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What Is an Extended Play?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 December 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The EP or extended play, is an audio or video presentation that is in the form of a vinyl record, compact disc, DVD, or electronic file suitable for downloading. While the exact definition of what constitutes and extended play product has changed over the years, the option is usually seen as providing a middle ground between single releases and entire audio or video presentations. The EP is generally more popular in the United Kingdom and Europe than in North America, although this entertainment option has gained some ground since the turn of the century in the United States and Canada.

The first examples of an EP product were associated with vinyl records. Formulated to provide the listener with more music tracks than a standard 45 RPM record but not as many tracks as a full blown record album or LP, an extended play usually provided between four and six music tracks. The tracks were sometimes cuts from just-released albums by a given artist and sometimes served as a promotional tool to generate interest in the new record. At other times, the EP was used to package recent hits by a given artist onto one extended play vinyl record, making the purchase of those popular radio hits more affordable for consumers.

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Over the years, there was some difference of opinion as to how to differentiate between an extended play record and the more popular LP. Depending on the standards set in place in a given country, a typical EP would include a minimum of four music tracks and run no longer than twenty-eight minutes. LP’s normally featured anywhere from eight to twelve music tracks and would often provide continuous play for anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour. An EP product was easily distinguished from the 45 RPM, which featured only two music tracks, known as the A side and the B side.

While the occasional extended play record was released in the United States during the 1940’s through the 1970’s, the format never really caught on with consumers. However, music enthusiasts in the United Kingdom and many parts of Europe and the Orient embraced the EP eagerly. This was especially true during the decade of the 1960’s, when such diverse musical performers as the Beatles, the Monkees, the Animals, and Frank Sinatra all released and sold impressive numbers of extended play albums in the UK and Japan.

During the latter part of the 1970’s, a cousin of the EP enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the United States. Known as the disco single or extended play single, this product featured two musical tracks in a manner similar to that of a 45 RPM. The difference was that each track would run anywhere from twelve to twenty minutes in length. Disco singles were often extended versions of popular radio hits and were ideal for use in discos or at dance parties featuring disco music.

Today, newer technology has continued the legacy of the extended play device. An extended play CD is essentially the new form of the older EP vinyl record, usually including four to six tracks. An extended play DVD will normally include the feature presentation accompanied by promotional trailers, interviews with actors and actresses appearing in the feature film, and possibly some outtakes. The extended play music download makes it possible to download a single file that includes more than one music track, but is available at a cost that is much less than downloading a full album.

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