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An album or LP (Long Play) is a collection of 10-14 songs. It came about as a result of the advances in music playback technologies back in the mid 20th century. The album quickly rose to prominence, but was overtaken by singles for a period of time, and then came back as the dominant music market in what was known as the Album Era (1960-2000). During this time the Album became ubiquitous with an up and coming bands career. A kind of benchmark of how far you’d come as a band. After people asked you if you had any gigs, they asked if you had an album.
Then the internet happened, and iTunes and then streaming. The music playback landscape changed again. People are now able to pick and choose songs with a degree of freedom not experienced before. None of this is really news of course. Still, some artists yearn for the old ways. They want to record their Magnum Opus. Have it sit next to The White Album, or Nevermind, or <insert iconic LP of choice here>. And that day may come, but I question whether such an undertaking really works in the current music paradigm, at least for an emerging indie artist.
Record labels seem to still fund albums. In most genres at least. But usually only after a number of test singles. And I think there’s a bit of a lesson in that for the rest of us. On release, record labels then put their media machine into action. They also have access to top shelf support slots and festivals. So there’s more going on that just the release of a collection of songs. For indie artists, I’m of the opinion that an album is NOT the best way forward...and here’s why:
1. No one’s listening to all of those songs...not yet anyway. So what is the point of recording all of those songs when people are simply going to cherry pick their way through your release?
2. Albums are expensive...and no one’s listening to all those songs (not yet). You’re going to plough all that time and effort and money into this LP and people are going to pick the three (tops) songs they like and leave the rest. Vultures! Maybe? Isn’t that what you do? I’m a bit old school on that front, I still like to listen through an album, even if I hate it...and some musos are like that. But the bulk of your audience are not musos, and will never do that...like ever. Also, with the higher outlay, you’re less likely to recoup. You’re also less likely to be able to quickly release new material…’cause you’re strapped for dollars!
3. An album can take a long time to do...which contributes to there being a long time between new releases...which can hurt your momentum in the market. People forget you. And not because you’re bad (probably!), but because there’s so much other new music coming out. You can get lost in the crowd.
So what should we do?
Well, I think an EP (3-6 songs) is ideal...or the maximum any new to newish band should consider...and here’s why:
1. People may actually listen to all of the songs, and if you choose wisely, get a sense of who you are as an artist.
2. They’re relatively cheap...compared to recording 10 or so songs...well, obviously. Which means you can afford to release more regularly...see my next point.
3. They don’t take as long to do. So you can potentially be releasing new material on a more regular basis, which in this day and age of short attention spans is a must. Momentum is key. I once chatted with one of Australia’s most successful artist managers, about a well known artist he was working with at the time. The artist had had some very successful songs and debut album only a few years prior and was, at the time of my conversation, promoting a new album. The artist manager likened the task to ‘starting again’. The time frame had been really too long for a large portion of the listening public. Unless you’re at superstar status, keep yourself in the public eye...and ear.
4. You have a greater chance of all of the songs being killers...and not fillers. One of the difficulties with albums is writing that many great songs. Not many bands pull that off...especially young bands.
5. It gives you a real chance to explore in the studio. A chance to really find your sound. Try out different producers, studios etc. Be an artist.
In some genres, singles are the way forward. Work one song fully, create a video...release, promote...next song. Rinse and repeat until you gain some traction...or just repeat if that works for you. In the Indie scene however, a song collection of some sort still seems to be what people expect.
My suggestion is that you write an album’s worth of songs and choose your best 4-6. Write well. Work those songs hard (see previous blog articles for some ideas on this front). Make it a difficult decision for yourself. High class problems. Find someone to help you record that cares about your music..as much as you do (this is where I can possibly help you). Then in the studio, treat every song as if it was a single. After that you will have a collection of songs that you will be proud of in so many ways. And, other people are more likely to agree with you about how good they are, and...because you’ve left them wanting more...be asking you about when you’re going to release more. Or be following you to find out when your next show is...because that’s where they’ll hear more of those songs. Win!
Are you and Indie Artist? Looking to record your next batch of bangers? Contact The Electric Recording Lan to discuss your next single or EP.