Single vs EP vs LP vs Album.
You’re ready to hit the studio. You rummage through your piggy bank, assess your track count and try to determine how many songs to release.
Suggestions with fresh jargon are thrown at you and you catch yourself asking: What’s a single? What is an EP and LP? What do they mean and what’s the difference? Ain’t those just albums?
These are wildly popular questions with plenty to be said about their history, the criteria of the platforms on which they are released, and some overall best practices.
This article is a comprehensive guide that will give you a 1000-foot view and some confidence on deciding how many songs to release.
We’ll include some details on how Spotify and iTunes categorize these releases to touch on some best practices for a successful release.
What Does EP Stand For In Music?
Definition: Extended play record.
Meaning: An extended play record is a recording that contains more than a single (one song) and not enough to qualify as a full-length LP or album.
How many songs are on an ep? Typically 3-6 though you may hear other variants between those two numbers. It really doesn’t matter.
Online music stores such as iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, etc. will consider a release an EP when it has 4-6 songs with a total running time of 30 minutes or less OR 1-3 songs with one of them at least 10 minutes long and a total running time of 30 minutes or less.
A single is the song on the album that the artist considers to be the most “radio-friendly” having the most potential to be enjoyed by the public and is to be promoted the hardest.
Benefits of recording an EP: The obvious factor here is cost and time. There is a lot of work that goes into making well-recorded music and good talent charges accordingly.
Some say that the work only begins once the recording is done. Because if you build it, they won’t come. You need to take your marketing as seriously as you take your music.
If you’re low on resources, consider recording an EP and use the money you’d otherwise spend on a full-length album on marketing, Facebook ads, a publicist, and creating content around your release.
I’d recommend getting comfortable in front of a camera and learn how to engage your audience visually. For a very low cost you can learn some basics in iPhone filmmaking, or even hire a student filmmaker to help.
EP Release Ideas: Some artists put out an EP of singles where they feel each song is a potential hit and they market them all accordingly.
They’ll often release each song one-at-a-time but to eventually amount to an entire EP. The singles will often have a unifying aesthetic and design across all of their content assets to fit under the branding umbrella of the EP which they form that may have a title of its own.
A great EP strategy for songwriters is to discover a few electronic artists with some successful remixes you enjoy. Reach out and see if they’d be willing to remix a song and, together, work out an agreement for compensation. Gather a couple of these remixes and you now have a second EP to release shortly after that puts your music in front of the remixers audience and DJ’s who play their tracks.
What can an EP be used for? An EP is not synonomous with broke, beginner artist. In March of 2018, after all his success, The Weeknd released an EP titled “My Dear Melancholy.”
This could have been old songs from the vault or some that won’t make the cut for his next record.
It can take year after a major album is recorded until the team is ready to release it and prepare for tour. In this time, the artist is usually staying busy and can release great filler music that keeps their audience engaged.
History: Singles were often pressed alone on individual vinyls and transported in an album (similar to a photo album) for easy transport. As the capacity for of songs increased with technology, EP’s of between 5-9 songs found their way on 7” vinyl, LP’s too, and that’s how the modern album got its name.
Wikipedia has got some historical fun facts if you’d like to nerd out further on the evolution of the EP format.
What Does LP Stand For In Music?
Definition: Long play(er) record.
Meaning: A long play record is a vinyl record characterized by its 33 1⁄3rpm speed,12- or 10-inch diameter, and it’s “microgroove” specification.
How many songs are on an LP? Typically 7 tracks and up. Long story short, an LP is a full-length album. All that distinguishes an LP from any other album is its vinyl medium. This means that the track count of an LP can only reach as high as the bandwidth of the vinyl it is printed on.
With the dawn of CD’s and their higher storage capacity, the album track count could increase to suit this new higher limitation. Todays streaming platforms cap it off at 35 tracks.
Streaming platforms consider a release with 7 or more tracks an album. If a release contains 1-6 tracks but is over 30 minutes in length, it will also be considered an album.
You may here people throw the term LP around when talking about recording a full-length album with no indication that they intend to print it to vinyl. Whatever. Read the nuances of the context an know that, over the years, these words are thrown around willy-nilly.
Should I release an LP? Probably not. Unless you’re an established band who’s highly likely to sell them all, don’t waste your money.
Vinyl LPs are wildly expensive to manufacture and will likely only serve as a novel vanity item that sit in a box in your closet and take up space on the road.
For instance, printing 300 records will cost on average $1000-$1300 or roughly $4-$5 per unit.
It’s 2018, spend that money on marketing and content.
Indie bands and fans do love vintage-y collectibles and LPs could one day be something to consider, but no one starts at the Super Bowl and you sure as hell ain’t Radiohead.
Should I release an album? Great question. You know those old balancing scales typically used as a symbol for justice? Here’s where you assess your goals and priorities in a hierarchical structure, weighing the pros and cons of the costs and expected outcomes.
An album is great because the artist gets more room for expression without being pigeonholed to the few singles.
Labels, publicists, and blogs like it because there’s usually more meat to bite into, more of a story to write about, and usually some broader concepts to attribute to the record. Albums are easier to rally for.
If you’ve got 12 songs that you’re absolutely crazy about and the resources record, mix, master, and promote them then hey, don’t let me get in your way. Just use your cabeza, hombre.
To nerd out more on the history of the vinyl LP, check out this Wikipedia post.
Releasing Singles vs Albums
This could be a great option for many artists, especially of certain genres. In the end, you should be doing both. Here’s why:
Relevance – Albums take so long to write, produce, and release that sometimes the culture has moved on by the time you’re done producing it. Unless you’ve got the man power to crank that thing out, you may end up as old news.
Attention – Drip feeding singles out keeps you in the periphery of your audience. If you’re up and coming and have a two year gap between your releases, the public will probably have forgotten about you. Singles released with plenty of engaging visual content is super effective.
Listening Habits – Sure there are still people who listen to an artists entire album, but most people create or follow playlists within a genre or mood. Spending your time recording 12 songs to only have a few end up on someones playlist can be a waste of resources. For better or worse, it is what it is.
This could work for certain genres better than others. For years, electronic artist Kygo exclusively released singles of remixes which got him global success. He only recently put out a full-length album.
BuzzAngle released a 2017 report detailing a music industry breakdown of the success of singles, albums, vinyls, and streams across genres.
Take that in and observe how you’re target audience consumes music. Consider your own music consumption habits. Find a balance between making a creative statement and being “of-the-times.”
As far as streaming platforms are concerned, your release will be classified a single if it contains 1-3 tracks and the entire release is 30 minutes or less and all individual tracks are less than 10 minutes long.
Are Your Songs Radio-Ready?
So now that we’ve covered the difference between an EP and LP, talked about the album and the benefits of releasing singles, you’re ready to hit the whiteboard to create your road map.
To capture anyones attention you’ll need those tracks well-produced, mixed, and radio ready. Check out our professional mixing and mastering services and get in touch to discuss discounted rates on releases of higher track counts. Visit our home page for a list of our creative services.
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Anything you feel we’ve missed in the article? Feel free to drop it in the comment section below so all readers can benefit!