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What is an EP, single, or album release?

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There are three different types of releases that you can, as an independent musician, distribute with iMusician - a single, album, and an EP. Are you ready to publish your music and wonder what release options you have and which one would be the best for you? In this article, we’ll guide you through the characteristics of each type of release and their differences to clear any misunderstandings and help you get your music into the world in the best way possible.

What is a single?

A single is a type of music release that typically includes fewer tracks than an album, LP, or EP. It very often refers to one individual song that is released separately from an album but may later appear on that album. However, in current times of music downloading, a single can actually consist of up to three tracks. The dominance of streaming services also gives the musicians the ability to release each of their songs separately. Nevertheless, the concept of a ‘single’ is rather reserved for a more heavily promoted and thus commercially successful song, typically used to market the musician’s upcoming album featuring the song.

When should a musician release a single?

Besides being used as an important promotional tool for already established musicians, releasing a single (or multiple singles) can primarily be considered an entry to the world of music. A single is typically the first type of a recording released by a new, yet unknown musician with its purpose to leave their musical footprint and start building their fundamental audience.

Releasing an EP or album before being even discovered may be rather expensive with little to no positive impact on your music career. That’s because a single will help you build your foundation of listeners that you can then sustain and later develop by releasing other types of audio recordings. Releasing more singles prior to eventually publishing an EP or an album may bring even more awareness to your music, laying a stronger base for your career as a musician.

Distributing a single with iMusician

An iMusician Single has to have:

  • Up to 3 tracks, none of them longer than 10 minutes

What is an EP?

An EP stands for ‘Extended Play’ and characterizes a music recording that is longer than a single but contains fewer tracks than an album, or an LP record. EPs in the present day contain around 4-5 songs and are considered a less expensive and time-consuming means of producing and releasing music in comparison to an album. Additionally, an EP tends to be less cohesive and rather noncommittal, with the ability to portray a musician’s creativity and diversity. However, it still should be treated as an entity existing and functioning on its own, rather than an assemblage of randomly collected tracks.

When should a musician publish an EP?

After releasing one or more singles, recording and publishing an EP may be a good second step to solidify your fanbase as well as target and attract new, explorative audiences. If listeners are not that familiar with your music yet, they are more likely to listen to a shorter collection of songs rather than a full 15-track-long album. That’s because, with a high volume of tracks being released every day, listeners tend to be antsy, impatient, and picky about the music they tune in. An EP will not only be seen as less time-consuming to listen to but will also provide a greater opportunity for musicians to demonstrate their professional skills, potential, and ability to dive into various genres.

Moreover, with the ever-rising popularity of music downloads and streaming services, such as Spotify, Deezer, and Apple Music, EPs have also become a common and important marketing and promotional strategy, mostly for popular music-oriented artists who seek to maintain their popularity and remain relevant in the eyes of their followers. By releasing an EP leading to or following an album, musicians have the ability to stay active, regularly and consistently providing their fandoms with new music and thus remaining on everyone’s radar. Additionally, publishing an EP is a great way to promote an upcoming concert line or a tour, keeping the die-hard fans excited and enticing potential fans into coming to one of your gigs, too.

Lastly, issuing an EP in between may be a great way to test the waters in case you’d like to experiment and play with genres or styles of music you haven’t tried before. By seeing how such an EP has been received, both by your fans and audiences from other communities, you’ll be more able to make a constructive decision about the evolution of your music in the future. Such information will spare you creative time as well as money before you put a full-on effort into creating a whole album.

Notable EP releases

Considering other music genres, EPs have long been popular with punk, hard rock, and indie bands. In the early 1960s, The Beatles were the most prolific artists releasing EPs, of which many were met with great success. In 1994, the American rock and grunge band, Alice in Chains, became the first-ever band to have an EP reach n. 1 on the Billboard album chart (EP called ‘Jar of Flies’). They were then followed by Jay-Z's and Linkin Park’s collaboration EP, ‘Collision Course’, in 2004.

Distributing an EP with iMusician

In order to release and distribute your EP with iMusician, it has to have:

  • 1-3 tracks with at least 1 track over 10 minutes or;

  • 4-6 tracks with a total running time of 30 minutes or less

iTunes has its own rules when it comes to displaying releases, so one has to bear in mind that even if we send your release as an EP, it might be marked as a Single on iTunes!

Here you can distribute your EP with iMusician!

What is an album?

An album can be defined as a collection of audio recordings, consisting of, traditionally, around 7-15 tracks with a total duration of 35 minutes to an hour. In comparison to an EP, which can be seen as a set of separate, rather individual stories, an album is viewed as a complex work of art, depicting a particular chapter from the musician’s life and taking the listener on an artistic journey.

