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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 vinyl versus digital format or 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 Mixtape vs. Album, 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, though may not be quite sure what they 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 so that you can feel more confident during your next visit to the record store.

EP vs. LP Defined

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. It’s a short album but has more songs than a single. A typical EP has four to six tracks, depending on the genre or artist’s decision.  

However, even if an EP 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 isn’t your typical album experience, but fits into the EP album format. 

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

An LP, on the other hand, refers to a long-playing 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 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. album vs. LP, 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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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 now, 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 tracks that may have previously been on the cutting room floor. This makes EPs have a special feel to them 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

Beatle-mania 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. 

Peruse your 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.



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