Music Business

What Is A Single & How Does It Differ From An EP, Album & LP?

Photograph of the blog post author, Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson

4.8.2021

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As a musician, you are probably familiar with the terms single, EP and LP. But you may be asking yourself what is a single exactly? What is the difference between an album and an EP?

We will be exploring what exactly these terms mean and how they differ from each other. This is something you definitely need to be familiar with as an artist. So let’s delve into what is a single.

Be sure to stick around until the very end so you don’t miss out on any key information.

What Is A Single?

vinyl record

A single, meaning music single, refers to 1 to 3 songs that are each less than 10 minutes in length. The entire release should be no longer than 30 minutes long.

When you are considering releasing a single, you won’t need to add ‘a single’ to your track titles as stores will do this for you.

Apple Music and iTunes Store recognise the requirements of a single and will automatically insert that to the release title.

The Difference Between An EP, LP, Single & Album

Now we have touched on what is a single, it’s time to distinguish some differences. The terms “LP” and “EP” initially came from vinyl record formats.

Regardless of if you are getting involved with the music industry; or merely a music enthusiast looking to become more informed about the way it defines music. These are some important terms to comprehend.

Read on to find out what is the difference between an EP and an album as well as some further information regarding ‘what is a single?’.

What Is An EP?

vinyl record

In summary, an EP means extended play vinyl records. In other words, it’s longer than playing a single. Typically, an EP comprises additional music after a single.

That said, an EP album is still less than a full-length album. It contains around three to five tracks with a shorter total running time.

The term “extended play” can often be unclear. Although long-playing or LP albums range beyond regular play, an EP album indicates more to being a single which is extended.

EP albums have been incredibly popular in genres such as indie and punk for various years. But they have also become hugely popular among many artists of other genres.

EP Length

Length can also vary an EP that spans eight tracks is more a matter of how the artist or management sees the release. As opposed to the number of tracks it contains. What this means is that various times the total length of the release signifies more than the number of tracks that are on the EP. 

Some examples are that Van Halen actually has a few ‘albums’ that only have nine tracks. Depending on the length of individual songs, there are examples of other albums which have even fewer tracks.

This includes Iron Butterfly’s second studio album, In A Gadda Da Vida. This only has six tracks in total, though the title track is about 17 minutes long making it an album.

Any release with over 10 tracks is typically considered a full-length album. The term used to be applied only to vinyl records except for the standard 78 rpm and LP records.

But as you probably already know, it’s not uncommon to hear the term EP in connection with a compact disc or digital release today.

Although vinyl records have been increasing in popularity and are valued by music fans, streaming music is believed by many to be the best accessible way to listen to modern music. 

If you have ever listened to your top artist on a leading streaming service, you’ve probably seen several EP albums released. Often used as promotional tools, EP collections are amongst some of the highly memorable band features around today.

For all intents and purposes, an EP today is just any release that’s about half the length of a full album. But with the return of vinyl records, it’s not bad to be aware of its original meaning as well.

What Is An LP?

vinyl record

An LP refers to a long-playing vinyl record, which is where the abbreviation “LP” comes from. Regularly, the term LP is used to indicate a 33 and one-third rpm microgroove vinyl record. 

These records are still used today, and they are extremely common throughout records that include “analog” sound qualities. In contrast to the digital sounds which have subsequently been made popular by compact discs.

Throughout time, LP music became synonymous with full-length album music which progressed in the CD age. As music became obtainable in digital formats, LP music soon signified track numbers. 

In many cases, an LP album is a 10 to 12-track album. Similar to LP, numerous artists continued using the term “record” to define or state an album even when they were only released on CD or digital recording. 

Today, not surprisingly, digital downloads and music streaming is the best option when listening to digital music.

Even so, there is a growing market for vinyl records due to a recent revival. LP came to refer to a full-length album over time, as most releases featured an album’s worth of music. 

The track number and playtime may somewhat vary, but is typically an album worth of music anywhere between 30-50 minutes and 10 to 12 tracks in total.

A record is capable of holding 40 minutes of music per side. Although the quality tends to worsen after a certain point. This is why you are unlikely to find many 80-minute album vinyl.  

The term LP stopped being used as CDs became the main form of music releases. As far as the music today is concerned, an LP can be equated with a full-length album, which remains a common way to release music.

What Is An Album?

vinyl record

An album is a collection of audio recordings issued as a collection on compact disc (CD), vinyl, audiotape, or another medium. A full album usually consists of anywhere between 6 to 20 songs. It is typically is around 35 to 60 minutes in length. 

The album might be a continuous DJ mix or six or more different tracks from the same artist. The format can be compared to a book, with each song forming a chapter that helps to develop the story and the journey it wants to take you on. 

Albums of recorded sound were established in the early 20th century as individual 78-rpm records collected in a bound book similar to a photo album; this design evolved after 1948 into a single vinyl LP record played at 33+13 rpm.

The difference between album and EP is that the common understanding of an EP (Extended Play) is that it is simply a short album, larger than a single but smaller than an LP. 

It is usually a collection of 4 to 6 songs, but it should never be regarded as a bunch of random tracks. It should be seen as an entity on its own.

The songs on an EP vs album should demonstrate your musical talent, as well as your ability to diversity and ability to rouse emotion.

An album vs EP is also important to understand when looking at modern music. In summary, an album is considered to be 6 or more tracks running over 30 minutes in length usually a single track will be released which ends up on an album. 

In summary EP vs album is that if the album is a novel, then an EP is an assortment of short stories, separate tales brought together by a common theme.

Our Final Thoughts

vinyl record store singles

Finally, a single is simply a song that an artist will usually release for promotional purposes and other benefits. Such as keeping the audience enticed as it creates hype for an upcoming album. We have answered everything you need to know about the question ‘what is a single’.

In comparison to a single, an album is a compilation of multiple songs; which will usually be bound by a common thread.

Producing an album is a lengthy process and can sometimes take years for great artists to get it right. The songs have to follow a format such as a story in an album. However, a long delay between album releases may mean you lose some fans. 

Although it is not necessary that a single appears on the album, it can be an easy way to entice people to continue to listen.

Artists must continue to keep writing/rehearsing and from loads of material they choose some songs which they feel can go on an album. A few songs which they enjoy but don’t put on an album for whatever reason can be released as a single.

An LP is a long-playing vinyl record and an EP is an extended play vinyl record, digital download or CV.  It’s okay to think of an LP as a full-length album and an EP as a half album. Because that is basically what it means today. 

Have you released a single before? We’d love to hear all about it in the comment section below! If you enjoyed this article, why not share it on your socials? Be sure to tag us @musicgateway!

If you enjoyed this article, why not check out another on our blog? Here are articles on What’s An EP, the Best Album Cover Maker, and our Release Plan Checklist to get you started!

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