What is the Difference Between an EP and an LP Album?

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Written By Tanya

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What is an EP album? OK, now what’s an LP album? Musicians and fans alike are often asked this question. The truth is deeper than most answers. Let’s unravel this mystery, then we can understand why budget and marketing exist so that you can make the most of your career. What is the Difference between an EP and LP Album?

To understand the differences between an EP or LP, you need to dig into the history of music. It’s quite fascinating, and we’ll explore it further. But first, I’ll answer your questions.

You want to know the facts, whether you are a fan or a curious seeker. You, as a musician, will want the complete details. The decision to release an EP (a brief album, basically) or an LP (a full-length album, basically), has everything to do your budget, marketing and maximising your revenue.

Let’s move beyond the superficial stuff and get to the real meat of the matter. Then we’ll discuss the details and how you can make the most of these formats. Although EPs are now tactically important, it all began with vinyl records.

What is a LP?

Long Play is the acronym for LP. It was once synonymous with the 12-inch-diameter phonographic record that was played at 33.3 RPM’s. It is now a full-length album. The time duration is variable due to the advent of digital audio.

WHAT LENGTH IS A LP?

We used to be able to fit between 15 and 22 minutes of high-quality audio per side on a 12-inch vinyl record at 33 RPM. A full LP album would take between 30 and 44 minutes. This LP format was maintained with analog cassette tapes, compact discs, and other media.

An LP typically contained 10-12 songs, each lasting between 3 and 3.5 minutes. The full album would last from 30 to 44 minutes. Artists found this a familiar and easy experience.

The time limit is slowly being discarded in today’s digital age. While many artists release albums that are longer, others choose to release shorter albums. As is often the case with electronic music, some artists are only releasing singles. It is now completely abandoned the idea of releasing a certain number of tracks.

What is an EP?

EP stands for Extended play. The label has been used in the past and the present to signify the release of a mini-album. This is a shorter version of an album but usually about half the length as an LP. This format is sometimes chosen by artists for several reasons, including marketing and budget.

WHAT LENGTH IS A EP?

In the past, EP length was determined largely by the number of tracks. This ranged from 3 to 6 songs. The EP’s length was usually between 15 and 22 minutes. As we’ll see, the song count and time span of the playlist can change greatly.

Even though there are exceptions, it seems that the average EP length is between 3 and 6 tracks, and 15 to 30 mins long. It is not so much about the length as it is about the purpose of the release.

EP vs. LP – Summarized

To provide a quick recap:

  • Long Play is the music term for a full-length album.
  • EP in music is Extended Play, and it’s a half-length album.
  • EP can be described as an extended version of a single.

This is the general answer. While there are many details, it’s enough to get to the point of how these formats can be used to your advantage.

The History of the LP & the EP

The LP is the name of the full-length album on 12-inch vinyl records. Columbia introduced the LP in 1948 and it quickly became the industry standard.

The EP was created as a rival vinyl record format. It wasn’t originally based on the length of play. It was originally released by RCA Victor in 1952. The 10-inch format is meant to be played at 45 RPM and contains approximately 7.5 minutes of audio. It was also used by companies to distribute singles and album samplesrs.

The EP record was popularized because it allowed record players to play at different speeds. This was also due to the success of 28 Elvis Presley EP album, Walt Disney soundtracks, as well as classical music albums.

It is important to remember that even though the LP and EP were based on physical media like vinyl record dimensions and playback speeds respectively, labels gradually came to signify track numbers and time lengths. Bands were already breaking the limits of creativity at that time.

For example, Yes released their album Near the Edge. It only contained three songs. Is it an EP? The first track, which is more than 18 minutes long, took up an entire side. The total play time was 36 minutes and 25 second and required both sides to fit on a full-size LP. We’ll continue to discuss this conundrum.

Five Ways EP Albums Are Used Today by Artists

The question really is, why would artists or labels ever release an EP album? Let’s look at a few legitimate reasons that you might be able to take advantage of.

1) MAINTAINING A RELEASE SCHEDULE

While it is important to grow a fan base, it is equally important to retain and engage the ones you have. A predictable, reliable schedule for the release of new music is one way to achieve this. Sometimes, you might not have enough material or want to please fans by using “B side” songs.

