The difference between an EP, and single on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.
Pity the poor EP, that oft-overlooked music format; the middle child between the single and long playing album (LP). Often misunderstood and forever caught in format purgatory by digital music services, the EP has languished long enough.
Heck, even its name is misleading. EP stands for “extended play,” but the format is actually shorter than long playing — or “full length” — albums.
Despite its confusing name though, this humble format possesses a flexibility any artist can employ to their advantage. We’re here to show you how you can use an EP to build momentum for your music; we’ll also shed light on how Spotify and Apple music define an EP.
Three ways artists use EPs in the modern era
In the wake of the streaming revolution where cherry-picking and playlists have mostly replaced full album downloads, artists have created a few uses for the EP:
As a multi-track debut after your single
The EP is still a great option for a first release, especially once you have more than one song recorded. It’s not as long as an album, so there’s no pressure to write more songs if you only have five instead of 10. It’s also cheaper to record since you spend less time in the studio. The debut EP is a fantastic way to get what you have out to potential fans while you’re writing more material. A common practice for artists is to re-record a song or two from their EP for their full-length debut. So pick a few favorites and make them even better when you get the cash for more studio time.
As a stopgap between albums
Established artists use the EP to sate their fans’ appetites between albums. Normally this consists of already recorded B-sides that didn’t make it on the previous album; a nice snack for their following while the artist works on new music, tours, or even takes a much-needed break.
As a mix of recordings you enjoy that may not work on an album
The great thing about the EP is that it’s flexible and freeform. Think of it as a little room to stretch and experiment. Got a few live recordings you’re particularly fond of? Maybe a remix another artist did of one of your songs that you enjoyed? A song or two that didn’t make the cut on your album? Toss ‘em all onto a release and that’s five tracks your fans haven’t heard yet! A popular use of EPs in electronic music is to lead off the release with a single, then follow with a few remixes or reinterpretations. The EP is the gumbo of recorded music. Whatever you’ve got that sounds good, add it to the pot.
What qualifies as an EP with the digital platforms?
Now that you have some ideas about why and how to make your EP, you might be asking just what qualifies as an EP with digital services like Apple Music and Spotify. Luckily, there are some pretty exact guidelines for those two major services, as they are the only two who list the EP as its own category.
An EP on Apple Music
EPs must meet one of the following two requirements on Apple Music:
- The release has a total of one to three (1-3) tracks, one or more of the tracks is/are 10 minutes or longer, and the entire release is less than 30 minutes.
- The release has a total of four to six (4-6) tracks and the entire release is less than 30 minutes.
If your submission meets these criteria, iTunes will automatically add “-EP” to the end of your title. So whether or not you meant to release an EP, they’ll qualify it as such if it falls under their qualifications.
An EP on Spotify
Anything that meets the below requirements will show up under “EP’s & Singles” rather than your “Albums” section:
- The release is under 30 minutes.
- The release has 4-6 tracks.
Note: Spotify will NOT change the title of your release to reflect the format.
If you only have one song, a single is still the best way to get your first song out there. As with EPs, Apple Music and Spotify have requirements for submissions to be listed under the Single category.
A single on Apple Music
Apple Music will classify your release as a single if:
- The release is one to three (1-3) tracks.
- The entire release is 30 minutes or less and all individual tracks are less than 10 minutes.
Like EPs, if you submission meets the requirements of a Single with Apple Music, they will add “-Single” at the end of the submission.
A single on Spotify
Your music will be classified under the single category if:
- The release is under 30 minutes.
- The release has three (3) or fewer tracks.
EPs help artists in the streaming age build momentum and keep the attention of fans
While singles are a great way to release one song, the EP is a fantastic next step in a young artist’s career. It doesn’t require the attention span of an album and it costs less to record. What’s there not to like?
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