Extending The Play: The EP Comeback [Editorial]

May 21 2011

One of the toughest challenges facing the industry today is the ability to efficiently adapt to new consumer trends. Illegal downloading is still going strong and putting quite a dent in the music industry’s revenue. This has led to a change in marketing for major labels, and a change in the way artists are now releasing music. More and more artists are now opting for EP releases rather than full length albums. The EP was once traditionally meant to introduce new singles for artists, and wasn’t given much thought in the way of significant releases. Now though, the EP has become a way for artists to release new music and tide fans over without having to risk the full cost of a brand new full length album.

Artists like Lil Wayne and Drake have made an impact on the charts with EP releases, with Drake’s So Far Gone EP becoming the fifth best selling hip hop album of 2009. In both the digital realm and the brick and mortar experience, EP’s have gone through a resurrection of sorts. As an innovator of music marketing, Strange Music has taken full advantage of the EP trend. Starting with Tech N9ne’s The Lost Scripts, Strange has been releasing EP’s in between albums to give fans brand new music. Now, Krizz Kaliko’s S.I.C. leads the pack with a series of EP’s to follow this summer. EP’s may be considered mini-albums, but there is nothing miniature about their sales.

There are many factors that have contributed to the driving sales of EPs as of late. Within the last few years, the EP has become a typical first release for new artists. Serving as a “testing the waters” experience for both labels and artists, the EP has given singles a new platform. Traditionally defined as a musical release under 30 minutes in length, EPs cut down costs on all ends. The labels spend less on the release, and in turn, much of the savings are passed on to the consumer. The short length of an EP actually works in favor of the artist. Confined to only four or five tracks per release, the artist is challenged with putting together a short, but quality release. This allows most artists to focus solely on those tracks, and in the end, release a much stronger outing. It is not uncommon for EPs to be critically praised over full lengths for their quality over quantity content. Short, but sweet. That’s the idea.

In a surprising twist, EPs have benefited from a recent surge in vinyl sales. While most record labels avoid the vinyl route due to high cost production, it certainly is a new, or in this case old, avenue to consider. In 2010, vinyl sales rose to $4 million, while traditional music releases experienced a double digit decline. Dating back to the late 70’s, punk rock bands began a trend of releasing EPs solely on vinyl. The trend continues today with artists of all genres releasing exclusive vinyl EPs, that coupled with their collector’s value, have pushed sales to an all time high. Only time will tell if major labels will invest in vinyl releases as a means to increase profits.

Strange certainly has made an impact with its EP releases as of late. Tech N9ne’s Seepage EP reached high sales on the charts within its first week. An impressive feat for an EP, but even more so for an online only release. Once again removing the middle man, Strange offers these EP releases exclusively through its online webstore and at live events. With a tight EP strategy in place, Strange Music is allowing its artists to remain relevant and release music in between major releases. This gives way for new music at shows, and sets up a prelude of sorts to new albums. Krizz Kaliko’s latest release, S.I.C., is the first in a line of Strange Music EPs set for release in 2011. With a heavy promotional campaign in place, and Kaliko’s participation on the All 6’s And 7’s tour, S.I.C. is positioned for an exceptional shot at great sales. Featuring some of Kaliko’s best work to date, S.I.C. greatly benefits from its shorter length. Kaliko managed to turn all of his focus on to the five tracks, and showcased his top tier talent. With Kutt Calhoun, Tech N9ne, Big Scoob, and Brotha Lynch Hung all expected to drop EPs in 2011, Strange has stamped its mark on the EP trend.

Whether it’s on vinyl, iTunes, or sitting on record store shelves, the EP has proven that it’s here to stay. While some may see it as cheap marketing ploys by record labels, the EP has presented a new challenge to artists, and in the end, it’s the fans who are rewarded. Good music is good music, no matter how you package it.

-Victor Sandoval, Assistant Editor Strange Music

Follow Victor on Twitter: @VicMSandoval

Click here to purchase Krizz Kaliko’s S.I.C. featuring the hits “Immortal” and “Medicine”.

“Immortal” was produced by YoungFyre and “Medicine” was produced by Seven.