Following in the footsteps of Blake Shelton’s six-song EP, more country artists are planning EP releases in 2010.

In a post at CMT.com, Chet Flippo listed some upcoming EPs from a variety of labels: the Band Perry (Republic Nashville), Steel Magnolia (Big Machine Records), Luke Bryan (Capitol Nashville), Jo Dee Messina (Curb Records) and Matt Kennon (BamaJam Records). These follow Blake Shelton’s six-song “Hillybilly Bone” EP that was released by Warner Nashville on March 2.

Messina’s release on April 27 will be the first of three EPs she will release in 2010 under the title “Unmistakable.” Each will have a different theme. The first release is “Unmistakable Love” and will be followed by “Unmistakable Drive” and “Unmistakable Inspiration.” Unlike Shelton’s six-song EP, “Unmistakable Love” will have nine tracks – although two are listed as bonus tracks (they’re live acoustic versions of previously released songs).

Shelton’s “Hillbilly Bone” kicked off this recent EP trend. The release has sold 120,000 units in its first three weeks of release, according to Nielsen SoundScan. It’s doing well at physical retail – digital accounts for only 7% of its sales. Ninety percent of its CD sales have come from mass merchants, the very retailers the EP format is meant to appease.

As I wrote last week, lower CD prices could provide a shot in the arm for labels and retailers. More music purchases will keep physical retailers involved with the CD format. Retaining shelf space is an important in capturing sales. And because new artists are signed to multi-rights contracts, more purchases result in more fans and, possibly, more revenue from other revenue streams.

Labels had been releasing EPs prior to “Hillybilly Bone.” In many cases, however, an EP was a digital-only release meant as a warm-up for a full-length. The digital format allows for such a release without the investment that goes into manufacturing CDs and getting them into stores. In some instances, an EP that got a CD release was an exclusive for a retailer like Walmart. However, neither release would carry the full weight of the record label these EPs are getting.