It should come as no surprise that the music industry is constantly changing. In my lifetime alone I’ve seen the rise and fall of downloads, the emergence of streaming services and the surprise return of vinyl. For the most part the official charts company has moved with the times and brought out special dedicated charts for streaming and vinyl, as well as counting them towards the main charts. However there is one important aspect of the modern music industry that they have thus far steered clear of: EPs.
EPs sit inbetween singles and albums (LPs). Singles are usually just one track, although back in the day they came with b-sides. Full albums tend to be around ten tracks long and 45 minutes in length but tend to get longer as time goes on to try and fit as much content in as possible. EPs are often around 4/5 tracks long or around 25 minutes. The UK briefly had a special chart for them in the 60’s but it died out in 67 with the last number one EP being Hits by The Beach Boys.
Part of the reason for the decline in popularity was the shift in format. Originally EPs used the same format as singles but had more content, but as EPs got longer they could no longer fit it all in. This called for a shift to using the same format as LPs, but as they had less content than LPs they had to be sold for less even though they cost the same to manufacture. The fact that they suddenly weren’t cost effective made them a novelty collectors item, a problem which persisted through the days of tapes and CDs. There were a few great EPs that slipped through the cracks, such as Alice in Chain’s Jar of Flies which was the first EP to ever top the Billboard 200 chart, but for the most part they were forgotten.
Fast forward to the modern music industry and EPs are now vital. Before a band or artist releases their debut album, it is the norm for them to release a few EPs beforehand. This helps to gather a fan base and acts as a proving ground for new material. The best loved EP tracks usually find their way onto the full album ready for a wider audience. Looking at what EPs are doing well and receiving the most public attention is a sure fire way to find out who is going to be the next big artist. In modern music EPs are an integral part of the industry and can make or break a new artist. Surely a official chart is long overdue?