What is an EP and Why Should Everyone Be Making Them?
What’s an EP in music?” The EP in music used to be a rarely used format but has increased in popularity over the last few years. And with good reason! Knowing what an EP (short for “Extended Play”) is and why it’s so great for modern, independent musicians is critical.
The EP is a result of old technologies, but it’s more valuable now than ever
The lengths of full-length albums and songs are as much about the limitations of old technologies as it is about our natural attention spans. I go into much more detail about this in the video but you should know the vinyl album, at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute, only allows for about 22 minutes per side. This is why all the old albums you love by Led Zeppelin and Bill Monroe and the rest are about 35 to 42 minutes long.
Singles were released on 7″ records. These were usually played at 45 revolutions per minute. This speed allowed for about 5 minutes of music on each side, maximum. One of the main reasons “singles” are expected to be shorter songs, and certainly less than five minutes, is because of this limitation. If the song was longer, it couldn’t be released as one side of a sellable 7″ record.
How many songs are in an EP?
That leads us to the EP. Suffice to say, the EP in music is longer than a song plus a “B-side” second song, but shorter than a full-length album. Within those limitations, you have a great amount of flexibility. Most EPs are between 4 and 7 songs, but there are examples of EPs missing those guardrails successfully. In minutes, an EP is generally between 12 and 25 minutes long. Anything shorter should be released as singles and anything longer should be a full-length LP (short for “Long Player”).
Why the EP is great for independent recording artists
What is an EP and LP in music?
When you want to release it right, your singles are supporting the release of your EP or LP. Each single is timed and released to build excitement for the release of the product it is a part of. For example, you might release three singles over the course of 14 weeks to build excitement for your full-length LP. Or, you might release two singles over the course of 10 weeks to build excitement for your EP. (If you want to KNOW how to release it right, check out our program with step-by-step instructions how, Release It Right.)
Every time you independently release a product, you will get better at doing so. By reducing the amount of time and effort employed in releasing an EP rather than an LP, you increase the number of releases you will have. And you will get better at the process of releasing music if you release the same amount of songs as EPs as you would with LPs as a result.
EPs are less expensive to produce than full-length albums
The largest cost you are going to incur in producing your music for release is your recording costs. Even if you are recording in a home studio, the amount of time and effort you will put in to creating the recordings, in addition to your investment into your equipment, is great. When you reduce that time, effort, and cost by producing less music and less songs on your releases, you will save money.
Recording studios often charge by the hour, or sometimes by the day. Recording 5 of your 12 best songs is going to take half the time, and therefor half the money, recording all 12 will. Raising money for studio time can take a while. By cutting those costs in half, or more, you also reduce the amount of time it takes to get back into the studio.
My advice is, if a record company isn’t paying for your recording costs, make EPs.
Leave your audience wanting more
My favorite reason why EPs are better than LPs for independent artists is how the EP leaves the audience wanting more. Reduce the music you make available to only those songs which are undeniable. Your audience will believe you must have nothing but more undeniable songs just waiting for your next release. But release a full-length with a few undeniable songs, some okay ones, and a few duds? Your audience will believe you have nothing but duds available for your next release.
And your audience isn’t just your fans and potential fans. As an independent artist, your audience is also record labels and booking agents and other industry professionals. A record label is much more interested in signing an artist with more great songs to offer. They are less interested in an artist who has already released independently the best they have to offer. Convince an interested record label you’re a good signing by only ever releasing the very best material you have.
Test working with producers, studios, and other collaborators
Because EPs are a smaller investment than a full-length, you can experiment and test more. Knowing you are working with the right producer or studio takes spending time working together. Test those relationships with small commitments, like an EP, before making a larger commitment like an LP.
This also can go for aesthetic, genre, or songwriting changes. Test whether these changes are as exciting for your audience as they are for you by releasing them as EPs. Audiences are much more forgiving of failed experiments on EPs than they are on LPs.
The EP is the independent artist’s best friend
EPs are still sellable, at a lower price point, but selling your music is becoming a smaller part of your revenue portfolio anyway.
Cheaper to produce, faster to release, leaves the audience wanting more, and not constrained by old technology limitations, the EP is the independent artist’s best friend. Stop spending valuable time in the early-stages of your career trying to create product best reserved for later in your career. Stop stalling and start releasing!