Should I Start with a Single, EP, or Album for My First Release?

by | Feb 8, 2023 | Uncategorized

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 even 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 dig 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” modern 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 encourage my students 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 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 your music to!).
  • Getting booked for gigs will prove an uphill battle (because venue owners want to hear set lists, not songs – if you can only play one snog, you might be in trouble).
  • Getting more streams on platforms like Spotify will be a challenge (because listeners can’t binge listen to your catalog).
  • And more…

I understand that starting with a single (and then releasing more singles) 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, and when it finally came out, I instantly bought it and proceeded to listen to it tirelessly.

I even wrote a review for it (which you can find by clicking on the link 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. At the very least an EP. 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, 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 a dollar per song instead of a fraction of a cent per stream.

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 that your album can also turn into:

  • Handwritten lyric sheets (which you can auction off or include as incentives in crowdfunding campaigns)
  • Audio commentaries (you’ll see some bands doing this on Spotify)
  • Video commentaries (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.

Look, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re always going to be fighting for a fraction of a cent per stream… when you could be selling mid- and high-ticket offers you could be making a living off of. The choice is yours.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though…

There are so many more ways to repurpose an album and generate additional income 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 post?