Extended-play vinyl record of Michael Nesmith's "I Fall to Pieces" with four tracks

An extended play (EP) is a musical recording that contains more tracks than a single but fewer than an album or LP record.[1] Contemporary EPs generally contain up to eight tracks and have a playing time of 15 to 30 minutes.[2] An "EP" is usually less cohesive than an album and more "non-committal".[3]

An extended play (EP) originally referred to a specific type of 45 rpm phonograph record other than 78 rpm standard play (SP) and 33 rpm long play (LP),[4] but as of 2023 applied to mid-length CDs and downloads as well.[5] EPs are considered "less expensive and time-consuming" for an artist to produce than an album, and have long been popular with punk and indie bands.[1][6] In K-pop and J-pop they are usually referred to as mini albums.[1]


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EPs were released in various sizes in different eras. The earliest multi-track records, issued around 1919 by Grey Gull Records, were vertically cut 78 rpm discs known as "2-in-1" records. These had finer grooves than usual, like Edison Disc Records. By 1949, when the 45 rpm single and 3313 rpm LP were competing formats, 7-inch 45 rpm 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 Columbia, RCA Victor introduced "Extended Play" 45s during 1952. 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 phonograph. In the early era, record companies released the entire content of LPs as 45 rpm EPs.[7] These were usually 10-inch LPs (released until the mid-1950s) split onto two 7-inch EPs or 12-inch LPs split onto three 7-inch EPs, either sold separately or together in gatefold covers. This practice became much less common with the advent of triple-speed-available phonographs.[citation needed]

EP Pat Boone Sings the Hits, compiling four songs by Pat Boone

Introduced by RCA in the US in 1952, EMI issued the first EPs in Britain in April 1954.[7] EPs were typically compilations of singles or album samplers and were played at 45 rpm on 7-inch (18 cm) discs, with two songs on each side.[8][9]

RCA had success in the format with Elvis Presley, issuing 28 EPs between 1956 and 1967, many of which topped the separate Billboard EP chart during its brief existence.[citation needed] Other than those published by RCA, EPs were relatively uncommon in the United States and Canada, but they were widely sold in the United Kingdom, and in some other European countries, during the 1950s and 1960s. In Sweden EP was for long the most popular record format, with as much as 85% of the market in the late 1950s being EPs.[10]

Billboard 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 EPs featuring artists with powerful teen-age appeal — four sets by Elvis Presley, two by Pat Boone and one by Little Richard".[11] Record Retailer printed an EP chart in 1960.[citation needed] The New Musical Express (NME), Melody Maker, Disc and Music Echo and the Record Mirror continued to list EPs on their respective singles charts. When the BBC and Record Retailer commissioned the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) (now: Kantar Group) to compile a chart, it was restricted to singles, and EPs disappeared from the listings.[citation needed]

The popularity of EPs in the US had declined in the early 1960s in favor of LPs. In the UK Cliff Richard and the Shadows, both individually and collectively, and the Beatles were the most prolific artists issuing EPs in the 1960s, many of them highly successful releases. The Beatles' Twist and Shout 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 punk rock in the late 1970s and the adaptation of the format for 12-inch and CD singles.[12]

In Britain EPs were sometimes used to repackage songs that had previously been issued on albums. The Shadows released EPs The Shadows No. 2 and The Shadows No. 3 both of which included songs found on The Shadows album. The songs from Adam Faith's first album were also released on three EPs, all of which had the same cover as the album, but listed the tracks on the top. The Beatles EP Twist and Shout contained only songs found on their Please Please Me album.

