EP vs. LP: What’s the Difference?

EP vs. LP: What’s the Difference?

It’s typical for music fans to talk about the albums they love or how different a song sounds on a vinyl record vs. a digital format or a CD. However, when taking a deeper dive into the artistry of all things music, the discussion often turns to other topics, such as the differences between Mixtapes vs. Albums, or the differences between EP vs. LP.

Regardless of where you are on the music listening spectrum, it’s likely you’ve seen these terms before. But, you may not be quite sure what they actually mean. We’re here to define these terms, review the differences between an EP vs. LP vs. album, and share a few of the best of each of these album types. After reading this blog, you will feel like a pro next time you visit a record store.

What is an EP?

An EP stands for an extended play album. It is usually in reference to a vinyl record but could also be a CD or digital download. The listening format isn’t what defines an EP but rather how many tracks are included, or album length. Compared to a full length album, an EP album is a short album but has more songs than a single. A typical EP album, like the The Format: EP, has about four to six tracks, depending on the genre or artist’s decision.

However, even if an EP just has two or three songs, there are no time limitations to how long a song can be. That means you could still have nearly an hour-long listening experience from the entire release if the songs on the record are extended. For example, six tracks at around 12 minutes each fits into the EP album format.

When it comes to comparing an EP vs. LP album, EPs are a way for indie artists to get their music heard (and funded) before producing a full-length long play album. They’re often used for promotional purposes and to have ready when distributing to a record label and producers.

Vinyl EPs: What Sets Them Apart?

While a small collection of songs can be called an EP across all mediums, vinyl EPs stand out for their uniqueness and collectibility. Unlike records on CD or in digital formats, vinyl EPs are physically different from their LP counterparts.

Like David Bowie, vinyl EPs can easily be identified by their quirky physical characteristics, including their:

  • Size – Any diehard Prince fan can tell you that great things come in small packages. Like singles, EPs are most frequently pressed onto 7-inch vinyl discs, the smallest of the standard sizes—although, in some exceedingly rare and magical cases such as Bon Iver’s Blood Bank, EPs can come on 10-inches.1 Despite their small stature, you can still spin them on a standard record player, as long as you have an…
  • Adapter – Many EPs—especially older ones—don’t fit directly onto a standard record player’s spindle. While your not-so-ingenious friend may suggest wadding up paper and stuffing it in an EP’s oversized hole, without the proper attachment, you’re going to damage your vinyl and your turntable. 7-inch EPs need a small plastic adapter to function properly—and if they still sound funny with it on, that’s probably because you’re spinning them at the wrong speed.
  • Spin rate – The speed at which a record turns on a player, or turntable speed, is measured in Revolutions Per Minute (RPM). The majority of 7-inches are pressed to spin at 45 RPM, hence their nickname 45s. Less commonly, EPs can be produced to turn at 33 1/3 RPM, but it’s not the industry standard.2

The unique properties of the 7-inch actually helped shape EPs as we know them. A standard 7-inch turning at 45 RPM can hold about six minutes of music per side—the perfect amount for a couple choice tunes from a mid-20th century crooner.2

Thus, since the 45 rose to prominence around 1950, they’ve always come packed with a few quick and killer songs. One thing that has changed about them, however, is how they’re viewed by the music industry.

Originally, 45s were seen as a form of competition to the standard full-length records (LPs) that we all know and love. The Battle of the Speeds pitted LP vs EP, and critics believed one format would emerge victorious over the other and become the go-to for the industry.2

But in the end, who won the epic war of EP vs LP?

Ultimately, the winners are all music fans—who now have two wonderful ways to enjoy new music and songs from their favorite artists.

What is an LP?

An LP refers to a long-playing or long play record or a full-length album. When comparing an EP vs. LP, think of the EP record as a warm-up to the headlining performance, a musical appetizer to the main course. An LP album is typically between 10 to 12 tracks and anywhere from 30 to 50+ minutes long. Keep in mind when listening to music on vinyl, a record can only hold 40 minutes of music per side, which is why some extended track albums aren’t found on vinyl.

Finally, when it comes to the difference between an EP vs LP vs album, LPs and albums are more often used interchangeably. For an EP, you may also find it referenced as a recording since an album represents a much longer body of work.

