Music Marketing: What Is an EP?

How to Get Started Creating Your Own Extended Play Record

Promotional Tools: What Is the EP Music Release Format?

Image by Lara Antal © The Balance 2019 

In the music industry, EP stands for "extended play record" or simply "extended play." An EP is a compilation of songs often created for promotional use and covers the middle ground between a single and a full-length album. EPs are usually four to six songs in length and are generally made using original tracks that the artist hasn't released.

What Is an EP Used For?

Musicians release EPs for a variety of reasons, but they are most frequently used as promotional tools to grow a fan base. EPs often introduce new bands, keep interest in an artist alive between the release of full-length albums, or help promote a tour. Artists also use EPs as giveaways and incentives for joining mailing lists, or to help sell concert tickets.

Some of the other reasons artists create EPs are:

  • EPs can be a solution for artists who want to release something more comprehensive than just one song but can't afford the studio time necessary to record a full-length album—which usually contains about 10 to 12 songs.
  • Some musicians use EPs to experiment with a new music style or because they want to dabble in less commercial sounds than their full-length albums feature.
  • EPs are also sometimes used to release the B-side of a hit song, as well as unreleased tracks that were cut when the full-length album was recorded in the studio.

Distribution and Marketing

One option for distribution is using a publisher such as TuneCore, a New York-based independent digital music distribution, publishing, and licensing service. TuneCore's benefit is that it gives musicians the tools they need to get their music out to the world, grow their fan base, and stay in control of their careers. The cost is about $20 per album. However, you don't necessarily have to hire an outside distributor—not if you're tech inclined.

Your Website

It may not be cutting-edge, but as long as your website is professional-looking (and you keep it updated), it's a good place to upload your EP—especially if you direct fans to your site via your social media platforms.

Social Media

Social media platforms are key to any artist's success and can easily be used to promote and market an EP. In addition to fans, music industry professionals and music bloggers constantly visit social media platforms. You can make use of all of your social media platforms—from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram. Just be sure you engage fans by not being overly promotional, repetitive, or boring. Also, be conscious of search engines and include those important keywords and keyword phrases in your tags and place them at the start of your tag fields. Also, be sure to use adjectives that describe your music, especially if you're experimenting with a new style or genre.


Last, but not least, don't forget YouTube, the first successful music streaming site that has staying power and reaches millions of people around the world. Just make sure you have a professional-looking channel and cover image that links back to all of your social media platforms.

Your Artist Newsletter

While we're a social media-driven culture, email is still vital. If you spend money on a good mailing list service provider (such as MailChimp), you can spread the word about your new EP release. With MailChimp, you can send up to 150,000 emails free per month, and after that, it will cost you about $1 to send out 1,000 more.

How to Get Started Creating Your Extended Play Record

You may be wondering what it takes to create your EP. Whether you are looking to give away an EP for free (to augment your fan base) or you simply want to conduct your focus group and test market a new music genre, ask yourself the following questions before you begin the process of creating your EP:

  • Why are you creating an EP? In other words, is it a promotional tool, are you experimenting with your music, or is it a way to thank your fans—perhaps after a successful worldwide tour?
  • Who are you creating the EP for? Consider who will be hearing your music, such as what age group, is it for city dwellers or laid-back folks living in the country, etc.?
  • What style and tone of music would you like to feature? Meaning, are you going for a soft country rock vibe with a lot of storytelling or more of an instrumental sound?
  • Will the songs all be new or a mashup of some of your previous work mixed in with some new tracks?
  • Will you be recording your EP on your own, or do you need the help of technicians?
  • How will you be distributing your EP? It runs the gamut from using a mass distributor to uploading the EP yourself to your website.
  • What will you ask for in return for the EP? In other words, do you want people to sign up for a newsletter or, say, use social media to Facebook or tweet about you and your EP?

Once you've put pen to paper and thoroughly answered all of the questions above, then you can start the process by doing the following:

  1. Choosing the Right Four to Six Tracks: Though it is fine if you use tracks that you have previously recorded, consider compiling all unreleased songs to create an enticing new product.
  2. Choosing a Style: Aside from choosing the genre of music you would like to feature, consider varying your tracks to showcase your wide range of talent. For example, your first two tracks can be more mellow, while the last two tracks can be more upbeat and exciting.
  3. Structuring Your EP Record: In addition to choosing the right style of songs, you may also want to have an introduction and an outro to flank your songs. Artistic direction, or song-flow, requires that you consider the structure of the overall record when you are creating your EP. You want to avoid an EP with a disjointed series of songs.
  4. Creating Quality Work: Be sure to use a good quality recording studio when recording your EP. There is nothing worse than discovering that your EP sounds like it was recorded in a garage and was thrown together haphazardly. Remember, your EP is a lasting part of your portfolio—make sure it reflects the best of you.