Mainstream media love telling us that albums are dead. They say that LPs are a thing of the past and that singles rule the world. But since the advent of the digital age, a new contender has arisen. EPs are becoming an increasingly popular music format, especially amongst up-and-coming artists. Where has this change come from and which format is best.
LPs (Long Players) are traditional albums. They are commonly 45-60 minutes long and span around a dozen tracks. EPs (Extended Plays) are usually around 25 minutes long over the course of 4-5 tracks. Traditionally EPs were quite rare. Singles were made mainly for use in radio and for jukeboxes. This would in turn act as advertisement for the album. EPs would cost the same as a full album to manufacture, but as they had a lot less content they had to be set at a lower price and so weren’t cost effective. Fast forward to the present situation of streaming and downloads and suddenly EPs make a lot more sense. They act as a demo tape, demonstrating an artist’s style and range better than a single, but without the time necessary to listen to a whole album.
As such EPs are an important tool for rising artists who are trying to increase their fan base. Singles could perhaps attract the attention of new fans, but aren’t always enough to keep them interested. People are willing to wait with baited breath for many years for a major band’s latest LP, that same patience isn’t awarded to the rising stars. A steady flow of EP releases is therefore the perfect solution for those hoping to make it big. A short release follows the mantra “quality over quantity” and avoids the trap that many albums fall into of having too many dull moments. Many artists then take the most well received tracks from their releases, rework them and put them all together for their debut album.
EPs have a few issues though, the main one being the fact that they are all but ignored by the media. They are too long for radio airplay and aren’t long enough to fit in with album reviews. As of yet they don’t really have their own place in music media. Many EPs feel rather unpolished as they haven’t received the same care and attention to detail as LPs. Nor do they feel as special; albums are usually released every few years and have their own unique vibe that tells a new part of the artist’s life and progress. Sure with an album you have more room for error, but there is also more room to excel. Using an amalgamation of EP tracks to create an album works wonders for a debut, but then repackaging old material stops being a viable option. Yet another contributing factor for the curse of the tricky second album.
EPs aren’t the future of music, but they play an important role in giving new artists the boost they need and they are perfectly adapted to the mantle they have been given.