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What Makes Vinyl LPs Special?

Unlike the term EP, people generally don’t refer to albums as LPs unless they’re pressed onto vinyl. Hence, LP is more of a name for the medium rather than a catch-all for full-length releases.

Still, that doesn’t mean that all records pressed onto vinyl are LPs. Besides their longer track count, LPs can be distinguished from EPs by their:

  • 12 inches of glory – Sometimes, size really does matter. Not only does the larger surface mean more songs can be jammed onto an LP than an EP, but it also provides a larger canvas for artists to express themselves visually. Some LPs, such as Tool’s limited edition etched Fear Inoculum collection, use the vinyl’s surface as a medium for artistic expression as much as the music itself.
    Slow turning speed – Unlike EPs zipping away at 45 RPM, LPs spin at a more lackadaisical 33 1/3 RPM. There are 12-inch records that turn at 45 RPM, but rare Maxi Singles such as M83’s Go! are completely distinct entities from traditional LPs.
  • Propensity to double up – Despite their increased length, some artists have more to say than one LP can handle. If there are two vinyls in one sleeve—such as The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Methat's likely a double LP you’re holding. Of course, musical rules are made to be broken, and, in this case, Courtney Barnett’s A Sea of Split Peas is perhaps the most famous double-EP culprit.

While certainly interesting to note, do all these distinctions between LP vs EP vs album really matter to anyone besides certified music nerds?

Yes, indeed, and they’re of particular importance to musicians themselves.

Why Does the Difference Between EP vs. LP Matter?

To the listener, the song length or number of tracks on a record may not matter as much on the surface. However, as you learn about different musicians and their creativity, you’ll understand it’s a big difference for them.

First, organizing song tracks is an artistic choice. The sequencing is designed to channel a certain mood or vibe and give the listener an optimal experience. Conceptually, it’s similar to what goes into preparing a live music show.

Have you ever noticed how most artists start and end with their most upbeat songs with a slower break in the middle to play any ballads, acoustic versions, or song covers they like to perform? This is one way to optimize the experience. When EPs were reserved for vinyl records only, the limited amount of space also made it crucial to time each song and maximize the effort.

Second, EPs have been a medium for artists to get their foot in the door with record label prospects and fans. Although today, big name artists often use EPs as a way to give their audiences bonus track songs on their full-length albums. It’s a way to provide deeper cuts or behind-the-scenes looks at the making of an album. Artists may share hidden bonus tracks that may have previously been on the cutting room floor. This gives EPs a special feel as an insight into the artist’s recording process and an encore to the album fans already know and love.

When sorting through the records of popular artists or looking for new music to enjoy, consider the difference between EP vs LP and know that if there is a full-length album already released, you may be able to find an EP. Additionally, as a record collector, stumbling across a rare EP of an artist when they were first starting out can be a rare gem to add to your collection. Here are a few examples of EPs and albums from some of the world’s best known artists that we carry at Victrola.

Duran Duran: No Ordinary Tour

Duran Duran is arguably one of the ‘80’s biggest artists, riding the New Wave era of music. They’ve sold over 100 million records worldwide and have 30 Top 40 singles to their name.

Their No Ordinary Tour EP has three tracks: “Come Undone: Live,” “Notorious: Live,” and their most popular, “Hungry Like the Wolf: Live from Tower Records,” which was recorded in an intimate acoustic show in Hollywood, CA in 1993.

The only people in attendance for this exclusive performance were those who won tickets from a radio station contest. At the time, the No Ordinary Tour EP was given away as a free cassette to attendees. “Hungry Like a Wolf” then went on to be included on the band’s second studio album, Rio.

Santana IV: In Search of Mona Lisa

This five-track EP is a must-have for fans of the legendary Carlos Santana. The concept of the recording stemmed from the artist’s interaction with the famed Mona Lisa painting in Paris. Following his view, Santana created five songs for In Search of Mona Lisa that were written and produced by Santana and Narada Michael Walden. For listeners, it provided a unique artist insight into the place and memories of one of the world’s most notorious performers.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Before lead singer Karen O was beloved by screaming audiences, her band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs recorded its debut, self-released, five-song EP in 2001. It was the first production of the band, made up of Karen O’s notorious vocals, drums from Brian Chase, and guitar riffs by Nick Zinners. Their distinctive, driving, alternative garage sound was introduced through these early tracks, which eventually led them to the stardom they’ve reached today.