The manufacturing price of an EP was a little more than that of a single.[13] Thus, they were a bargain for those who did not own the LPs from which the tracks were taken.[14]

Notable EP releases

Some classical music albums released at the beginning of the LP era were also distributed as EP albums—notably, the seven operas that Arturo Toscanini conducted on radio between 1944 and 1954. These opera EPs, originally broadcast on the NBC Radio network and manufactured by RCA, which owned the NBC network then, were made available both in 45 rpm and 3313 rpm. In the 1990s, they began appearing on compact discs.[citation needed]

During the 1950s, RCA published several EP albums of Walt Disney 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 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), and what was then a recent release, the movie version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea that was presented in 1954. The recording and publishing of 20,000 was unusual: it did not employ the movie's cast, and years later, a 12 in 33+13 rpm album, with a nearly identical script, but another different cast, was sold by Disneyland Records in conjunction with the re-release of the movie in 1963.[citation needed]

Because of the popularity of 7" and other formats, SP (78 rpm, 10") records became less popular and the production of SPs in Japan was suspended in 1963.[15][16]

In the Philippines, seven-inch EPs marketed as "mini-LPs" (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.[17] This mini-LP format also became popular in America in the early 1970s for promotional releases, and also for use in jukeboxes.[18]

Stevie Wonder included a bonus four-song EP with his double LP Songs in the Key of Life in 1976. During the 1970s and 1980s, there was less standardization and EPs were made on seven-inch (18 cm), 10-inch (25 cm) or 12-inch (30 cm) discs running either 3313 or 45 rpm. Some novelty EPs used odd shapes and colors, and a few of them were picture discs.[citation needed]

Alice in Chains was the first band to ever have an EP reach number one on the Billboard album chart. Its EP, Jar of Flies, was released on January 25, 1994. In December 1997, American rapper Eminem released The Slim Shady EP, which introduced his "Slim Shady" alter ego. In 2004, Linkin Park and Jay-Z's collaboration EP, Collision Course, was the next to reach the number one spot after Alice in Chains. In 2010, the cast of the television series Glee became the first artist to have two EPs reach number one, with Glee: The Music, The Power of Madonna on the week of May 8, 2010, and Glee: The Music, Journey to Regionals on the week of June 26, 2010.[citation needed]

In 2010, Warner Bros. Records revived the format with their "Six-Pak" offering of six songs on a compact disc.[19]

EPs in the digital and streaming era

Due to the increased popularity of music downloads and music streaming beginning the late 2000s, EPs have become a common marketing strategy for pop 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, reissues of studio albums with expanded track listings were common, with the new music often being released as stand-alone EPs. In October 2010, a Vanity Fair 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."[20] Examples of such releases include Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster (2009) following her debut album The Fame (2008), and Kesha's Cannibal (2010) following her debut album Animal (2010).

A 2019 article in Forbes discussing Miley Cyrus' plan to release her then-upcoming seventh studio album as a trilogy of three EPs, beginning with She Is Coming, 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."[21] However, this release strategy was later scrapped in favor of the conventional album release of Plastic Hearts.[22] Major-label pop musicians who had previously employed such release strategies include Colbie Caillat with her fifth album Gypsy Heart (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 Jessie J's fourth studio album R.O.S.E. (2018) which was released as four EPs in as many days entitled R (Realisations), 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.[8] Examples include the Beatles' The Beatles' Hits EP from 1963, and the Troggs' Troggs Tops EP from 1966, both of which collected previously released tracks.[8] The playing time was generally between 10 and 15 minutes.[8] In the UK they 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 Love Me Tender from 1956 and "Just for You", "Peace in the Valley" and "Jailhouse Rock" from 1957, and the Kinks' Kinksize Session from 1964.

Twelve-inch EPs were similar, but generally had between three and five tracks and a length of over 12 minutes.[8] Like seven-inch EPs, these were given titles.[8] EP releases were also issued in cassette and 10-inch vinyl formats.[8] With the advent of the compact disc (CD), more music was often included on "single" releases, with four or five tracks being common, and playing times of up to 25 minutes.[8] These extended-length singles became known as maxi singles and while commensurate in length to an EP were distinguished by being designed to feature a single song, with the remaining songs considered B-sides, whereas an EP was designed not to feature a single song, instead resembling a mini album.

