Long time ago, actually when my dad was a teenager, nearly everything was released as 45 rpm singles. I still remember when I inherited his pile of classical singles as a small kid and managed to destroy most of them by experimenting with them, melting them over a stove and so on. My kids behave much better.
Anyway, then we got LPs and the record companies of course liked that much more as they could charge more for such products, and with the advent of CD players they could make even more money by just re-releasing their album catalog in digital format. Those were the days when the record companies drowned in money, and it explains their dismal situation today as the consumers have taken control again, and they demand much more, such as again cherry-picking single entries. A typical album release usually had one or two filler tracks so the product could be released, and that can’t be done today. So sorry record execs, you can’t get you leased BMW any more.
The single lived on, mostly thanks to DJs using 12″ singles and remixes. There was this odd thing called an EP, 3-4 track version, that co-existed, it was somewhat invisible during the CD days, but it’s doing a come-back, and that’s what this article is about.
I do think that EPs are an excellent release format, for many reasons. If you release just one track, or a track with let’s say three remixes, you could get something out but it might not maximize the purchase power of the consumers. If they like your style then they are very tempted to purchase more at the same time. I don’t know if multiple remixes really cuts it, for me it would be boring to purchase the same track with three different variations…
An album is a nice thing to put together, but today albums are no longer max 45 minute long as in the vinyl days (excluding Todd Rundgren’s Initiation that has a vinyl running length of 68 minutes!). CD album releases run up to an hour or more and that means a lot of material — it could take many months to put this together. And remember again, no filler material, thanks.
So, an EP is a good compromise, let’s say three, four or five unique tracks. Usually the turnaround for such a product is a couple of months max. The consumer is not that worried about getting let’s say all four tracks for .99 times four, compared with getting the whole album.
Anyway, this is the reason why a many of the PlanetoidPark releases since last summer have been EP releases (especially the forthcoming ones yet to be announced!), and most likely it will continue this way. I won’t say that this will always be the case, but just now it’s a nice compromise. It also means that eMusic and iTunes releases are nice, compact releases rather than singles or long term albums, and happen more frequently.
There could be new formats out in future. For example, I would really like to see at some point a format where multiple tracks are included, and the DJ or consumer could remix their own versions by just using and balancing various tracks — and who was a pioneer concerning this concept, again, Todd Rundgren with his interactive CD No World Order. I have that CD, alas I’m not even sure I could play it on the latest computer setup I have. This shows the problem, for something like this to take off, we need a technology agreement across the audio software products, consumer players, and especially an agreement amongst all the labels to use such a format. It also means that there’s enough interest from the consumers for this to happen.
Somehow I doubt the big record labels are that much interested in new formats, it looks like they are battling a battle they will lose, anyway, i.e. protecting digital material that can’t be protected. I would rather like them skating where the hockey puck will be next.