What Does ‘EP’ Mean In The Music World?

Updated on June 11, 2019

What Does ‘EP’ Mean In The Music World?

If you’re into music, chances are you’ve heard of the term ‘EP’ before…

“Look, Tom Misch just dropped his new EP, you gotta listen to it.”

Most of you will know, that an EP is some sort of album release, but the specific definition is unclear to many.

EP is an abbreviation of the term Extended Play. An extended play record is usually categorized as a release with multiple songs/tracks but it lacks the length and/or amount of songs to qualify as an album or LP (long play).

You’ll most commonly see Extended Play records contain anywhere from three to seven songs. In most cases, they’ll max out at five or six songs even. It is not uncommon for artists to release an EP when they’ve had a dry spell of releasing music but they’re still yet to create material enough for a full album release. Therefore, they take a midway and release an EP to keep their listeners satisfied and engaged with new and exciting music.

History of the EP

Vinyl Retro minimal art designThe EP-format has quite a few years on its back. Actually, some of the first multi-track records date all the way back to 1919, where the newly founded Grey Gull Records first begun to distribute vertically cut 78 RPM records commonly referred to as 2-in-1 vinyl used for record players.

However, it wasn’t until 1948 that the LP-format was officially introduced. A few years later, in 1952, RCA Records, introduced their ‘Extended Play’ format which was intended to compete with the LP. At this point, the EP was able to hold about 7.5 minutes of music per side as opposed to the 5 minutes per side common for LPs at the time.

RCA Records had immense success with their continually improving format throughout the ’50s and ’60s with the world famous Elvis Presley who they had on contract. In this time frame, they released a total of 28 EPs under Elvis Presley and a bunch of those topped the Billboard EP chart which only had a very brief moment of existence. RCA Records is still alive and well today.

Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, EPs were uncommon in the US and Canada (apart from what was published by RCA). However, in Europe, the format was widely acknowledged and was commonly sold at music stores and venues.

In the following decades, EPs were commonly made on 7″, 10″, 12″ discs but some publishers started to get create EPs with alternate shapes, psychedelic colors and even pictures on them.

Jar of Flies by Alice In Chains became the first EP to reach #1 on the Billboard album chart on January 25, 1994. Ten years later, Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s collab EP followed suit and became the second EP to reach the number one spot on that list.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many tracks does an EP have?

An EP usually has between three and six songs. In some cases, they’ll have up to seven, but the general consensus is that once you reach eight songs or more, you’ve got an album instead. The average is four or five songs on an EP.

What is the difference between an EP and an LP?

EP (Extended Play) is shorter in length and usually has fewer tracks than an LP (Long Play). Most LPs will have eight or more tracks (often over ten songs).

Why do artists release EPs?

There are several reasons as to why artists release EPs.

You’ll often see new artists and bands release an EP to introduce their music to the people. Recording a full-length album is more time-consuming and costs more money, and in a tough industry, upcoming bands only have so much money to do with. Therefore, their first release is usually better off being either an EP or a single as opposed to a full LP. This also helps them test the waters and find out if there is even an audience for their music or if they have to take another route.

Many bigger artists also release EPs as well. With a cynical audience in an industry that changes more often than the average Joe changes his underwear, it’s a constant struggle to stay relevant. If it’s been too long since an artist’s last major album release, fans can get impatient or even completely forget about you. Therefore, many artists regularly release EPs to keep the interest around them and their brand alive while their full album releases are less frequent.