EPs of original material regained popularity in the punk rock era, when they were commonly used for the release of new material, e.g. Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP.[8]

Ricardo Baca of The Denver Post said in 2010, "EPs—originally extended-play 'single' releases that are shorter than traditional albums—have long been popular with punk and indie bands."[6]

Contemporary EPs generally contain up to eight tracks.[2]

In the United States, the Recording Industry Association of America, 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.[23] On the other hand, The Recording Academy's rules for Grammy Awards 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.[24]

In the United Kingdom, an EP can appear either on the album or the single chart. The Official Chart Company classifies any record with more than four tracks (not counting alternative versions of featured songs, if present) or with a playing time of more than 25 minutes 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.[25][26]

An intermediate format between EPs and full-length LPs is the mini-LP, which was a common album format in the 1980s. These generally contained 20–30 minutes of music and about seven tracks.[8]

Double EPs

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A double extended play is a name typically given to vinyl records or compact discs released as a set of two discs, each of which would normally qualify as an EP. The name is thus analogous to double album. As vinyl records, the most common format for the double EP, they consist of a pair of 7-inch discs recorded at 45 or 3313 rpm, 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 vinyl LP.

In the 1950s, Capitol Records had released a number of double EPs by its more popular artists, including Les Paul. 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".[citation needed] In 1960, Joe Meek released four tracks from his planned I Hear a New World LP on an EP that was marked "Part 1". A second EP was planned, but never appeared; only the sleeve was printed.[27] The first double EP released in Britain was the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour film soundtrack.[28][29] Released in December 1967 on EMI's Parlophone label, it contained six songs spread over two 7-inch discs and was packaged with a lavish color booklet.[29] 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.[29] The Style Council album The Cost of Loving was originally issued as two 12-inch EPs.

It is more common for artists to release two 12-inch 45s rather than a single 12-inch LP.[citation needed] 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 Hail to the Thief by Radiohead uses this practice but is considered to be a full-length album. In 1982 Cabaret Voltaire released their studio album "2x45" on the UK-based label Rough Trade, featuring extended tracks over four sides of two 12-inch 45 rpm discs, with graphics by artist Neville Brody. The band subsequently released a further album in this format, 1985's "Drinking Gasoline", on the Virgin Records label.

There are a limited number of double EPs which serve other purposes,[which?] however. An example of this is the Dunedin Double 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.[citation needed]

