It’s kind of funny. As I sit here reading over staff reviews for the latest EP releases, it reminds me just how many dang EP’s are being released these days (Roger’s going to eat this blog up!)! I know that the music industry is in a weird state right now – and the economy isn’t helping! – but as the labels try not to lose their shirt on debuting new artists, the safest way it seems to go may be to release an EP. However, I’ve often had mixed feelings about EP’s myself.
I remember the mid-90’s or so, when labels would take a chance on new artists and release a full-length debut album. It gives artists a chance to really show listeners what they can do. Imagine, for example, if Jars Of Clay’s debut album was an EP. What would their self-titled record be without “Worlds Apart” or “Boy On A String?” I suppose you can try that little exercise with any of your favorite bands — If Thousand Foot Krutch‘s Phenomenon was just 6 songs or Hawk Nelson‘s Letters To The President ? Or if Third Day’s self-titled album was without “Thief” or “Blackbird?” However, on the other hand, a debut EP does give us the listener less of a financial risk. “Well, I only had to shell out 4 or 5 bucks on this EP and it’s just ‘OK.'” … but that proposes yet another thought… does a full album place more stress on an artist or label to make it a solid debut? Does an EP leave room for error? (“We’ll save some of the best tracks for when our full-length comes out”… what if that was their thought process?). In this day and age when a lot of new artists are putting EP’s out first — do you the consumer and music fan prefer that? Does it leave you wanting more? Or do you feel a little cheated afterwards?
I do like the EP when an artist I already enjoy decides to put out something new to tide us over with. Rock N Roll Worship Circus‘ The Listening EP is one of my favorite EP’s of all-time and a solid collection of songs from start to finish. Would it have been a stronger release with 4 more songs? I don’t really know. But it was certainly a satisfying EP at six songs. I enjoyed last year’s Closer EP from Jars of Clay. It gave a glimpse at their upcoming release plus added two redone classics and a rare song – three tracks you could only get on that EP. That kind of an approach seems like an ideal EP format. But what about how Forefront Records handled new artists Abandon and Philmont? They both released digital EP’s last Summer, then both of those EPs released in CD form this year with 1 bonus track on each one. On the same day as the release of Abandon’s EP on CD this past April, they released a SECOND digital EP, this time of all new tracks. Then, selections from both EP’s made it onto Abandon’s recently released full-length album Searchlights, with the addition of about 3 or 4 new songs. Is this kind of approach to debuting a new artist a little goofy, or something you think makes sense?
One last thought I wanted to add… in the 90’s, with some of these aforementioned debut full-length albums, there was no way to buy tracks by themselves… now there is a way — between AmazonMP3 and iTunes especially, we can just download single songs instead of the full album. So isn’t there less stress on the consumer already if they just want to buy half the full-length album instead of the full thing. So why bother with an EP as a debut if listeners don’t want to commit to a full album? They can just buy the tracks off the full-length that they want!
Just some 4am musings here. What do you guys think of the notorious debut-album-EP and the way labels are releasing them at an increased frequency these days (or not even the debut EP’s but the more frequent release of multiple EP’s from your favorite artists in place of a full-length album?, like the Future Of Forestry Travel EP’s, for example)?