Today, country artist Blake Shelton released a new album, his first since 2008. What makes it newsworthy isn’t so much the content but the length of the album. Instead of the standard 10-12 tracks that usually makeup an artists’ album, this one only carries 6 track which Shelton and his label have been marketing as his ‘six pack’. A 6 track album? What is this? Well, in the olden days of the music industry, this would have bee touted and called an EP – basically, a mini album. It’s usually a special affair, something to release in the place of a bigger album that’ll host more songs. Shelton and his label though have noted that if this concept works, we will likely be seeing more of this ‘six pack’. So, what’s the deal with these smaller albums? Not many artists seem to do them anymore and even music industry sites like strummerrecordings.com don’t often report on them, so what do we think of it?
Shelton noted that Lady GaGa’s 2009 ‘Fame Monster’ album is what inspired him to re-tool ‘Hillbilly Bone’ as a shorter, EP-style release. Many seem skeptical of this concept: we’ve grown accustomed to CDs carrying anywhere from 10-17 tracks and the idea of an album only having 6 tracks seems a bit underwhelming considering so many artists release albums that are 100% great quality. Usually, there are only 2-3 tracks that are really ‘hit’ or single quality, the rest subject to the listener’s preferences. EPs are nothing new and have been around for a while; yet, they haven’t been used as selling vehicles by big artists in years. GaGa has proven that even with fewer tracks, the EP still has life. ‘Fame Monster’ only added to her popularity and offered her a way to release music soon after her debut album without overshadowing the original album and without spending months working on another 12-14 track release. Artists like Gaga have managed to inspire so many who are looking to pursue careers in the music industry. Whether it means checking out sites like upyourplays to build up your following on platforms like Soundcloud or creating a strong online presence, this all adds up to getting your music out there to people who want to listen.
Artists like Lady Gaga and Blake Shelton are on to something and the music industry needs to take note. There are many issues plaguing the music industry these days – declining sales from even the top artists, a lack of inspiration, a lack of proper promotion for releases and artists. The artists and record labels could make better use of social media as a cost-effective way of pushing their music online to a wider audience. Using Instagram in conjunction with a service like Nitreo can help to promote the organic growth of followers and also make managing the account easier. The shorter, EP-style solution is one that could remedy many of these problems. First, a reason people bypass the album and go for singles is that with an album having more than 10 tracks, there’s bound to be a few of them that are ‘filler’ or just aren’t up to snuff. Shortening the album to 6 or 8 tracks forces artists and labels to get real and only feature the best music the artist has to offer.
Another problem is the frequency and how often we’re exposed to an artist or his/her music. Consider an artist like Madonna. She was recently named the third-highest money maker in the music industry. A factor that didn’t figure into that ranking – album sales that are far off from other areas of her business model that includes touring and merchandising. When Madonna comes out with an album, her fans are ready for new music because it’s been a good year (if not longer) break in between each album. By the time the album comes out, tracks have been leaked online and downloaded, thus making the actual release of the album less important and the music having less of an impact. If Madonna switched to this new business model, fans wouldn’t have to wait years in between new releases. They could be treated to a mini album every year, even twice a year if she wanted to push it further. As for her image, it would feel a bit more fresh because we’d be saturated with Madonna music, appearances, promotions every year, year-long, as is happening with Lady GaGa.
The EP makes a lot more sense in the music industry of today. Labels and artists want to make more money. Fine! Put out a product more frequently, meet the demand from the consumers. Fans of various artists are always complaining that there’s a lack of new material coming out from the big stars. After long waits that last over a year if not more, we’re treated to an album that isn’t always worth the wait. Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Britney, Aguilera, Bon Jovi and all of these other artists that follow the old-school model of releasing a new album every 2-3 years need to get hip to the new trend. More albums each year, perhaps fewer tracks, more promotion (music videos that are big events and not cheaply slapped together), more exposure and interaction with the fans. Someone like Lady Gaga wouldn’t need to buy views on sites like https://getfans.io/buy-youtube-views. She has a very loyal fanbase who will share her content on social media and would want to see one of their favourite artists do well. Plus, these shorter albums seem far more affordable at $8.99 a pop (or cheaper) than shelling out $13 or more.
And who’s to say each album needed to be split in two with the EP formula? Why not get creative and play with different styles in each mini-album era? Madonna is the queen of re-invention; her last album felt a bit unsteady with a hip-hop/urban style not exactly going well with her more mature/classy tracks. So, fine, go both ways but have one album for each style. I don’t think artists would have to worry about always being stuck in the studio either. If they’re used to record lots of tracks for one album release, they could easily keep to the same schedule and simply split the release of those tracks between 2-3 mini EPs. Just for fun, they could release a full album with all of the tracks afterward with a few bonus tracks (since I’ve noticed the trend to re-release albums anyway).
As my list of music artists who haven’t released a new album since 2008 or earlier grows, I’m hoping more of these artists grow hip to the idea of releasing EPs. It’s a smarter option than staying out of the public’s eye for years and then releasing an album of mediocre material and having it flop hard. I’d rather have artists releasing new stuff each year, throughout the year than waiting for them or their record label to work it out scheduling wise. If there’s one Lady GaGa trend that should stick around and be adapted by everyone, it’s definitely this one.