Extended play


An extended play record, usually referred to as an EP, is a that contains more tracks than a but fewer than an or . Contemporary EPs generally contain four or five tracks, and are considered "less expensive and time-consuming" for an artist to produce than an album. An EP originally referred to specific types of other than 78 standard play (SP) and LP, but it is now applied to mid-length and as well. of ' said, "EPs—originally extended-play 'single' releases that are shorter than traditional albums—have long been popular with punk and indie bands." In the United Kingdom, the defines a boundary between EP and album classification at 25 minutes of maximum length and no more than four tracks (not counting alternative versions of featured songs, if present).



EPs were released in various sizes in different eras. The earliest multi-track records, issued around 1919 by , were vertically cut 78 discs known as "2-in-1" records. These had finer than usual grooves, like . By 1949, when the 45 rpm single and 33 rpm LP were competing formats, seven-inch singles had a maximum playing time of only about four minutes per side. Partly as an attempt to compete with the LP introduced in 1948 by rival , introduced "Extended Play" during . Their narrower grooves, achieved by lowering the cutting levels and sound compression optionally, enabled them to hold up to 7.5 minutes per side—but still be played by a standard 45 rpm . In the early era record companies released the entire content of LPs as 45 rpm EPs.Richard Osborne ''Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record'', Routledge 2016, p.106 These were usually 10-inch LPs (released until the mid-1950s) split onto two seven-inch EPs or 12-inch LPs split onto three seven-inch EPs, either sold separately or together in gatefold covers. This practice became much less common with the advent of triple-speed-available phonographs. Introduced by in the US in 1952, issued the first EPs in Britain in April 1954. EPs were usually compilations of singles or album samplers and were typically played at 45 rpm on seven-inch (18 cm) discs, with two songs on each side. RCA had success in the format with their top money earner, , issuing 28 Elvis EPs between and , many of which topped the separate ' EP chart during its brief existence. Other than those published by , EPs were relatively uncommon in the and , but they were widely sold in the , and in some other European countries, during the 1950s and 1960s. In EP was for long the most popular record format, with as much as 85% of the market in the late 1950s being EPs. ' introduced a weekly EP chart in October 1957, noting that "the teen-age market apparently dominates the EP business, with seven out of the top 10 best-selling EP's featuring artists with powerful teen-age appeal — four sets by , two by and one by ". ' printed an EP chart in 1960. The , ', ' and the ''Record Mirror'' continued to list EPs on their respective singles charts. When the and ''Record Retailer'' commissioned the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) to compile a chart it was restricted to singles and EPs disappeared from the listings. The popularity of EPs in the US had declined in the early 1960s in favour of LPs. In the UK and , both individually and collectively, and were the most prolific artists issuing EPs in the 1960s, many of them highly successful releases. ' ' outsold most singles for some weeks in 1963. The success of the EP in Britain lasted until around 1967, but it later had a strong revival with in the late 1970s and the adaptation of the format for 12" and CD singles.

