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What’s the Difference: Singles, EPs, LPs, Albums & Mixtapes

What's the Difference- Singles, EPs, LPs, Albums & Mixtapes

As an aspiring musician or a music lover, the terms (single, EP, LP, album, and mixtapes) may have confused you at some point. Understanding the differences between these musical formats can be very helpful. In this article, we explain the unique features and purposes of each format to help musicians make informed decisions on what format works best for them.

What is a Single?

A single is a standalone song that a musician releases, either in digital format or physical copies. Singles are mostly released as a promotional tool ahead of an impending album or EP, and it is typically available for digital download or streaming. Now, singles are mostly accompanied by music videos which are heavily marketed on social media or on YouTube with the use of Ads. A single sometimes comes with an instrumental track that other musicians can jump on to create their own renditions. Also, the musician can collaborate with another musician for official remixes of the original single. The secondary purpose of a single is to showcase a particular style or sound of the artiste. A typical length of a single is 3-4 minutes.

What is an EP?

An EP is short for Extended Play. It is a musical format that usually contains 3-6 songs. They are commonly used by emerging or independent artistes to showcase their musical style and as a way to gain recognition from listeners. An African record label that does a brilliant job with this is Mavin Records. The release of an eponymous EP, which I personally believe is a brilliant idea, has become one of Mavin’s strategies to launch their latest signees. We have seen this done for some of their artistes like Rema, Ayra Star, Magixx, Boy Spyce and the recently signed Bayanni.

An EP can also be a great way to introduce new fans to a musician’s work or serve as a transitional project between albums. Additionally, EPs can be used as a way for established artistes to experiment with new sounds or styles outside of their usual albums. For instance, an artiste who is known for Afrobeats can release a reggae EP to show fans another side of his/her musical prowess. The length of an EP is typically 15-25 minutes and can be released in digital or physical formats.

What is an LP or an Album?

LP (short for Long Play) and Albums are often used interchangeably to describe a collection of songs that usually contains 8 or more tracks. LPs and Albums are the most common musical formats used to showcase an artiste’s full range of musical styles. An album’s content often follows a particular theme, whether conceptual or not and is typically released as a cohesive body of work. LPs and albums provide an opportunity for an artiste to tell a story, explore different themes, and showcase their growth throughout the music-making process. The length of an LP or Album is typically 30-60 minutes and can be released in digital or physical formats.

What is a Mixtape?

A mixtape is a collection of songs that an artiste releases, often for free or as a promotional tool. Mixtapes can include original songs, remixes, and covers of popular songs. Mixtapes are commonly used by emerging or independent artistes as a way to gain exposure and showcase their talent. Artistes typically use mixtapes to experiment with different sounds, styles, and genres outside of their typical catalog. The length of a mixtape can vary widely and can be released in digital or physical formats.

Understanding the differences between singles, EPs, LPs/Albums, and mixtapes is crucial for aspiring musicians and music lovers. Each format serves a specific purpose and can be used to achieve different goals, whether it is to promote upcoming work, showcase a specific style or theme, or experiment with new sounds. By having a clear understanding of these formats, you can make informed decisions about what format works best for your artistic vision and what will best connect with your audience.