an EP.  Remember that the lower the risk, generally the lower / slower the payoff, with less potential for gain.  Be patient if you choose to do an EP.
  2. Do I currently have, or can I compile, enough good song material to complete a 10-song LP?  If not, consider the EP.  There is no point in spending money on average song material.  This is your first impression to the buying public, and media.  Better-than-average song material is critical.
  3. Am I physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to give the public, and media a complete, newsworthy product?  Releasing a complete LP, with a marketing effort that includes media coverage, requires early morning interviews on radio stations, late-night, post-concert autograph signings, hustling from one interview to another, etc. It requires physical, emotional, and mental stamina.

 If you can answer yes to these three questions, it is safe to say you are ready to move forward with a 10-song LP.  If the answer is no to any one of these questions, step back and evaluate your current situation.  Maybe a 5-song EP is the best solution.

 Article Summary:

  • An EP demonstrates the sound of the artist, and can be used as a promotional tool to gain new opportunities for their career, such as concert dates and other performance opportunities, etc.
  • Typically an EP sells well at the concert merchandise table, and artist websites.  iTunes and other digital song retailers will sell EP’s, but sales can be low.
  • Media does not find the release of an EP to be newsworthy; therefore a buzz is not created for the release of an EP.
  • Most retail stores, brick and mortar or online, do not stock EP’s because there is not enough buzz created, and it is not a finished product.
  • Radio tends to shy away from putting a song into rotation off an EP because their audience cannot find it in stores to purchase it, resulting in a frustrated audience.
  • An EP recording is appropriate for an act that simply can’t afford to record an LP, or wants to minimize their risk.  EP’s can be successful if the artist is patient, and understands the EP’s limited purpose.

 

8 Comments

  1. Khloe September 1, 2012 10:56 am 

    It s actually a great and useful piece of info. I am glad that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  2. estevan January 16, 2013 4:14 pm 

    I’m glad I found this article. I wasn’t sure if others were discussing the differences of each format. I have a contention though. I’m not sure modern consumers care about the differences as much as we do. In other words, I don’t think a younger consumer is going to perceive an EP as an unfinished product. That’s more of an industry perspective. Considering that consumers are obtaining music on a song by song basis, an EP consisting of a few songs may not have hold the same charm as a larger project but I don’t see certain consumers judging it poorly either. In fact I can see the EP format falling nicely into some consumers purchasing habits.

    I think you’re discussing a perspective that too heavily omits the digital arena. Just my two cents.

  3. advantagemusic January 16, 2013 9:41 pm 

    Estevan- Thanks for insightful comments. You may be right, that many younger and modern day consumers don’t care about the differences between an EP or LP, as long as the price was set according to the number of songs purchased. However, I am not as much concerned about the consumer in this article, as I am about media. Media – radio, and news outlets are far less likely to share the product if it is an EP. Without a major media blitz, it is very hard to break an act quickly, to get a return faster on the label’s investment. I am not saying that media never bites on an EP. I have seen bands on the late night talk shows promoting their EP, and heard radio interviews from bands that have only had an EP. BUT, it is far more rare. I can’t think of a top 40 single that came off an EP.

    The end consumer – you are right, probably doesn’t care. The fan – the true fan, usually doesn’t care. But it is harder and takes longer to gain new fans when the media doesn’t give your product attention.

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  5. tommaso May 16, 2013 7:59 pm 

    Posso solo dire con sollievo che ho trovato qualcuno che sa realmente di cosa sta parlando! Lei sicuramente sa come portare un problema alla luce e renderlo importante. Altre persone hanno bisogno di leggere questo e capire questo lato della storia.

  6. Ryan August 11, 2014 1:03 pm 

    I would have to agree with estevan and add that media outlets are going to have to catch up with the times on this one. More and more artists are releasing multiple Eps every few months instead of one album every two years. Most of these are established acts but the up-and-comers are following suit. Taylor swift has a platinum-certified Christmas EP and an EP that hit number 9 on the Billboard Top 40 charts and number 1 on the Billboard Country chart. Times, they are a’changin’. Let’s see how long it takes the media at large to catch up…

  7. Ryan August 11, 2014 1:08 pm 

    …and I’ve read reviews of the last two Down Eps in tons of magazines, both underground/target (metal) and mainstream . Is it because they’re just that well-known?

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