Stevie Wonder: Innervisions

When it comes to comparing EP vs LP vs album, Stevie Wonder’s 16th studio album, Innervisions, released in 1973 is considered one of the best records of his career. Though an LP, here is where he transitioned from his earlier, more romantic, pop sound from his earlier Motown days and began to explore societal issues at the time that are still prevalent today.

He incorporated these themes through his lyrics, instrumentation, and sounds, which are captured beautifully when listening to this album on vinyl. Two of the best-known tracks, “Living for the City” and “Higher Ground,” come in at 7:23 and 3:40, respectively, lengths familiar to the EP style. Stevie Wonder is an artist who’s adapted to the changing trends in the music industry and has taken parts from each decade and made them his own.

Charlie Parker: The Immortal

Jazz is arguably one of the best genres to listen to on vinyl since that’s where it originated. Charlie Parker is one of the world’s most well-known jazz musicians with several albums to his name.

The Immortal is a green-colored vinyl with bonus tracks that makes this a collector’s item for any longtime fan or even as a beginning album for those just getting into the genre. The vinyl LP music album was released posthumously and is a compilation of selections from five different recording sessions between 1944 and 1948. It contains previously unreleased alternate takes from these sessions.

The Beatles: On Air: Live at the BBC 2

Beatlemania lives on with this special three-LP set of The Beatles recording music for a variety of radio shows throughout their career. It features an extensive 40 tracks, as well as live interviews with each member of the band.

Though there are their most recognizable hits on the album, there are also song covers of rock and roll classics, as well as speech tracks of in-studio conversations capturing the banter between The Beatles and Saturday Club’s Brian Matthew. For Beatles fans, there’s no better gift than a rarity like On Air: Live at the BBC 2 to get a more intimate feel of their live performances.

The Weeknd: House of Balloons

Before Canadian superstar The Weeknd rose to international prominence, he kicked off his career with what, at that point, was considered a mixtape. Now, House of Balloons is noted as a seminal album in establishing the dark and foreboding tones that defined R&B throughout much of the 2010s.

Pressed onto a double LP, this is Abel Tesfaye as you’ve never heard him. Vinyl is the perfect medium to experience the eclectic samples and silky smooth singing that alerted listeners to The Weeknd in the first place. From the new-wave tones of the title track to the dark ethereality of The Party and the Afterparty, House of Balloons is the certified soundtrack of nocturnes and late-night contemplators everywhere.

Neil Young: The Times

Legendary singer-songwriter Neil Young may be getting on in years, but this live EP proves his musical talents age like fine wine. Recorded in the sanctity of his own home, The Times was Neil’s attempt to comfort those suffering from loneliness and isolation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.3

With live performances of some of his most iconic songs, including Ohio, Alabama, and Southern Man, The Times is the kind of golden era Young to get nostalgic for. The quick collection of songs holds a welcome surprise as well, with a moving cover of Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin sandwiched in the middle of Neil’s hits.

Find your Next EP or LP with Victrola

Interested in exploring the world of EP and LP records? Peruse Victrola’s record store and see which of your favorite artists may have EPs with tracks you’ve never heard of before or special performances that take you back to a different time. The way you hear a song on a studio album will be much different than how it’ll sound as a live performance or recording session.

And still, how a song started as an EP recording may evolve into the full-length performance you’re familiar with today. The beauty of the differences between an EP vs. LP vs. album shows how expansive music is and how the same song can sound different when using different mediums and formats.



  1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Preservation Self-Assessment Program (PSAP). https://psap.library.illinois.edu/
  2. American History Now. The History of Vinyl. https://americanhistorynow.org/
  3. Exclaim!. Neil Young's 'The Times' Is Timeless, and That's Why It's So Depressing. https://exclaim.ca/
  4. https://www.musicindustryhowto.com/difference-lp-ep-music/
  5. https://www.musicgateway.com/blog/how-to/play-music-make-killer-ep-4-steps