The EP – Is It Still A Relevant Term?

There is something that has been gnawing at me for quite some time. The term EP when used to describe releases of bands and artists today. I understand why it’s used, but I don’t agree with it…unless of course it’s released on vinyl. Why? Let’s start with a little back history on the term, shall we?

Back when the popular medium for consuming music was vinyl, there were three main classifications of releases (and still are). That is single, EP, and LP. Singles had one song on each side – side A and side B (which is where the term b-sides came from). The term EP stands for extended play because it contains more music than a single, but not enough as a full release or LP (typically a maximum length of 25 minutes combined or four tracks). An LP is also known as long play. The terms single and EP carried over to the cassette medium, but the term LP was reserved for vinyl (if you bought the new Manowar album, you might have said “I picked up the new Manowar LP” whereas if you bought the cassette you would probably just call it a tape). The three classifications largely have to do with the time constraints within each vinyl format and respective size. Singles and EPs come on 45s while LPs come out on 33s (though some EPs came out on 78s, those were called SPs for some asinine reason). The numbers refer the rpm setting on a record player for those not in the know of this stuff, and technically it’s 33⅓ but whatever. You with me so far? Good, I’m so glad your attention span exceeds 15 seconds because you’d be surprised….I’m tellin’ ya!

Now, since we live in an age where albums are generally released either digitally or on CD and the format is consistent amongst the three above mentioned classifications, why keep on using the term EP if there is nothing to extend? Whether you put one, two, or ten songs on a CD…it’s still a CD. Some with more extra space than others. Same with a digital album, it doesn’t matter how many songs are on it…a download is a download. I suppose the term EP could still be used to describe something that has more tracks than a single and less than a full length release but it just seems odd that, considering what it means and why an EP is called an EP, we still feel compelled to cling onto this term. I don’t know what else to call it, I don’t work in that department. All I know is that maybe it’s time to revisit the terminology for the sake of evolution. Perhaps the term MB for mini-bum or how about FA for fractional album?

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