How Many Songs Should An Unsigned Band Record? Part 2 Making An EP/LP Thoughts

Cat Records.jpgNote: This article is best enjoyed if you have read this one first for the back story on this theory.

In the past we discussed the idea of just recording a song or two to go viral. Instead of going this route you have decided you are going to make either a EP or an LP. But how many songs should you record? Good question! After the jump we will discuss some ideas and considerations. 


Why Are You Recording An EP/LP?
Let’s first make sure you are recording an EP/LP for the right reasons. Before we decide we want to go down this route there are two articles we should consider beforehand.

  1. Forever The Sickest Kids To Issue 3 6 Song EPs In The Next Year And What You Can Learn From This – The music industry is not what it was even just one short year ago. Keep in mind that though many of your favorite bands turn out LPs still to this day, it may not be the best strategy for you in 2009.
  2. How Good Your Songs Come Out Is How Far You Can Go Till You Record Again – This means you need to make sure you have made sure you have the songs in order to make a great record. If you make a filler loaded record or you don’t have enough time in the studio to bring the songs to their full potential, you are dead in the water.

Budget Vs. Aspirations
One of the most crucial questions you need to establish is your budget and if it is realistic with your aspirations. You are going to have a finite amount of time to record depending on your budget. Keep in mind that the more songs you record the less time you are going to have to make each one perfect. The less songs you record the more time you have to tweak your songs and make a great version of them.

What Are We Trying To Accomplish?
I would imagine if you have decided to make an EP/LP you need something to sell to be able to support your band financially. If you are just trying to get signed or get attention from the music world we recommend reconsidering recording an EP/LP. If we are trying to make a record to establish yourself as an album caliber artist, think you have the budget and songs to make something great or you want your to make that level of an artistic statement let’s get started thinking about what your album should include. 

Records You Have Enjoyed
We have already told you that it is best to write more songs than you intend on recording. Since we already have established that, we know some songs will remain on the cutting room floor. We now need to think about what goes into a great record for you. Everyone has different ideas of what a great record is and what it contains. What I have done when producing many records is gotten together with the band and assembled a couple records that are our favorites. We take 5 or so records that relate to the type of record the band and I want to make and think about the following things:

  • How many songs did the records have on them?
  • How many minutes long were they?
  • What did the records consist of? Instrumental segues? 3 singles? 5 singles?

These are important considerations. There is no exact formula either since from genre to genre different things work. Rancid consistently makes great punk records with nearly 20 songs on them, while most of my favorite dance artists make 8-12 song records. You need to find what works for you. As well, it is important to see how your record matches up with these classic records. If you really enjoy a 36 minute record with 12 songs and all of your songs are 4 minutes you need to consider what to take away from this experiment. Do you shorten your songs? Do you record 12 songs and have a 48 minute long record or do you record 9 and get a 36 minute record?

You can use your own experiences as to which records you own give you value. Do you feel ripped off when you buy a 28 minute LP even if it has great songs on it? If you are like me you are happy to pay $10 for 28 minutes of consistently good songs as opposed to a 54 minutes record with 22 minutes of songs you actually like. This is an important consideration and it is good to look at your record collections and think about what gives value to an EP/LP for you personally and start making decisions from there on what your record should include. 

Time Vs. Boredom
Some records are classics. No matter how classic some records are – there are some records you never get all the way through. One of my favorite records of the past few years is Mew’s And the Glass Handed Kites. Clocking in at 54 minutes I have had a lot of time to reflect on it which made me come to a realization. Though I love this record – I never get through the whole thing. I love every song on it but I never sit through it in one sitting. I tend to find the same with almost every record I love. After about 30-35 minutes I want something new or my subway ride has ended and it is time to stop listening. Despite most of my favorite records being around 45 minutes long, I realized I never listen to a lot of them or omit songs from a playlist to fit them into my trip/attention span. Personally I decided to aim any record I have a say in the length of towards the 30-35 minutes mark. Your results may vary but this is an important consideration since there is no reason to waste your time and recording budget on excess fat of a record when your budget is limited and you can focus it on bringing each of the songs you record up to their full potential.

It’s In Your Head! FILLER!
The dreaded filler! People love calling songs on records filler, especially record reviewers. Making a 54 minute record before you have a huge budget and you are sure you have written 54 minutes of great material is not the best idea in my eyes. Everyone – yourself included – would rather hear a perfectly executed version of your song as compared to 54 minutes of songs that weren’t executed perfectly. Recording every song you wrote can bring down the quality of your record enough that it just isn’t that great. Where as concentrating on making a few songs exceptional and perfect will make you and your listeners happier in the long run. Am I saying to record the least amount of songs that you can execute perfectly? Yes! I think if you look through your record collection you will find you put more value on a consistently good record of any length than a record that is long with lots of mediocre patches. In fact most records that have a lot of mediocre patches you probably won’t even consider in to the equation of great records. What I am saying is focus your recording time on as few songs as you can make amazing executed versions of. Not how many songs you can record and just get down on tape err digital. 

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

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