Collaborate and Listen Part III: Splits

We are here! The last day of the series has arrived. So far I have discussed two different forms of collaboration: guest vocals and compilations. Today I’m going to highlight perhaps my favorite form of collaboration, split extended plays (EPs). When two musicians/bands join together to release an album where half the songs belong to one band, and half to the other, it is known as a split EP. Originating from the idea of a vinyl record being split in half, where one side hosted one artist’s songs and the other side the other, the idea migrated to CDs.

Why are split EPs worth mentioning? Sure, you won’t see Kanye West releasing a split with Justin Bieber. Mainstream, popular music doesn’t really need what split EPs offer. What do they offer? Well let me tell you.

  1. Lowered production costs: I know this doesn’t directly relate to music promotion or better branding of an artist, but by splitting the costs of production and distribution between two bands significant money will be saved. Then, that saved money will be available to be spent on other things, like tour or promotion. This is especially helpful with newer bands.
  2. A strong partnership is formed: Regardless of whether a split EP is made because two bands are best friends or because it is convenient, going through the process of releasing an album with another artist is going to tie you two together. The success or failure of the release rides on how cohesive the album comes out. Therefore, it is hard not to be bonded with your split partner, for better or worse. The advantage of this is that the two acts can’t promote one without the other. It becomes a joint effort.
  3. Strengthens identity: I know I’ve said something along these lines for each of the collaborations so far, but each are brought about slightly differently. If you are a honky tonk country purist you won’t want to partner up with a tattooed metal band to release a split. On the other hand, you don’t want to find a carbon copy of you to release a split with either. The balance comes by finding an artist that complements your sound. An artist with a sound you respect, and a sound you could see yourself touring the country beside. My favorite band, Bayside, released two split EPs. One with Name Taken and a four-way single split with I Am the Avalanche, Transit and Saves The Day. While all three of those bands sound completely different, they bring forth a punk-infused rock sound that play perfectly off of each other.

When it comes to collaborating, it doesn’t get more involved than split EPs. Though they aren’t necessarily featuring in each other’s songs, the amount of band to band interaction is notably present. Do both bands on a split go on to achieve widespread fame? Not at all. But what does happen is the formation of a relationship and projection of who you want to be as an artist. Who knows, maybe someone will pick up an old split of Fall Out Boy and see that they really love that other band, Project Rocket.

So what can we gather from collaboration? It may be something that is often overlooked when analyzing how well a band is promoted. An artist should use all tools available when it comes to promoting. I think that few things work better than forming relationships with other artists. Once those relationships are formed, whether it be from guest vocals, releasing a split together, or something else, that tie will be there until it is severed. In the music business a big key to success is all in who you know. That is the oft repeated line, but it’s not necessarily a bad one. Take time to collaborate and share the music experience with others and in turn you’ll reach larger audiences.

Vanilla Ice once eloquently said, “Stop! Collaborate and listen.” That gem of advice may not have been meant to help steer young musicians in a successful direction, but it sure as heck is applicable.

Thanks for reading.

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