How to Release an EP Online
Instead of just releasing a whole album, you could instead choose to release an EP. In the current industry landscape, fans want content on a regular basis. Releasing multiple EPs throughout the year can be much more effective than releasing a big album at once.
Releasing a successful EP online is one of the easiest and most effective ways to market your music and make it accessible to the widest possible audience. A good marketing plan is essential to making your online EP successful.
Whether you are just starting out in your music career or booking gigs as a more established artist; get to know how you can make a success of your next EP release!
Before we get down to how to go about releasing your EP and making it a success, let’s master the basics of what an EP is, how it’s defined on different platforms, and what the benefits are of releasing one.
What is an EP?
EP is an acronym for ‘extended play’ and sits somewhere between a single and an album in terms of length.
Whilst there are some differences in how some people and institutions define different release formats, generally, singles tend to contain 1-3 tracks, albums contain 7 or more, and in-between sits the EP, which tends to be made up of 4-6 tracks.
Contemporary EP’s are generally a compilation of tracks that announce an artist’s sound to the world and positions them within their genre. They are a great way for new artists to give a more rounded idea of their style than a single, or for established artists to explore a new sound that they are exploring to gauge audience reception.
How long is the average EP?
As mentioned previously, an EP generally consists of 4-6 tracks and should total 30 minutes or less. Being so compact, they are generally made up of original material, that hasn’t been previously released in other formats.
However, there are important subtleties on how different platforms define EP’s; which you should consider when recording and releasing your own, which we will go into in more detail below.
How is an EP is defined on different platforms?
For a release to be considered an EP, it must meet one of the following two requirements:
- The release has a total of one to three (1-3) tracks, one or more of the tracks is/are 10 minutes or longer and entire release is less than 30 minutes.
- The release has a total of four to six (4-6) tracks and the entire release is less than 30 minutes.
- If your release meets the above requirements and you do not have “- EP” in the title of your album, iTunes will automatically insert “- EP” in the title when delivering your album to the store.
Your music will be classified under the EP category in Spotify if:
- The release is under 30 minutes.
- The release has 4-6 tracks.
- Spotify will not change the title of your release.
So, the main difference between the two is that iTunes will consider a release with fewer tracks an EP, if any of them are longer than 10 minutes, whilst Spotify sticks more rigidly to the traditional definition of EP, only classifying releases with 4-6 tracks as an EP.
It’s also worth noting that iTunes will add the term EP in the title of your release if it meets the requirements, where Spotify won’t. Where the two platforms agree, is that the release should total less than 30 minutes long.
Should I release an EP or an Album?
For new artists, an EP is a no-brainer. First and foremost, EP’s are more budget-friendly to record, but apart from this, there are many other legitimate reasons to consider releasing an EP over an album.
With the advent of music streaming services, there has been some debate in the musical community over whether the traditional album format is relevant anymore. People’s listening habits and attention spans have changed.
There’s nothing stopping you from releasing either format in the future. You should evaluate what material you have, and what you would like to achieve with it when considering the format that you use.
The benefits of an EP
Whilst albums are great for conveying sprawling concepts, it’s arguable that if there is no strong, cohesive theme tying each of the tracks together throughout, it may be better to release an EP for practical reasons.
Whilst less comprehensive than an album, they offer a much better snapshot of your musical style than a single could, allowing you to explore the different nuances of your style over multiple tracks.
Some artists may favour the non-committal aspect of an EP to release something more experimental or less commercial than their usual sound.
EP’s are beneficial because they take less time to record, meaning that music can be released more regularly, something that is increasingly important when trying to stay fresh in people’s minds amidst a constant stream of new releases.
Another benefit of the shorter track-listing of an EP is that it will be more edited. This means that you only need to release your very best tracks and avoid recording much of the ‘filler’ that can be found on albums.
On the flip-side of this, EP’s can be used to release B-sides of hit songs, as well as tracks that were cut from full albums. This kind of EP is particularly valuable to dedicated followers who are always looking for more.
EP’s are a great way to capture the urgency and spontaneous nature of your creativity. Longer drawn out projects lay themselves bare to overthinking.
Can you release a single from an EP?
Technically, yes you can. You may release the same track numerous times on different products. However, if this is something you plan to do, consider whether it’ll be well received, and ultimately give value to your audience.
The reason EP’s are usually made up of previously unreleased material is because of their length. If you release a 4 track EP with a single that a potential buyer might already have, it diminishes the value of the EP.
However, putting a previously released single in a 6 track EP seems more permissible. Especially if you are releasing either of them for free (in return for contact details etc), or if part of your marketing strategy is to release a single ahead of your EP to build up anticipation for it.
How to successfully release an EP
Releasing an EP is a matter of logistics, you essentially need the savvy and patience to get it recorded and release it yourself. The real trick is making a success of it, which is where marketing and promotion come in.