Notable EP releases

Some albums released at the beginning of the LP era were also distributed as EP albums—notably, the seven operas that conducted on between 1944 and 1954. These opera EPs, originally broadcast on the network and manufactured by RCA, which owned the NBC network then, were made available both in 45 rpm and 33 rpm. In the 1990s, they began appearing on compact discs. During the , RCA published several EP albums of movies, containing both the story and the songs. These usually featured the original casts of actors and actresses. Each album contained two seven-inch records, plus a fully illustrated booklet containing the text of the recording so that children could follow along by reading. Some of the titles included ' (1937), ' (1940), and what was then a recent release, the movie version of ' that was . The recording and publishing of ''20,000'' was unusual: it did not employ the movie's cast, and years later, a 12 in  rpm album, with a nearly identical script, but another different cast, was sold by in conjunction with the re-release of the movie in 1963. Because of the popularity of 7" and other formats, SP (78 rpm, 10") records became less popular and the production of SPs in was suspended in 1963. In the , seven-inch EPs marketed as "s" (but distinctly different from the mini-LPs of the 1980s) were introduced in 1970, with tracks selected from an album and packaging resembling the album they were taken from. This mini-LP format also became popular in America in the early 1970s for promotional releases, and also for use in es. included a bonus four-song EP with his double LP ' in 1976. During the 1970s and 1980s, there was less and EPs were made on seven-inch (18 cm), 10-inch (25 cm) or 12-inch (30 cm) discs running either 33 or 45 rpm. Some EPs used odd shapes and colors, and a few of them were s. was the first band to ever have an EP reach number one on the ' album chart. Its EP, ', was released on January 25, 1994. In 2004, and 's collaboration EP, ', was the next to reach the number one spot after Alice in Chains. In 2010, the cast of the television series ' became the first artist to have two EPs reach number one, with ' on the week of May 8, 2010, and ' on the week of June 26, 2010.. In 1992, 's was the first ever EP to reach the top on the UK charts. In 1993, , and 's also made the same the following year. In 2010, revived the format with their "Six-Pak" offering of six songs on a compact disc.

EPs in the digital and streaming era

Due to the increased popularity of s and beginning the late 2000s, EPs have become a common marketing strategy for musicians wishing to remain relevant and deliver music in more consistent timeframes leading to or following full studio albums. In the late 2000s to early 2010s, s of studio albums with expanded track listings were common, with the new music often being released as stand-alone EPs. In October 2010, a ' article regarding the trend noted post-album EPs as "the next step in extending albums' shelf lives, following the "deluxe" editions that populated stores during the past few holiday seasons—add a few tracks to the back end of an album and release one of them to radio, slap on a new coat of paint, and—voila!—a stocking stuffer is born." Examples of such releases include 's ' (2009) following her debut album ' (2008), and 's ' (2010) following her debut album ' (2010). A 2019 article in ' discussing ' decision to release her then-upcoming seventh studio album ' as a trilogy of three EPs stated: "By delivering a trio of EPs throughout a period of several months, Miley is giving her fans more of what they want, only in smaller doses. When an artist drops an album, they run the risk of it being forgotten in a few weeks, at which point they need to start work on the follow-up, while still promoting and touring their recent effort. Miley is doing her best to game the system by recording an album and delivering it to fans in pieces." Major-label pop musicians who had previously employed such release strategies include with her fifth album ' (2014) being released following an EP of the album's first five tracks known as ''Gypsy Heart: Side A'' three months prior to the full album; and 's fourth studio album ' (2018) which was released as four EPs in as many days entitled ''R (Realizations)'', ''O (Obsessions)'', ''S (Sex)'' and ''E (Empowerment)''.


The first EPs were seven-inch vinyl records with more tracks than a normal single (typically five to nine of them). Although they shared size and speed with singles, they were a recognizably different format than the seven-inch single. Although they could be named after a lead track, they were generally given a different title. Examples include ' ' EP from 1963, and ' ''Troggs Tops'' EP from 1966, both of which collected previously released tracks. The playing time was generally between 10 and 15 minutes. They also came in cardboard picture sleeves at a time when singles were usually issued in paper company sleeves. EPs tended to be album samplers or collections of singles. EPs of all original material began to appear in the 1950s. Examples are Elvis Presley's ' from 1956 and "Just for You", "" and "" from 1957, and ' ' from 1964. Twelve-inch EPs were similar, but generally had between three and five tracks and a length of over 12 minutes. Like seven-inch EPs, these were given titles. EP releases were also issued in and 10-inch vinyl formats. With the advent of the (CD), more music was often included on "single" releases, with four or five tracks being common, and playing times of up to 25 minutes. These extended-length singles became known as s and while commensurate in length to an EP were distinguished by being designed to feature a single song, with the remaining songs considered , whereas an EP was designed not to feature a single song, instead resembling a mini album. EPs of original material regained popularity in the era, when they were commonly used for the release of new material, e.g. ' ' EP. These featured four-track seven-inch singles played at 33 rpm, the most common understanding of the term ''EP''. Beginning in the 1980s, many so-called "singles" have been sold in formats with more than two tracks. Because of this, the definition of an EP is not determined only by the number of tracks or the playing time; an EP is typically seen as four (or more) tracks of equal importance, as opposed to a four-track single with an obvious A-side and three B-sides. In the United States, the , the organization that declares releases "gold" or "platinum" based on numbers of sales, defines an EP as containing three to five songs or under 30 minutes. On the other hand, 's rules for s state that any release with five or more different songs and a running time of over 15 minutes is considered an album, with no mention of EPs. In the United Kingdom, any record with more than four distinct tracks or with a playing time of more than 25 minutes is classified as an album for sales-chart purposes. If priced as a single, they will not qualify for the main album chart but can appear in the separate Budget Albums chart. An intermediate format between EPs and full-length LPs is the , which was a common album format in the 1980s. These generally contained 20–30 minutes of music and about seven tracks. In underground dance music, vinyl EPs have been a longstanding medium for releasing new material, e.g. ' by .

