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What Is An EP In Music?

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What Is An EP In Music?

To answer “what is an EP in music,” we must go back to 1954. RCA Victor and Columbia Records were battling it out for album sales. Columbia’s weapon of choice was the LP (long play record) and RCA Victor’s, the EP (extended play record.)

But our quick answer leaves many unanswered questions. We’ll need a quick lesson about the music industry to grasp all that encompasses an EP.

But if you can’t wait, here’s the short answer: an EP is a musical compilation of 4-6 songs whose duration is under 30 minutes.

Without further ado, join us as we answer the question in more detail.

 

What Is An EP In Music?

We’ll begin our history lesson by unpacking the battle between Columbia Records and RCA Victor.

Columbia Records LP album contained more songs but required a record player that played at 33 1/3 rotations per minute (rpm.) Despite this deterrent, music lovers fell in love with LPs.

RCA Victor countered with the EP. It had fewer songs than an LP but played on 45 rpm record players. RCA hoped this would attract consumers who didn’t want to purchase new equipment. 

The “Battle of the Speeds” ended in a draw, and both labels evolved with the times. RCA Victor is now RCA Records, and Columbia is Columbia Label Group.

Today, they are two of the biggest record labels in the world and are responsible for some of the biggest bands and musicians on the planet.

To recap, here are the qualities that make up an analog EP:

  • In essence, a mini-album
  • Fewer songs than an LP
  • Shorter duration; under 30 minutes 
  • Didn’t require a new record player 

 

Understanding The Digital LP & EP

Interestingly, the terminology from vinyl’s glory days is still in vogue today. Here’s what we mean.

 

Digital LP

When artists announce they’ll release an LP, they’re using vinyl record terminology. The new release will be in a digital format but is a “long-playing” format with these qualities:

  • The LP has over six songs
  • The LP duration is over 45minutes in length

The exception to the number of tracks is when songs are long. In such cases, the LP may only have a handful of tracks.

Great examples are progressive bands like Yes and Genesis or jazz and classical artists.

 

Digital EP

A digital EP is similar to a digital LP in that EP is a vinyl record term. So a digital EP is an “extended play” release with these features:

  • The EP has fewer songs than an LP
  • The EP duration is under 30 minutes

But if you’re releasing music as an artist, which format is best? And how do streaming services define LP and EP? Let’s dig deeper for clarity.

 

How Many Songs Are On An EP?

The answer to this question is confusing. Let us explain.

If you compose two dance tracks that are each ten minutes long, would that qualify as an EP? What if you wrote one-minute-long songs? Could an EP contain twenty?

Thankfully, streaming services have spelled these out in more detail.

 

How Apple Music and Spotify Label EPs

The Apple Music Style Guide uses the following qualifications to determine if music is an EP.

  • One to three songs with one song at least 10 minutes long and a total running time of 30 minutes or less.
  • Four to six songs with a duration of 30 minutes or less

Additionally, Apple Music states that you must include “EP” at the end of your title. But if you forget, they’ll take care of it and add it.

Now that we better understand what an EP is let’s explore its importance in the music industry.

 

The Power Of An EP

Record labels know an EP is a powerful marketing tool. If you’re an aspiring artist or in a band, such knowledge is equally essential to your music career.

Let’s explore the three top reasons to consider recording an EP.

 

1. EPs Build A Fanbase

Before digital technology, artists and bands built their fanbases playing clubs. Once they established local success, they recorded full-length albums to pitch to record labels and radio stations. Some got discovered; most did not.

The good news is that today, you can sit in the comfort of your home and do the bulk of the same work. Home studios are very affordable, and with streaming services, you can post a song without stepping into a bar. 

But here’s the bad news: the most popular music genres are saturated with talent trying to be discovered. Releasing an EP can:

  • Cut through the noise and build your fanbase 
  • Allows listeners more tracks to determine if they like your music
  • Gives you more credibility. 

 

2. EPs Are Great For Testing The Market

An EP is less expensive to produce than a full-length album, so it’s excellent for testing the market. If you have a unique concept album, releasing it as an EP can “test the waters” to see if your fanbase likes it. 

