What Is The Difference Between and LP and an EP?
Abbreviations make the world go round. They’ve practically shaped the speech of a generation, after all, with our text talk of “lol”, “lmao”, and everything beyond those.
So, where do vinyl records fit into this conversation?
Quite easily, as there are two important kinds of records that we often refer to via their abbreviations.
LPs and EPs.
What’s An LP?
The most common kind of record, an LP is a Long Play. The LP format is defined now by the 12 inch disc and 33 ⅓ rpm disc.
How Long Is An LP?
Upon its inception, these discs roughly played around 23 minutes per side, but further refinement of the format has enabled them to reach longer play time, some even reaching around an hour overall.
LPs are the base and framework for a typical album. Typically consisting of around 10 - 12 tracks typically within the range of a 3 minute runtime. There are exceptions however, as some artists produce longer tracks, which will take up more space on the disc.
When the LP became the standard for record releases, it initiated the “Album Era” of prominent English-language music. This enhanced playtime gave artists the freedom and liberty to craft concept albums, which meant that they got to construct an entire album based upon one overarching theme rather than just a few songs for a single.
What’s An EP?
An EP is an Extended Play. An EP is made to contain more space, generally meaning more tracks, than a single, however less than an LP.
How Long Is An EP?
In general, an EP these days will have up to 15 minutes of play time, with approximately 7.5 minutes per side.
This format found particular popularity with up and coming punk rock and indie musicians, thanks to being very accessible to new acts and artists.
The UK has created a guideline for what defines an EP; a maximum playtime of 25 minutes or under with no more than four tracks. These four tracks would not include alternative versions of already featured songs.
EPs found their place in a number of ways. They were cheaper to produce thereby making them cheaper to purchase, which is a format that helped a number of artists start their careers small and humble, such as the legendary Elvis Presley.
The History of The LP & EP
The creation of the LP & EP was a revolutionary moment – not only for music but history in general. It
completely changed the way that everyday people were able to listen to music and become exposed to
new artists, from the comfort of their own homes and record players.
The first LP came into circulation way back in 1948, after being created and released by the company
Columbia. The specific terms LP and EP originally came from an ongoing battle between record
companies to be the first to invent a longer playing record that could be marketed to the public. The very
first vinyl records only held a small number of songs, and the public wanted more.
Columbia revolutionised the music industry when introducing the LP, and as an act of competition and to
create a new unique product RCA Victor made the EP which held a small selection of songs. It is from the
creation of these two music formats that we have the basis for modern music projects released by artists that are still very much in play to this day.
The Pros and Cons
Both of these formats have had an important impact and role on vinyl records as a whole, so naturally both come with their own advantages and disadvantages.
- This is the definitive vinyl record. The full length album that listeners crave when they’re picking up music.
- More tracks means easier promotion for the artist. This can range from releasing singles before the album to tease it, or after to celebrate the success of certain tracks.
- The longer run time gives the listener just under an hour of content to listen to.
- This makes room for things like concept albums, which tie an overarching theme into all the tracks throughout. This can be used to tell a story, convey a theme or anything in between.
- LPs take time, a proper record label and money to put together. That being said they tend to be more expensive than EPs.
- With how long they can take, LPs can sometimes release at a time beyond their initial scope. Meaning, if a particular genre has become rather popular and an artist or band wishes to ride the success of that genre, they might miss their window when the LP releases.
- Once an LP is finalized, there’s no going back. It’s out. This has resulted a few times in incorrectly labeled records, however this may not be such a bad con since it creates interesting mistake variants.
- EPs are less time consuming, and much cheaper, to produce. As a result, they tend to be cheaper than their LP counterparts.
- Being much shorter, EPs make particular tracks much more accessible than the length of an LP. EPs usually consist of more than one version of the same track!
- With them being easier to produce, it takes a band and artist much less time to put an EP together than an LP. This means more frequent releases, meaning more records to choose from.
- These days, EPs are a great way for artists to maintain a frequent release schedule as well as releasing special, limited editions!
- EPs can often be drowned out by bigger LP releases, should they release at similar times.
- With their limited space and tendency to repeat tracks, they can be a bit repetitive and stale in some cases. Unless you REALLY love the songs attached to it.
- With EPs being plenty of artists’ attempts to step into the ring, not all of them are likely to be the high quality we come to expect of a full, LP album.
Which Should You Get?
Or, moreover, is one really “superior” to the other?
Both LPs and EPs have served very important roles in the record industry, and in the music industry as a whole.
If it weren’t for LPs, we wouldn’t have full length albums as we know them today. And if we didn’t have EPs, we likely wouldn’t have heard and met some of the most esteemed artists we’ve ever known. We would have completely lost media in the form of unreleased tracks that are often exclusively included in an EP.
So when it comes to wondering which you should invest in, it just depends on what you’re looking for.
EPs are quick and easy plays. Think of them like a starter to your meal. A light serving, a short taste of what you’re listening to. A great way to introduce yourself to a new artist, or to keep a short list of beloved tracks in close quarters for easy listens.
LPs are the full course meal. The time commitment. The best way to enjoy and celebrate and artist and album that you love, with 45 minutes or over of playtime to enjoy.
Both have their merits, both have the right time and place for a listen.
The real question is, what do you want to listen to?