Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
An EP (for extended play), is the name given to vinyl records which are too long to qualify as singles but too short to qualify as albums. Typically an album has eight or more tracks (anywhere between 40-60 minutes), a single only one or two (5-15 minutes), and an EP five to eight (or around 15-35 minutes.) Some artists, especially in the days of vinyl, have released full-length albums that could fit the definition of a modern-day EP. (See Yes's Close to the Edge and Prince's Dirty Mind as examples.) A remix single is not considered an EP unless it also has other songs on it (an EP/single hybrid). The name "extended play" has become something of a misnomer, for though it originally was used for singles that were extended beyond the standard length, it is now more often synonymous with an album that is shorter than usual; indeed EPs are sometimes referred to as "mini-albums" (see below). For this reason, among others, they are referred to as "EPs", the full name being used much more rarely.
EPs were released in various sizes in different eras. The earliest EPs were 33⅓ RPM recordings on 10" (25cm) disks, and appeared at the close of the 78 RPM era. By coincidence, the format gained wide popularity with the coming of Elvis Presley, and it is sometimes erroneously stated that the term "EP" derived from his initials.
In the 1970s and 1980s there was less standardization, and EPs were made on 7" (18cm), 10", or 12" (30cm) discs running either 33⅓ or 45 RPM. Some novelty EPs used odd shapes and colours, and a few were picture discs.
The term is also sometimes applied to compact discs with short playing times. However, since a CD can carry any amount of material up to around 80 minutes, the distinction between a CD EP and a short CD LP is somewhat arbitrary and is based on artistic and marketing factors. For example, EPs are usually released as a promo or as a method for an artist to release a collection of songs unfit for an album. Some artists prefer to use the term "mini-album" instead of "EP", bringing a stronger significance to the work instead of it being counted as a mere add-on to an artist's discography.
The 7" EP in punk rock
The first recordings released by many punk rock bands were released in 7" EP format, mainly because the high-energy nature of the genre and short songs that resulted made it difficult to create sufficient material to fill an LP. Many such bands also were unsigned, or signed to a minor record label that didn't have the funds to release a full length album, particularly by newly formed bands. As many record stores would not sell demo tapes , the 7" EP became a standard release for punk rock bands, who could sell them nationwide at a cheap price, and thus be heard beyond the areas where they performed. These records would vary in length, having anywhere from 2 to as many as 10 or more songs (4 being somewhat of a standard), and recorded at 33 RPM as often as 45 (outside of punk rock many people refer to any 7" record as a 45, as it has been the standard speed for such records). Some of these recordings would qualify as singles, although this term was sometimes eschewed as being a mainstream design for determining commercial airplay, which did not apply to the vast majority of such bands. The term "single" also had a way of being somewhat dismissive of any tracks other than the primary one, delegating them as b-sides, when many bands, having a 7" record as their most significant release, would put all their best songs on the recording. Using the term EP in such cases would be considered techincally incorrect, as they were not "extended", and the term "7 inch" became a standard. For bands that went on to achieve commercial success, it was often customary for the original EP tracks to be released later on full-length albums, or to be somehow reissued in another format.
The split 7" EP has also been a widespread feature in the genre, in which two bands would release such a record together, each performing on one side. This was a way to cut costs, particularly for self released EPs, and was often used as a way for a more established bands to help promote a promising newer act.
See gramophone record for more.
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