This Is An EPic Post

10:59 AM Posted In , , , , , Edit This 0 Comments »
I’ve been listening to Timbaland’s ‘Shock Value II’ lately, subtitle: “Anyone Can Be A Star With Autotune!”, and I have to say, I’m impressed. Along with the Black Eyed Peas will.i.am, few producers out there can consistently churn out such annoyingly innovative, diverse, and catchy insta-hits.

While Timba’s vocal talent is questionable at best, his choice of guest stars is inspired and diverse – from pop starlets Miley Cyrus and Jojo to unexpected collaborations with Chad Kroeger and Drake to familiar faces like Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake, the album manages to subvert the negativity that can come with banking on your guest star prowess to make a good album.

In actuality, Timbaland has a nice symbiotic system set up. If you work with him, you’re pretty much guaranteed a top 20 hit. In fact, looking at singles released from SVII, Carry Out (Justin Timberlake), If We Ever Meet Again (Katy Perry), Marchin On (One Republic), Morning After Dark (Nelly Furtado and SoShy) all reached the top 10, while his collaborations with Miley Cyrus hit 63 (and was only on the chart for one week) and Drake hit at 23. Plus, if you’re someone who is taking time off from the gruelling rigors of touring and promotion, it’s a simple way to keep your name and mug on the charts. Timba in turn gets street cred by proxy, actual vocal talent, and establishes relationships with stars who might hire him down the line. Genius.

This brings me to the rise of the EP. Several up and coming stars, and I mean really up and coming, have commented that the EP is the way to go. Consider the pros of this model. It allows you to produce new material more often to satiate your fans, and continually boosts album sales – you can charge more than half the cost of a CD for a 4-5 song disc. It reduces the use of ‘filler’ to round out an album, earning you higher reviews. It allows you to experiment with a new style of music or sound. It reduces the pressure and strains of having to release a new album and reinvent yourself entirely (see: Christina Aguilera). It plays better with the iTunes generation because the constantly refreshed content is a u-pick operation. If your EP spawns a huge hit, even if the other tunes aren’t smashing successes, people will be less likely to call it a ‘one-single’ album (see: Smashmouth and Sugar Ray), and more likely to shell out the extra few bucks to see what else you’ve been spinning in the studio. It gives you an opportunity to promote singles instead of entire albums, which is way less work. It gives you new material to integrate into an existing tour concept. It tides your fans over till you’re ready to do a full-length album (see: Death Cab for Cutie). It gives record companies the chance to test an uncertain star (see: Drake). It can still propel mini-tours – hitting the big cities or cities tied to a certain theme (ex: if you’re doing blues, hit some of the more industrial, earthy cities, or only go to festivals) by allowing you to integrate some new material with the classics people will most desperately want to see.

I could go on. Of course there are pros – marketing and otherwise – to sticking to full-length albums. It’s a lot easier to package an image, a brand, and an artist together when it’s hinged on a large album concept – you can have the Christina Aguilera ‘Stripped’ tour, merchandise, and general feeling from that era of her career. Britney Spears’ latest effort, ‘Circus’, makes a similar case for the packaging of a brand by album, not single – although Britney refreshed her tour halfway through with the release of her greatest hits and the #1 single ‘3’. Also Britney is one of the exceptions to the rule – the industry is so interested in working with her she’s able to more quickly roll out music than more artists, although the idea of her doing an EP is of interest.

That being said, I see the rise of the EP becoming a continual trend in the industry. I’m not the first person to say it and I won’t be the last, but it just makes sense for the music biz to embrace this change.

Circling back to Timbaland…his album works as singles, that are reminiscent of how EP’s work. If he were smart, he’d consider doing EP’s exclusively with one or two artists he’s really interested in developing – whether it’s ‘Timbaland Presents…’ or just taking the production credits to the nth degree, as he does. Or he would consider putting on his own two-day music festival featuring the artists he most frequently collaborates with, the ones he’d like people to learn more about, including him hopping on stage to join them, or headlining his own show during the festival and have all the guests there at once. It’d be massive.

My point about Timbaland, especially in terms of his lack of vocal talent, is that he is a music brand, and that works *well* in making EP’s successful. Dude should take advantage.

Just sayin!

- Britt’s On

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