Should You Release Singles or Albums? - Outerloop

Should You Release Singles or Albums?

An answer to a question in our exclusive Facebook group: Should I release singles or albums?

“After Paul Phelps talked about releasing material the other day I got into a conversation with some other artists. And I was wondering who, if anyone here, is just releasing singles and foregoing the album format all together?” (Should I release singles or albums?)

Why do we release singles?

Let’s work backwards. Albums and EPs serve as a way to attract attention and build the fanbase. Singles serve to generate momentum and enthusiasm for the album or EP release.

So, why not skip the album or EP altogether? Why not just use singles to generate momentum and enthusiasm to build the fanbase?

I think this is a solid strategy for artists in a particular point in their career with particular goals. As always, you can do ANYTHING as long as you are clear as to WHY you are doing it.

If you DON’T want industry attention and are doing a fine job building a fanbase on your own, sure. In that situation, going all-singles makes a lot of sense. If you’re a touring act, you’ll need to make sure your booking agent (or yourself) is confident promoters will book your band on the strength of the promotion you are doing for a single. Historically, promoters can be hesitant to book bands not on an “album cycle”. Meanwhile, some promoters are progressive and just care about getting you into their room.

Here’s an example of an artist with a great singles-release strategy

I know one band that did very well audience pull-wise in about a dozen markets. They wanted to raise some money for recording with a particular producer, and released a very-well-done home-recording as a single as a means to book into those markets. The song was great and got attention on the band on streaming and radio. As a result, they PACKED those rooms and the new song made for a great first encore.

They had a reason for doing it that made sense. Whether you should release singles or albums is dependent on your reasons making sense for you.

However you release your music, be sure to read my recent blog article or watch my recent video on how to release your music on social media!

Do You Have a Purpose For Your Singles?

What I would NOT do is just release singles without a plan and a goal / purpose that makes sense. And once that purpose is identified, VERIFY that purpose will work.
If you just want to give your fans something to remind them that you exist. If you want to keep them excited for the next big thing you do – that makes sense. But the “bump” is limited.
If you are making an investment (time, energy, and/or money) in a music video and think the video will bring in a ton of fans – that makes a certain amount of sense.
If you have a special guest on a recording, and there’s a bump happening in their popularity you want to piggy-back on before the attention dies down – that kinda makes some sense too.

You could even take a long-term strategy of releasing singles every few weeks, with a near-perpetual “RIR” campaign behind each, with the purpose of creating a never-ending virtuous cycle of new fan generation. I haven’t seen anyone do this successfully yet (maybe the rapper Wax as he’s kept it up for ages but I am not sure there what his results have been), but there’s no saying either it can’t be done nor that it won’t be the way it’s done for nearly everyone in the future.

Traditionally, the purpose of the single has been to generate excitement for the full length release (or EP – see below). When releasing your singles as a pre-cursor to your full-length or EP, be sure to release the singles the right way by being strategic. And we can be of help with that!

Is It Better To Release Singles or an EP?

While the EP is my favorite format for releasing music at the present (see this recent blog post as to why) there is an argument for releasing only singles instead. This can be genre-dependent. But it can also be for the reasons above. However you release your music, make sure your goals make sense for that format.

Generally, singles are best released as a way to generate excitement and momentum for a full-length or EP. This leads to sales, streams, and possible chart positions leading to bigger opportunities for your band. But singles can also be used to generate excitement for a tour, for articles of merchandise, or any other number of things.

The benefit of releasing an EP, or a series of singles, is it leaves your audience wanting more. You want to keep your audience wanting to hear more from you. This happens as a result of releasing great music. But HOW you release it makes a difference as well.

The Detriments to Being Creative In All The Wrong Ways… and the Benefits

But what I WILL say is that it’s extremely beneficial to NOT spend your creative energy finding new ways of doing the business side of music. If you see someone doing something successfully, and someone else, and another artist, then it’s definitely worth trying to do what they are doing. (This is the RIR “secret sauce”.)

Side note: I keep watching what artists are doing in rap / hip-hop as they seem much more interested in experimenting than in other genres. There are some definite flops but also some successes, yet no trends as of yet. When it works in another genre, as long as it isn’t so genre-specific as to be inapplicable to yours, it’s a great idea to at least experiment with it to see if it will work.

The music industry is SO FAR BEHIND in the way it does things, it’s almost shocking. But that’s not too say the “right way” has yet been discovered. Whether you should release singles or albums has seemingly been answered. We, as consumers, are streaming single songs more than ever. But it hasn’t yet aligned with a way that makes sense for the music industry.

I believe, as artists, its more creatively interesting and beneficial to focus on your art than on the ways of doing business.

See you next week!

Outerloop Coaching​​