There are three main album types - a studio album, a live album, and a solo album. Most albums are studio albums, traditionally recorded in a music recording studio. However, such albums may also be recorded in other, perhaps even strange locations, such as in the field (such a technique was greatly popular with early Blues albums), in a prison, or most commonly at home, which was frequently practiced during the times of Covid-19 pandemic.

A live album is a term most often used for an album recorded at a concert before a live audience, though such a recording is then usually over-dubbed or multi-tracked in a studio. As ‘live’ are also considered recordings that have been done in one take in a studio without using any following edits, overdubbing, or multi-tracking. The two most commercially successful live albums are Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ from 1992 with over 26 million copies sold and Garth Brooks’ ‘Double Live’ from 1998 with over 21 million copies sold.

A solo album then characterizes an album recorded by a former or still current member of a musical band, who issued the recording under their own name only. Musicians who’ve enjoyed international acclaim after releasing their solo albums include Robbie Williams, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Beyonce, and many more.

As recorded music expression and consumption, albums were dominating the music industry from the mid-1960s until the early 21st century, during a period known as an ‘album era’. The three most common album recording formats were: the long-playing record (LP), the audiocassette, and the compact disc. The early 21st century then started the era of music downloads and, more importantly, music streaming services with the popularity of albums declining.

When should a musician release an album?

While an EP is great to target and attract new listeners, an album is what you need then to turn the yet-uncommitted audience into devoted fans. Additionally, providing an ‘album experience’ will help you maintain the loyalty and engagement of your already existing die-hard fans. People that love your music will not only enjoy a full 15-song album, they will, in fact, demand it to better understand and feel more connected to their favorite artist.

Furthermore, as suggested before, albums are seen as a more meaningful and complex type of music release, adding to the artist’s credibility and visibility while boosting their presence across music streaming platforms. By releasing an album, you’ll be generally viewed as a ‘serious musician’, making you seem more solid and attractive to other music industry professionals, such as agents, festival organizers, or other musicians.

Distributing an album with iMusician

If you’ve recorded an album, to distribute it with iMusician, it has to have more than 6 tracks or 30 minutes. If your recording has less than 7 tracks but exceeds the duration of 30 minutes, it will still be considered an album on iTunes.

Here you can distribute your album with iMusician!


Types of music releases distributed with iMusician

EP vs. LP

What is LP?

The abbreviation LP stands for ‘Long Play’ and traditionally refers to a long-playing vinyl record characterized by a vinyl composition disk with a 12- or 10-inch (30- or 25-cm) diameter and a playing speed of 33+1⁄3 rpm. Such a format of an audio recording was first introduced in 1948 by Columbia Records and soon became the prevalent format for record albums, lasting until the early 2000s. That came as a result of technological developments with vinyl records being step by step replaced by first cassettes, then by compact discs (CDs), and eventually by digital music distribution.

The difference between LP and EP

In the past, the abbreviation EP was used to name a competing vinyl record format, introduced in 1952 by RCA Victor Records, with a 10-inch diameter and played at a speed of 45 rpm. Although the term wasn’t originally based on the play length, an EP could hold audio with a duration of around 15 to 22 minutes while an LP album would range from 30 to around 50 minutes in duration. The play time could generally vary with an LP being capable of holding 40 minutes of music on each side but also with audio quality degrading after a certain point. Gradually, both labels - EP and LP - started being used to signify the time length and number of tracks on the record.

Although starting in the late 2000s, vinyl records have experienced a revival in terms of renewed interest and increased sales, over time, the term ‘LP’ began referring to a full-length album, with a total of around 10-12 tracks (no limitations though) and a duration of around 45-60 minutes. ‘EP’ then refers to a half-length album, also called a ‘mini album’, consisting of 3-6 tracks with a time length of 25-30 minutes in total. The word ‘extended’ means that it exceeds the time length of a single.


Difference between EP and LP as an ‘Extended Play’ and a ‘Full-Length’ album


In this article, we had a look at what singles, EPs, albums as well as LPs stand for. As we explained, each type of music release plays an important role in a musician’s professional life. While singles tend to be the first music recording published by a brand new artist, EPs can help them grow their established audience and attract new listeners, as well. An album then allows you to fully present your artistry, telling a particular story and creating and strengthening the bond with your fanbase. Any artist seeking to issue their music should be aware of the differences between each music release type to fully benefit from their characteristics at the particular point of their career.

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