Double EPs

A double extended play is a name typically given to or released as a set of two discs, each of which would normally qualify as an EP. The name is thus analogous to . As vinyl records, the most common format for the double EP, they consist of a pair of 7-inch discs recorded at 45 or 33 , or two 12-inch discs recorded at 45 rpm. The format is useful when an album's worth of material is being pressed by a small plant geared for the production of singles rather than albums and may have novelty value which can be turned to advantage for publicity purposes. Double EPs are rare, since the amount of material recordable on a double EP could usually be more economically and sensibly recorded on a single . In the 1950s, had released a number of double EPs by its more popular artists, including . The pair of double EPs (EBF 1–577, sides 1 to 8!) were described on the original covers as "parts ... of a four-part album". In 1960, released four tracks from his planned ' LP on an EP that was marked "Part 1". A second EP was planned, but never appeared; only the sleeve was printed. The first double EP released in Britain was ' ' film soundtrack. Released in December 1967 on EMI's label, it contained six songs spread over two 7-inch discs and was packaged with a lavish colour booklet. In the United States and some other countries, the songs were augmented by the band's single A- and B-sides from 1967 to create a full LP – a practice that was common in the US but considered exploitative in the UK. The album ' was originally issued as two 12-inch EPs. It is becoming more common to release two 12-inch 45s rather than a single 12-inch LP. Though there are 11 songs that total about 40 minutes, enough for one LP, the songs are spread across two 12" 45 rpm discs. Also, the vinyl pressing of ' by uses this practice but is considered to be a full-length album. In 1982 released their studio album "" on the UK-based label , featuring extended tracks over four sides of two 12-inch 45 rpm discs, with graphics by artist . The band subsequently released a further album in this format, 1985's "", on the label. There are a limited number of double EPs which serve other purposes, however. An example of this is the ' EP, which contains tracks by four different bands. Using a double EP in this instance allowed each band to have its tracks occupying a different side. In addition, the groove on the physical record could be wider and thus allow for a louder album.

Jukebox EP

In the 1960s and 1970s, record companies released EP versions of long-play (LP) albums for use in es. These were commonly known as "compact 33s" or "little LPs". It was played at 33 rpm, was pressed on seven-inch vinyl and frequently had as many as six songs. What made them EP-like was that some songs were omitted for time purposes, and the tracks deemed the most popular were left on. Unlike most EPs before them, and most seven-inch vinyl in general (pre-1970s), these were issued in .

Biggest selling debut EP all time

The hard rock band holds the record of highest selling debut EP with ', which sold two million copies in 1991. In the United Kingdom ' was classed as a mini-album, and therefore became their first Top 75 album chart hit, picking at number 9 in 1992. Where the UK singles charts is concerned (the chart where most EPs charted between the scrapping of the EPs charts and the advent of single track downloads), the first EP to reach number one was ' by Greek singer , a 4-tracker known for its lead track .

See also



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