Jukebox EP

A 1948 Filben FP-300 Maestro jukebox, 78 rpm

In the 1960s and 1970s, record companies released EP versions of long-play (LP) albums for use in jukeboxes. These were commonly known as "compact 33s" or "little LPs". The jukebox EP was played at 3313 rpm, was pressed on seven-inch vinyl and frequently had as many as six songs. What made it EP-like was that some songs were omitted for time purposes, and the most popular tracks were left on. Unlike most EPs before them, and most seven-inch vinyl in general (pre-1970s), these were issued in stereo.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Fuhr, Michael (2015). Globalization and Popular Music in South Korea: Sounding Out K-Pop. Routledge. ISBN 9781317556909. Retrieved March 21, 2017. Mini-albums and EPs are shorter than full-length albums and usually contain four or five songs [...] They are less expensive and time-consuming in production than albums, and they help to popularize new groups who otherwise lack the number of songs required for a full-length album.
  2. ^ a b "EP to the Rescue! Short Albums Are a Rare Music Business Success Story". Billboard. 2014-08-19. Archived from the original on 2023-05-01. Retrieved 2023-12-31. "Extended play," a format comprising eight or fewer songs...
    "EP's, LP's, Albums and Mixtapes". marshall.com. EP stands for 'Extended Play,' meaning that an EP is longer than a single but shorter than an album. They typically feature between 2–5 songs and are under 30 minutes in length.
    "What is the difference between a Single, an EP, and an Album?". TuneCore.
    "Albums vs EPs vs Singles: A Guide to Releasing Music in 2024". Ditto Music. An EP (Extended Play) refers to a half-length body of work, features between 4–6 tracks and has a running time of roughly 15–22 mins (but can be up to 30 minutes).
    "What Is An EP In Music? ( Examples, # of Songs, vs. LP )". 2023-07-07. Retrieved 2024-01-01. An EP, short for Extended Play, is a shorter music album with 2 to 9 songs and is usually under 30 minutes in length. EPs tend to be more concise mini albums with a much smaller price tag. The term "EP" has been used in various ways in the music industry, but today we use it most often when referring to albums with fewer than 10 tracks. In some cases, an EP may contain only three or four songs, while others might have seven or even nine.
  3. ^ "Was Ist Eine EP, Single Oder Ein Album?" (in German). iMusician. An EP stands for "Extended Play" and refers to a music recording that is longer than a single but contains fewer tracks than an album or LP. Nowadays, EPs contain around 4–5 songs and are considered a more cost-effective ... way of producing and releasing music compared to an album. Additionally, an EP tends to be less cohesive and more non-committal...
  4. ^ Maes, Jan; Vercammen, Marc (2001). Digital Audio Technology: A Guide to CD, MiniDisc, SACD, DVD(A), MP3 and DAT (4th ed.). Focal Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780240516547. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  5. ^ Malcolm Tatum (12 May 2023). "What Is an Extended Play?". wisegeek.
  6. ^ a b Baca, Ricardo (January 4, 2010). "As albums fade away, music industry looks to shorter records". The Denver Post. Chattanooga Times Free Press. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  7. ^ a b Osborne, Richard (2016). Vinyl: A History of the Analogue Record. Routledge. p. 106.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Strong, Martin C. (2002). The Great Rock Discography (6th ed.). Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-312-0.
  9. ^ Shuker, Roy (2005). "Singles; EPs". Popular Music: The Key Concepts. Routledge. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-415-34770-9. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  10. ^ Aulin, Leif; von Tell, Pontus (2018). British Beat in Sweden: The Original Vinyls 1957–1969. Premium Publishing. ISBN 978-91-89136-60-1.
  11. ^ Bundy, June (7 October 1957). "Billboard Adds to Pop Chart Score: New Service Cover Weekly Listing of EP Best-sellers; Album Box Score". Billboard.
  12. ^ Thompson, Dave (2002). "EPs – Albums on Installment Plans". The Music Lover's Guide to Record Collecting. Hal Leonard Corporation.
  13. ^ "Bluegrass Unlimited". 1981.
  14. ^ English Song and Dance. English Folk Dance and Song Society. 1966. p. 42.
  15. ^ "A brief description of the Japanese recording industry 2000" (PDF). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2004.
  16. ^ レコード産業界の歴史 1960年~1969年 [The History of The Record Industry 1960–1969] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved July 23, 2010.
  17. ^ Salazar, Oskar (June 13, 1970). "Philippines Gets First Mini-LP". Billboard. pp. 80–81.
  18. ^ "7-in. LP Growing Concept". Billboard. March 25, 1972. p. 39.
  19. ^ Price, Deborah Evans (February 3, 2010). "Another Body Blow For Albums: Warner To Launch New Six-Pak Format". Billboard. Retrieved February 3, 2010.
  20. ^ Johnston, Maura (20 October 2010). "With Ke$ha, Gaga, and Taylor Swift, It's All About the Art of the Tease". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  21. ^ McIntyre, Hugh (13 June 2019). "3 Reasons Miley Cyrus' New Album Rollout Plan Is Brilliant". Forbes. Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  22. ^ Copsey, Rob (August 14, 2020). "Miley Cyrus isn't planning to release an album any time soon: "It doesn't make sense for me"". Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved August 14, 2020.
  23. ^ "About the Awards – RIAA". Recording Industry Association of America.
  24. ^ "Awards Process Updates". The Recording Academy. July 8, 2015. Archived from the original on July 3, 2017. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  25. ^ Austin, Chris; Blyth, Lucy (March 2015). "Rules for Chart Eligibility – Singles" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-09-03. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  26. ^ Austin, Chris; Blyth, Lucy (March 2015). "Rules for Chart Eligibility – Albums" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-03-27. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  27. ^ Beta, Andy (5 April 2013). "Joe Meek: I Hear a New World Album Review". Pitchfork. Retrieved 27 August 2019.
  28. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th edn). London: Oxford University Press. p. 488. ISBN 978-0-19-531373-4.
  29. ^ a b c Neaverson, Bob (1997). The Beatles Movies. London: Cassell. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-0-304337965. Archived from the original on 2 October 2009 – via beatlesmovies.co.uk (chapter: "Magical Mystery Tour Part 1 – Background and Production").