 

3. EPs Are Great For Songs That Didn’t Fit

Another marketing ploy is releasing an EP with songs that didn’t fit on the album. An EP with a collection of unheard songs is an opportunity for your fans to discover another side of you.

 

How To Release An EP Independently

The digital revolution has made recording, distributing, and promoting easier than in previous generations.  

Let’s walk you through the seven-step process we feel is necessary to release an EP independently. 

 

1. Recording

With user-friendly programs like GarageBand, you can loop beats and sing into your audio interface. Additionally, there are plenty of free beat making software options to suit the needs of any musician.

MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) enables you to program keyboards to play complex parts without being a pianist. Additionally, there are plenty of free MIDI files to explore. 

Another perk of the digital era is that musicians can record remotely for your project. If your budget allows, you can get world-class studio musicians to perform on your project.  

When you’re finished recording, we suggest letting someone else mix and master the project. Aside from having the software and experience, they offer another set of ears to proof your EP.

If recording is intimidating, consider taking one of the best online music production courses. Being able to record and produce yourself will further develop your career.

 

2. Distribution 

So your EP is mastered. Fantastic! Now you need to get it out to the masses. This is where distributors like CD Baby, TuneCore, and DistroKid come in.

Be sure to research and shop around for the best deal for you. And use your social media prowess to find out what other artists are using.

 

3. Branding

We’re not implying you get branded like a cow on a ranch, but the concept is similar. Like a heifer amongst thousands, you need something that makes you stand out from the herd. 

Such a brand could be the band’s name, icon, or motto. Once settled, zero in on creative ways to flood social media with your brand.

If this aspect of marketing doesn’t appeal to you, consider contacting one of the best artist management companies in the world. While such services aren’t free, having a team of professionals who understand your musical vision can be worth the cost.

 

4. Set A Release Date

While this is a no-brainer, it will require some forethought. Fridays seem to be the popular day of the week to release, but this doesn’t have to be the norm. 

Ask yourself these questions when selecting a release date:

  • Are any significant events scheduled at that time? You don’t want to compete against the World Cup or a major election. Media attention will be on those events and not yours.
  • Will this release date give you time to promote it? Promotion is time-consuming, so don’t rush it. As eager as you are to share your EP with the world, practice restraint here.

 

5. Select A Single

Releasing a single from your EP can be a great promotional tool since Spotify supports this. 

You want to be noticed and attract followers, so choose your best song. When your EP is released, hopefully, these listeners will become lifelong fans.

If you make a video for the single, you can tap into the YouTube market. Who knows, your song could become one of the best TikTok songs of the year. 

 

6. Create A Press Kit 

Factor in time to create your electronic press kit or EPK. It becomes your business card, figuratively speaking, to distribute to anyone who can advance your EP. This could be an A&R (artist and repertoire) rep from a label, a promotion company, or a media outlet.

A quality EPK tells others you’re serious about your EP and music aspirations. 

 

7. Release & Promote

After all the toil and sweat, release day has arrived! But after some champagne, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get back to work promoting.

Here are some promotional tips to try.

  • Release party. Who doesn’t like a party, right? Consider playing a concert on the eve of your EP release. Offer a discount with a special code only available at the show. 
  • Pre-releases. Contact music blog sites to see if they’re interested in promoting your EP.

 

Summary

Whether you’re an aspiring songwriter, an established artist, or someone who loves music, we hope you better understand what an EP is.

While the LP has its perks, remember that the EP is a powerful tool to build your fanbase, test the market, and express your musical vision.

It can also showcase songs that didn’t fit on a full-length album or let artists branch out into new music genres.

Jay is a professional bass player who spent years chasing Nashville’s neon rainbow performing with Shania Twain and other high-profile artists. As a musician, he's produced scores for videos and jingles using Pro Tools, vintage synths, and various plug-ins. When he’s not writing, he’s debating whether to ride his Italian racing bike, get funky on one of his many basses, or chill with the family.

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