These releases can be promoted to your loyal fans without exposing new people to material that isn’t representative of your best efforts. These albums are cheaper to produce and market to your intended audience. You can keep your fans engaged until the next album is out, and then you can start your next tour.

2) FULFILLING A UNDESIRABLE CONTRACT

In some cases, artists have signed three-album deals with record labels. If things don’t work out, you may want to cancel the contract. As a way to fulfill your part of the agreement, you can release EPs.

This usually refers to new music. However, in some cases it could be both a single and a collection of remixes created by other artists. You can have a compilation of “Best of”, acoustic versions of your top songs or any other creative way to get out of the contract without ruining your discography.

3) USE THE FORMAT AS A PRESTUDIO RELEASE

This is what rappers call mixtapes. You can create music and products that fans can buy and promote, but they will be treated as independent releases in the future and separate from your debut album.

Marketing is all about having a series of hit studio albums. Being able to create new music and offer existing fans in EP format allows for you to keep your outstanding record of producing hits while still producing a lot.

Rappers will make a lot of mixtapes, and then take the best songs and remake them for their studio albums. This is a great way for rappers to find out what their fans like before they spend all of their marketing dollars and time in the studio trying to win new ones.

4) ALLOWING IT to ACT AS A STOPGAP BETWEEN BIG ALBUMS

The Insane Clown Proosse are the masters at this. Every major album has a theme, and can almost be considered a concept album. Their entire discography was a concept! They’ll release an EP that introduces their next major release.

This allows them to grow musically and introduce fans to new sounds, adjusting expectations. This keeps their raving fans happy and excited. These can include new music or cutting-edge tracks that weren’t on the last big album.

5) RELEASING MUSIC NOT FITTING THE THEME, BUT GREAT

Albums often have emotional themes and sonic characteristics. Sometimes, you can write and record great songs that are worthy of being heard, but they don’t fit into your next big project. The EP format is a great way to get them out there.

Tech N9ne is another example, and he’s famous for not wasting a single song. Tech N9ne claims that he releases every single song he records. If you take a look at his discography, you will be amazed at the sheer volume of his output. Many of these EPs are not on the albums they were originally intended.

What is an EP in Music Distribution?

You now know the reasons why you might release a mini-LP or an EP. Now you need to know what online music distribution is. This includes platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora and many others.

Let’s concentrate on the two big ones: Spotify and Apple Music. This is important because Apple Music will add the “EP” label to your release if they meet their conditions. Even if you don’t want it. Spotify will place your release at the bottom of “EP’s and Singles” instead of “Albums”. Depending on your goals, you need to be careful.

IN APPLE MUSICAL:

An EP will be granted if your album meets any of these requirements:

  1. The total release contains 1 to 3 tracks, with one or more tracks exceeding 10 minutes. The entire release is less than 30 minutes long.
  2. The entire release contains 4 to 6 tracks, and is less than 30 minutes long.

If you fulfill these conditions, your album will be automatically given the “-EP” suffix.

IN SPOTIFY

If both the following conditions are met, your release will be placed in the EP category.

  1. The duration of the release is approximately 30 minutes.
  2. There are 4 to 6 tracks total on the release.

The title of your album will not change, but it will be added to the separate “EPs & Singles” category below “Albums”.

What is an LP album and what is an EP album?

It doesn’t matter! Except for the requirements set by digital music platforms, the track count and time limits don’t really matter at this point. Kanye West has just released several albums that could have been called EP’s, but aren’t. Artists are letting go of the limitations and allowing creativity to reign.

As a tactical marketing strategy, I recommend using the EP nomenclature. It can be used to maintain your discography for “studio albums” pristine and flawless. You can release anything that is not a main album as an EP/compilation so your fans have what they need. This will ensure they are still interested in you and will come see you on the road when the next big LP is out.

These definitions are in constant flux and have changed almost every decade since the invention of vinyl records. I would rather not worry about technical details and focus more on how to use it in my marketing plan. This is the difference between an EP and a LP. It is becoming increasingly blurred every day.

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