Main Different Types of Music Releases (for Songwriters)
For most artists there’s a few releases that are quite common and have different purposes. It’s good to know these because you will most likely have at least one of each over time.
The main types of music releases are the demo, single, EP, LP, and Live Album. If you are a DJ there are some additional types of releases like the remix as well.
I’m not a DJ so I’m gonna leave those for someone else to cover and focus on what most songwriters and bands will use.
This is probably the very first piece of work you will have. A demo is not meant to be an official release since it is not yet produced to a professional degree. However, local artists will likely release these just to share with their friends or have something for people to listen to while they put together something with better audio quality.
Demos are also really useful for the artist as a pre-production tool. With a demo you’ll essentially have a rough idea of what the actual song will sound like recorded.
This is important because when you pay the studio per hour, you don’t want to spend valuable recording hours coming up with or working on unfinished songs. It’s best to come to the studio with all your songs as close to the final product as possible, and then the producer or mixing engineer may have some feedback on small details to improve your track.
This will probably be the first studio level production you have for your music. This involves paying to go into the studio and do a professional recording to get the best quality sounds you can.
Singles can be both a song from your upcoming album or just an independent song.
When it’s a teaser for your album it’s good to choose a song that shows the general feel of the album. For example, if your album in general is full of latin percussion, then no worries, but if only one song has latin percussion then you might give your audience the wrong expectation that the rest of the album will also have it if you use it as your single.
For second, third singles and beyond you can definitely switch it up though.
If you’re just releasing independent singles then you can pretty much do whatever you want since you’re not setting up an expectation for an album.
Many artists use singles to churn out quick songs and keep their audience expecting a new song every certain amount of time. It’s a good way to get initial interest.
EP – What is an Extended Play record?
EP stands for Extended Play. These are like short albums, usually containing 3 – 6 songs and are around 30 mins or less in total run time. Since they are shorter than an LP, they cost less to make because you don’t have to record as many songs.
This type of release is excellent for giving your audience a taste of your overall sound because there are multiple songs. Also, any industry professionals you are trying to work with will get a wider view of what you can do and how to understand what you are going for. It will help get your sound and your brand going as an artist.
LP – What is a Long Play record?
LP stands for Long Play. This is an official album and they traditionally have a run time around 46 mins but could be longer. Depending on how long your songs are, that could be something like 8-12 songs or more.
As an official album you probably want to write one of these after you’ve already had singles and an EP out. That way you’ll have a better idea of what your sound is as an artist and increase the odds of writing better songs for this full album.
Many artists also use this opportunity for more songs to write a Concept Album. While there are albums that revolve around a concept, a Concept Album usually revolves more heavily around it
This often includes making a story that unfolds throughout the songs from the beginning of the record to the end. It could also mean using elements from one song in other songs or presenting pieces from one song in a different way in a different song later on.
Live Album – It’s exactly what you think lol
As you might’ve guessed, it’s a recording of a live concert or series of concerts in front of an audience.
The purpose of this album is to capture what the artist sounds live and the energy of the audience, as opposed to the ultra perfected version of the music you get on other official releases.
Live albums usually are rougher around the edges. Some performance mistakes are left in to stay true to the actual live experience, although in reality, many live albums for professional artists do have fixes added to them in post production.
Fixes are done in a way that still sounds live but affords some quality control because at the end of the day a live album has to be a quality product and live performances can be very unpredictable.
I don’t mean to ruin the magic for you with this, but it’s important to know in case it ever comes up for you later down the road.
Wrapping it up
These are pretty much all the main releases you will work with as an artist. Like I said, there are other types that apply to different types of artists like DJs.
In case of the remix, for example, some people may sample your song or you may choose to work with a DJ to do a remix of it together but that is more of a collaboration and probably more for the songwriter that is trying to go in the pop/rap/hiphop/EDM direction than rock, metal, etc.
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