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8 reasons to release a follow-up EP

You’ve just released the album of your life. The songs are honed to perfection, the production is top notch, and you found your true voice as an artist. How can you possibly top it with your next release? I suggest you don’t even try.

Instead, follow it up with leftovers. You may call them outtakes, b-sides, or even rejects. You can come right out and admit that it’s not your best stuff. Your fans will still want it, and some will delight in what they consider hidden gems.

This week I released Second Thoughts, a companion EP to my latest album, The Thought Chapter. It features the four original songs that didn’t make the album, plus six remixes of album tracks. Enough fans requested a physical release to justify a limited edition of 100 CD-R copies, signed and numbered in cardboard jackets. My graphic designer friend Todd LeMieux did the layout as a favor, and the discs in printed jackets cost $262 shipped from Disc Makers. More than half were sold as pre-orders at $10, and I suspect the remainder will sell in the next few months. The EP has taken in $100 in digital sales from my own mp3 store in three days, and will generate income for years on iTunes, Amazon, and the rest.

My first follow-up EP only came out on Tuesday, but I already consider it a success. Here are eight reasons to try it for yourself:

  1. A better album. The most important benefit is that it forces you to record more songs than you need for the album. Knowing you’ll have a few extras gives you the freedom to take chances, and relieves the psychological pressure to make every song a hit.
  2. Revive your album promotion. A follow-up can renew interest in your album just as the hype begins to fade. I waited five months after releasing my album, but your timing should coincide with a natural lull in your promotion. Depending on how far you want to take it, the follow-up could spawn a new series of blog posts, press releases, or even a tour!
  3. Show off the album in a new light. The follow-up pays homage to the album by demonstrating that you included only your best material. It invites fans to compare the songs that didn’t make it to the songs that did, which can spark discussion on forums and blog comments. Even if they disagree with your decisions, they gain a deeper appreciation of the songs. After all, not every album is worthy of a sequel!
  4. Stimulate sales of your back catalog. Whenever I release something new, sales of my back catalog pick up. In this case, a number of fans ordered the album and EP together. You might consider a combo offer for die-hards, like bundling the EP with a t-shirt.
  5. Fatten up your discography. Some fans want to own everything you produce. Every couple of months someone asks how to buy all my albums at once. In that case, bigger is better! Even if you’ve only got one album, the follow-up EP dodges the whole issue of the “sophomore slump” by making your second release deliberately subordinate to your first.
  6. Stay in touch with your fans. Before this album, I essentially disappeared for five years, while my mailing list declined from 1,200 to 500 subscribers. The follow-up EP shortens the perceived album release cycle and keeps you connected with your fans.
  7. Provide a better return on your investment. You’ve already spent the money to record the songs. You can get great remixes for free by running a contest at Acid Planet or Remix Comps. If you go digital only, you just have to pay for mastering (you might consider me for the job), and maybe graphic design, though you can get away with using a slight variation of the album cover.
  8. Expand your stylistic range. Though music sales are hard to come by these days, there is still money to be made licensing your music for film and television. My music falls between the cracks in genres, but now I’ve got legit club and trip hop mixes of my songs. If remixes aren’t your thing, you can release acoustic or even instrumental or a cappella versions.

I’m convinced that the follow-up EP has lots of benefits and few drawbacks. What do you think? Anything I’ve overlooked, pro or con? Let’s discuss it in the comments.

In a future post, I’ll reveal my plans to turn the follow-up concept on its head for my next release.

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with fifteen years of experience promoting his seven Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

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Reader Comments (7)

As a fan, I love EPs. Particularly if used the way you describe above. One of my favorite bands had an album release last December. Prior to that they had shared bits of some demos of possible songs for the album. Only one of the demos they previewed actually ended up on the album. I love the album as they created it, but I would kill to have those other songs. Even in 'rough' form. In fact, another band I love released a few 'rough' or alternate versions of album tracks last year, and one of them I actually preferred the rough version to the album version.

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterCalysta Rose

Agreed. It is utterly and totally impossible to out-think your fans. Tracks I've considered trash have been embraced as favorites. There is just no predicting what's going to resonate with the people.

April 22 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

as an electronic musician who mainly creates for DJ use, as of lately i almost only work on EPs. it started off as singles last year, but i found that for the energy i was putting into the marketing of a single i was better off putting in a few more tracks and make EPs.

anyways the point of my post here is to encourage people who don't make electronic music to release more music. i say this because i know some people who invest so much time into one album, but these days it's hard to put all your eggs into one basket of songs. i'd recommend more releases that are less "perfect' than one album you think will fly you to the moon. as long as you're not releasing crap this should be good!

April 22 | Unregistered Commentermr. tunes

Excellent points Brian and I agree 100%. In fact, I'm using this strategy for my next album. I just threw down almost $100 on Depeche Mode's Boxed Set of Songs Of The Universe. My favorite part, and why I spent all the extra $$$, was for the old demos, b-sides, "throwaways", to die hard fans, they can never get enough.


Brian- this is BRILLIANT!

A great way to conect with fans who want more of you, stretch your own creativity and make more money - Im all for it!

In My Book Music Success in Nine Weeks and in my seminars & workshops for musicians I talk about creating a "Marketing Funnel" the classic marketing plan that all businesses put into place to earn more money from people who already love their products and brand. Many musicians sit in their chairs wincing and they say "we just worked so hard on ONE album, now you are saying we need to release MORE?" but some like you embrace the challenge and create cool things that fans reward them for creating by purchasing.

I often cite Trent Reznor, Prince and Radiohead as examples of artists who really understand these principles but now I will cite YOU!

Kudos... and thanks for pointing out the clear and obvious reasons why one should consider EPs.


April 28 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

I totally agree! We`ve used the EP as a way to keep our music in our fans faces. In todays musical landscape, fans can stray very quickly. Even if its a remix of the song, different arrangements or bonus covers songs - so long as your fan base has something, the connection continues.

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterSean Harley

You guys are too kind! Glad the article is resonating.

I've got 24 EPs left, and overall sales for April are over $800, which is pretty good month! Only $350 of that is from the EP, which demonstrates how it stimulates back catalog sales. In fact, I had three orders for my entire eight-CD discography!

Ariel, I'm a big fan of your book! It gave me the push to focus on my mailing list again after five years of neglect. In just a few months, it's back up from 500 to 800, and I suspect I'll reach my goal of 1,000 subscribers by the end of the year far ahead of schedule. Thanks for helping me get my priorities in focus!

April 28 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Hazard

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