Marketing and promotion aren’t easy and can be a huge undertaking. Hopefully, the result will be something that will bring you immense pride and build your career in the long run. Below, we round up a few key points on both matters to help you on your way.
EP release budget
Probably the least fun aspect of releasing your music is thinking about your budget, but this doesn’t mean it’s something you should ignore. Budget is something you should start thinking about very early on in your project as it has a direct effect on almost every aspect of it.
Generally, things you can save money on and do yourself mean that it will get done slower than hiring a professional. Be sure to factor this in and allow more time for things you will undertake yourself.
Unfortunately, no one can really set a budget other than you. First and foremost, you need to ask yourself how much you can afford to spend on the project and go from there, then, with that figure in mind consider these things:
- Recording Costs
How much does it cost to produce and release an EP?
The cost of recording and releasing an EP varies widely. You can go down the route of doing both as a package or outsourcing different parts of the process to individual specialists.
Check out your local recording studio, most will offer packages specifically for recording, mixing, mastering and sometimes even promoting your music. Be sure to check what the package includes and listen to recording examples, so you don’t get caught out later. These can start from under £500.
EP release marketing plan
Almost equally as important as the production of your EP is the marketing. When putting your marketing plan together, you might want to play around with the timeline in order to suit your timetable, but we’ve put together a list of all the things you should be doing before your release to best market it.
Releasing an EP checklist
- Create Artwork – This needs to be done early in the process so you can create a cohesive campaign throughout the promotion. You need to decide whether you’ll be creating it yourself or commissioning it. Be sure it is high quality, and in different digital formats/sizes for different platforms (pixelation is an absolute no-no).
- Build awareness throughout production – you should be posting regularly on your social media channels, and website to maintain awareness of your forthcoming release. These should include snippets of raw recording footage, blog posts, pictures etc.
- Engage with your audience – don’t just use social media to post, be sure to engage with your audience to cultivate their relationship with you and your music. Answer comments, repost when people mention your work and even hold Q&A’s on your social networks about the EP.
- Network – Use your time in the studio to network with other music professionals- you never know what opportunities or advice they might have.
- Tour – Promote your EP through local gigs and events.
- Photoshoots – Get some professional photos taken to include in the promotional materials .
- Press release – Write your press release, you’ll need to circulate it in the couple of months leading up to your release date.
- Submit for airplay – Be sure to research stations to promote your music and submit for airplay in the months leading up to the release.
EP release announcement
How is anyone supposed to know about your EP if you don’t announce it?! Self-promotion can be daunting, but it’s a necessary evil. You need to make your release ubiquitous- it must be everywhere!
You need to announce it on all your social channels, for your existing followers/listeners. Be sure to make use of hashtags, pages and subreddits when doing so, in order to reach a wider audience. Posts with media grab more attention, so ensure you are including a photo or video.
For more formal announcements, and to reach out to the media, you will need to write a press release. If you need some advice on how to do this, check out our guides on writing press releases and how to make them stand out.
It’s important to include multiple high-quality images when sending out press releases. It may seem harsh, but sometimes the difference between getting published or not can just be down to lack of images- if the publication can’t make the article fit their publications house-style, they may not use it.
How to release an EP online – different platforms
So, when it comes to distributing your music online, there are a few different outlets you can choose from to share, stream and sell your tracks, here’s a rundown of how to get on some of the most popular ones.
How to release an EP on Spotify, Apple Music & iTunes
If you are dealing with distribution independently, and not through a record label, you need to sign up to a distributor. A distributor will handle the licensing and distribution of your music and pay you the royalties you earn when listeners stream your music on Spotify. There are many to choose from online, but the only ones currently recommended by Spotify are:
Be sure to do your research when choosing a distributor, as they all differ slightly.
How to release an EP on Bandcamp
Bandcamp is praised as one of the simplest and most rewarding platforms to share your music.
Setting up an account requires only an email address. You can fully customise your mini-site, sell merch, physical copies and digital copies through it. Another great feature you might want to consider if you are using your EP or any singles for promotional purposes, is that you can offer tracks in exchange for email addresses, to grow your mailing list.
Something you will have to consider is that Bandcamp will only upload WAV, AIFF and FLAC files, not MP3’s- this is to preserve quality, but it does mean you need to save it in that format once recorded- or rip them in iTunes.
How to release music on vinyl
Although you’re releasing your EP digitally, vinyl is also a popular format right now and can be sold online. If you plan to release your EP on vinyl, the whole process could take much longer.
Releasing music on vinyl takes time. Your music must be completed and sent off four months in advance if you want to release your music on all formats at the same time. A good way to approach this is to have a separate release date for vinyl.
What’s your favourite EP? Let us know in the comments below!