The music industry loves something brand new. You only get one shot at a “debut single;” the same goes for your “debut album.” As an artist, we often think in albums; for me, the album has always been the medium (the songs are chapters, the album is the book). If you’re trying to make a living off of your music, it’s important to remember that releasing music isn’t just about art; you’re attempting to live at the intersection of art and commerce. You make music because of a desire to create art, you release music so that other people can hear it.
With that in mind, it’s not just about how you feel about albums and singles; it also has to do with how the people who are consuming your music interact with it.
The entry point for most fans to a new artist has always been the single. Did Radiohead take me to space and turn me upside down over a number of years and albums? Absolutely. How’d they get my attention at first? A friend played me one song and it went from there (I can’t remember if it was “Creep,” “Just,” or “The Bends”…one of those…pardon me, it was the 90’s).
Recently, groups like Haim and The Chainsmokers have spent many months (years, actually) cultivating a fanbase before releasing a debut album. By building that interest, excitement surrounding their debuts was incredibly high.
They got more press, sold more records and generally had a much higher level of overall awareness than new artists who just toss out an album and hope for the best. This holds true across genres; I’ve often cited Kevin Garrett’s success as an example of this point. He has hundreds of thousands of monthly listeners on Spotify, gets lots of press, is selling out shows wherever he goes, and still hasn’t released a full length. His first single came out in 2014! Slow your roll and make some noise before wasting all the time/money/energy to create a full length. Like your mother said, your first time is special, so save it for the right moment.
Reason To Ignore This Advice: You don’t mind making people double half caf lattes with light foam.