Singles, EPs, or Albums: What's The Future For EDM Producers?
The digitization of music offers positive and negative effects for artists and fans alike. Music creation and consumption have become easier than ever, but compensation for an artist's work comes at a cost. Streaming services such as Spotify enable people across the world to listen to new music, but many artists feel challenged in the way these services pay for their music. The format of an artist's new release also poses new obstacles, especially in an age where people no longer flock to buy all the music they enjoy.
Artists traditionally release new music through three types of formats: singles, EPs (or extended plays), and albums (or LPs). These release formats vary in a few ways, most notably in how many songs pop up on each. Singles are unsurpisingly single-track releases, EPs can have anywhere from three to nine tracks, and albums can have as many songs as deemed appropriate by either the record label or the artist.
Singles serve a variety of functions, from teasing an artist's upcoming work to drumming up interest during a producer's downtime. Singles receive attention due to their ability to climb the charts, and for many EDM producers, the most important charts are the Billboard Hot 100, Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs, and the Beatport top chart. These charts highlight a song's financial success, and stands a reference for other producers who are releasing similar music. Sometimes an artist can survive by simply releasing singles, however the most notable drawback to a single comes from the format's short shelf life. Singles are released at an overwhelming rate, and even the most popular songs can lose relevance in a few years, if not months.
EPs, or Extended Plays, act as a middle ground between singles and albums. They contain a couple hand-selected songs that can fit a single, overarching theme. For many EDM producers, EPs help generate interest in between album releases. While some EPs meet critical and commercial success (most notably Skrillex's Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites EP), their impact often pales in comparison to the reception of albums.
Albums represent an artist's complete vision. They fit a certain theme (such as Porter Robinson's "rebirth" with Worlds) and culminate a producer's long-term work. The only issue is, the growth of streaming services today have had a negative impact on album sales worldwide. Before the release of Taylor Swift's 1989 album, no album released in 2014 achieved platinum status (or sold a million copies). Albums such as Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, an LP which received a huge marketing push from record label Columbia, debuted high on the Billboard 2000 album chart but quickly fell the ranks as weeks passed. While the year's best albums tend to remain in the memory of music lovers, the continual sales of such albums decreases as the music industry changes.
Where does that leave the EDM producer? Each format meets varying degrees of success, but even single-driven artists such as Hardwell have decided to pursue an album as of late. While famous songs like Hardwell's "Spaceman" hit high on the Beatport charts, their separation from an overarching release could negatively impact their longevity. While album sales continue to slump, the artistic integrity behind an influential album dwarfs the impact seen in nearly all singles or EPs. Singles drive an artist forward, but an album collects those songs to immortalize a producer's legacy. It remains to be seen how EDM producers adjust to the latest industry trends, but the acceptance of the album as the most important format rings true across all producers along the spectrum.