So, what should your first release be? A single, EP, or album?


I love this question because it points to something you probably aren’t thinking about just yet…

I wasn’t even thinking about it when I came out with my first solo album, Shipwrecked… My Sentiments (but I wish I had been!).

Okay, that’s probably enough buildup. Let’s start digging into this incredibly important question.

First, a bit of Background on My First Release

When I put together Shipwrecked… I didn’t even know about music distributors like CD Baby.

Of course, when I found out what they could do for me, I got excited.

“What? They automatically push my music everywhere? Gimme!”

No strategy.

I’m not saying it was a bad move. Music platforms weren’t quite as saturated back then, so I certainly reaped the benefits of being a part of the internet power wave.

But if I had thought a little more strategically about this whole process, I know I would have approached it a little differently.

Because long-term, it probably would have meant more engagement, more sales, more streams, more newsletter subscribers and more opportunities in general.

First Steps First

Okay, so the “prevailing” wisdom is don’t start with an album, start with a single. I don’t agree.

This is partially right, but only partially.

There’s a reason I tell artists to start with an album, and this video sums it up quite nicely (but don’t worry, I offer a more detailed explanation below):

So, yes, you should release a single before you release anything else…

But you should also have your album ready to go on the back end.

See Things from THEIR Perspective

So, I’ve booked hundreds of my own shows as a solo artist…

And have organized, hosted, and emcee’d hundreds more.

Basically, what I’m saying is that I understand both sides.

I know what it’s like being the artist trying to get the gig…

And I know what it’s like being the organizer booking the artist.

So, speaking on behalf of venue owners, reviewers, and publicists everywhere:

I can’t get a good sense of your artistic identity from just one song!

What does that mean?

It means:

  • Getting reviews for your music will prove just that much harder (because reviewers have NO IDEA what to compare it to!).
  • Getting booked for gigs will prove an uphill battle (because venue owners want to hear set lists, not songs).
  • Getting more streams on platforms like Spotify will be a challenge (because listeners can’t binge listen).
  • And more…

I understand that starting with a single seems like wisdom. But it actually costs you more in the long run.

A Single is Like a Movie Trailer

So, despite what I’ve just said, a single (or even a sample) is a great way to grab people’s attention

When one of my favorite bands, DramaGods, had a new release on the way, they had a sample up on their website, and that got me excited.

I couldn’t wait for the release to come out, and when it finally did, I instantly bought it and proceeded to listen to it tirelessly.

I even wrote a review for it (which you can find by clicking the link found above).

That’s the power of a single. It builds excitement. It’s a great teaser. It’s like a movie trailer.

The power of a single is that it builds excitement. Click To Tweet

Here’s a Strategy Worth Implementing

So, why not use your single to do exactly that? Build some excitement.

For instance, you could release your single about a month in advance of releasing your full album.

That gives you PLENTY of time to build excitement for the full release.

It almost seems braindead when I talk about it like this, doesn’t it?

But you want to follow it up with a full album. THAT’s the point.

Because your album can easily be turned into so many other products you can monetize.

And it basically solves all the problems mentioned earlier:

  • Getting reviews for your music is easier because reviewers get a better sense of what you and your music are about.
  • Getting gigs is a breeze because venue owners or bookers have more to latch onto.
  • Getting more streams on streaming platforms is a walk in the park since you’ve got more music fans can binge listen through.
  • And so on.

And it’s also worth experimenting a bit, especially if you’re concerned about revenue streams (after all, we know that streams don’t amount to much).

For instance, you could release your single to all major streaming platforms…

And then make your full album exclusive on Bandcamp, so you can make some dollars rather than just cents.

It’s 100% up to you, but I think it’s worth trying different things with every release you put out if you’re interested in maximizing revenue.

Spinning the Album

This is the other reason you should follow a single with an album:

Because you can spin it (repurpose it) in dozens of different ways for additional revenue.

I’ve laid out a lot of these in the video above, but since I’ve got more space to talk about them here, let me get to it.

Your album can turn into:

  • Liner notes and lyrics (these are often overlooked assets)
  • Press releases (you should create a press release for every album you launch)
  • Sheet music and guitar tabs (which you can sell for additional revenue!)
  • Branded merch (e.g. shirts with lyric snippets on them)
  • Music videos (always good to support your release with music videos when you can)
  • Lyric videos (another great promotional tool)
  • Remixes and EDM remixes (can give your audience another reason to binge listen)
  • Acoustic versions (if your music is electric – otherwise you could go electric)
  • Instrumental versions (if your music includes vocals – otherwise you could add vocals!)

This much is relatively obvious…

But did you know your album can also turn into:

  • Handwritten lyric sheets (which you can auction off or include as incentives in crowdfunding campaigns)
  • Audio commentary (you’ll see some bands doing this on Spotify)
  • Video commentary (why not?)
  • Blog posts, guest posts, interviews, eBooks, books, infographics, podcast episodes, videos (plenty of cross-promotion opportunities here)

And what’s cool about all this is that you can bundle it up and make it into a DELUXE release too.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though…

There are so many more ways to repurpose an album and make more money from it. And there’s no way you could make the same impact with just a single.

First Release, Final Thoughts

Did you get some RADICAL ideas from this?


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