Save for the output of a few already established legacy artists, the era of the popular album-length artistic statement may be ending. With CD sales in steep decline and most fans discovering new music on blogs and iTunes, the single as an art form is again on the rise.
More artists, local and national, are releasing singles and three- or four-song EPs rather than full-length records.
“I’m seeing a lot more EPs than anything else,” says Christiaan Mader, guitarist and singer for Brass Bed. “They’re easily released on multiple formats. They provide a medium through which a band can produce consistently and frequently. It’s lot easier to put out three EPs in two years than two LPs.”
With recession-hit music collectors reticent to shell out cash on a whim, Mader says these smaller, less expensive releases make better marketing tools.
“Folks don’t have the patience they used to for the LP as a format, so you don’t want to spend that much time and money on a product that will probably be dismantled into two or three shuffle-worthy singles,” Mader says. “More and more bands are using EPs as extra content for LPs or as free downloads that are partnered with certain blogs.”
Given that indie push via websites like Hype Machine and Pitchfork, even more localized sites like Stereo Gumbo or a college radio station like KLSU, bands can then spend a little time focusing on a broader vision—a full-length LP.
Josh Nee of the wildly popular alternative metal act Thou calls singles and EPs a “progress report.”
“EPs and split releases allow us to explore some new musical terrain and offer a view into what we’re doing at the moment,” Nee says. “Splits and EPs can be all over the map musically, but the full-lengths tend to define what Thou is as a band.”
The full-length, conversely, can be a riskier venture, depending heavily on timing and financial resources. The recession and market trends may be giving rise to a new singles boom, but Lee Barbier, veteran Baton Rouge musician and guitarist for The Myrtles and The Diane Lanes, says the memorable single has always been the hallmark for any band.
“Few casual music listeners—the majority of the marketplace—want deep album cuts or the full ‘artistic statement,’” Barbier says. “They just want the hit or two from a record they know, which is why singles and greatest hits packages and live records are always the biggest sellers.”
So, should bands stop dreaming that their concept album will win them fame and fortune?
No. But maybe their dream should be a little shorter.
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