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What Does LP Stand For?

Brushing Up on Vinyl Terminology

The vinyl record collecting community uses a wide range of terms and phrases that are not exactly everyday vocabulary. While vinyl lingo can be daunting and confusing at first, there’s a rhyme and reason to all of it, and knowing the meanings of the words that you’ll often hear at record stores can enhance and enrich your vinyl collecting experience.


In this post, we’ll be primarily focusing on “LP,” one of the most common pieces of record lingo out there. You’ll hear this term thrown around everywhere you go in the music world, from recording studios to local record shops, and understanding its meaning and history is essential for any audiophile or music enthusiast.

The Origins of “LP” 

In the early days of vinyl records, full-length albums were still a long time coming. The first records could hold just a few minutes of recorded audio on each side, partly because of their small size and partly because of their high revolutions per minute (RPM). Understanding RPM is essential to understanding LPs, as well as records as a whole.

RPM Is the Measurement of the Amount of Times That a Record Spins Per Minute.

The faster a record spins, the higher the sound quality can be – more revolutions means a more faithful reproduction of a recorded sound. However, higher speed also means less audio can be transcribed onto each side of a record.

What Are 78s?

The highest RPM records are 78s, which – you guessed it – spin 78 times per minute. These records have essentially become obsolete, but they dominated the vinyl market for decades in the format’s early years. The first 78s were made not from vinyl, but shellac, a hard material that was used for phonograph discs. The phonograph, the predecessor to the modern turntable, was initially designed to only play records at 78 or 45 RPM.

Lower RPM Came on the Scene

As vinyl evolved as a format, manufacturers started experimenting with lower RPM and larger records. This gave way to the advent of the “33,” a 10-inch or 12-inch vinyl record that spins at 33⅓ revolutions per minute.

33s Grew in Popularity

The growing popularity of 33s made it possible for artists to record and release more songs in record form. Eventually, 33s took on the name “LPs,” or long play records, classified as such due to their ability to hold significantly more music than 45s or 78s.

LPs Are Now the Primary Form of Record on the Market.

While artists will still sometimes release 7-inch singles that play at 45 RPM, these are much less common than 10-inch or 12/-inch LPs with a full album split between their two sides.


With the dawn of the CD, streaming platforms, and other forms of music, “LP” eventually became synonymous with “album.” Many audiophiles and record enthusiasts continue to refer to any full-length album as an LP, even if they are not specifically talking about a vinyl pressing of an album. The term is now a part of music history that has taken on a meaning of its own.

What Is an EP?

As you may have guessed, EP is another acronym with a rich history in the record industry. EP stands for extended play record. This classification is used for a collection of songs that is too small to constitute an album but is more than just a single. EPs typically have between three and six tracks on them, whereas LPs tend to be at least seven songs long.


Many artists opt to record and release EPs before they move on to writing and releasing a debut studio album or LP. There are numerous benefits that push artists towards releases with fewer songs, especially early in their careers. These benefits include:

Financial Feasibility.

Recording a full-length studio album can be incredibly expensive. For an up-and-coming artist who is not signed to a major record label, the cost of making an album can be nearly unattainable. 


While crowdfunding and other forms of fundraising have made it easier for independent artists to get into studios and record albums, the cost is often the biggest barrier between an artist and a full-length record. With studio time often costing nearly $1000 per day and fees for mixing, mastering, promotion, and more to consider, many artists decide that it is better to start with releasing music in smaller, more affordable installments.

Attention Spans Run Short These Days.

The market for full-length albums can sometimes appear to be on the decline. While there is still a thriving community of record collectors who love to listen to an album from start to finish, many people prefer to hop from song to song, never hearing more than one or two releases from an artist or band before moving on to someone else. Thus, many artists will release singles or EPs to consistently grab the attention of younger listeners, many of whom are not interested in listening to a full album. 


The 2020s are a decade of bite-sized media, with many content creators in many mediums primarily focusing on getting and retaining attention for as long as possible with their work. The emphasis on short, entertaining content has made singles and EPs the go-to release formats for many musicians.

Many Artists Are Not Interested in – or Cannot Afford – to Release Vinyl Copies of Their Music.

Producing vinyl is expensive. For an artist, the cost of ordering records from a manufacturer is a serious investment, and it is always something of a leap of faith. Vinyl is a niche format, but it has many devoted fans who are willing to support their favorite artists by buying physical copies of their music. Nevertheless, many artists either do not have the resources or the fan base to justify recording a full-length LP and releasing it in record form.

What Are Singles, and Why Are They So Popular? 

In the early days of vinyl, a “single” was typically a 78 or 45-RPM record with one song on each side. The “A-Side” was typically the song of the two that received the most attention and promotion, whereas the “B-Side” track was often considered secondary. 


In the age of streaming, singles may still be released in the two-track “A-side and B-side” format. However, many artists release a single as one standalone song, a format that tends to perform well on streaming platforms. 


As we covered in the section regarding EPs, the attention span of the average music listener seems to have gotten shorter with each decade in the 21st century. Many listeners are no longer interested in the idea of listening to a full-length album – or even an EP. Instead, the majority of users on streaming platforms seem to digest one song from an artist’s catalog at a time, then move on to listen to something else. 


The popularity of singles is largely due to the growing prevalence of streaming music as opposed to listening to physical formats like records or CDs. Singles work exceptionally well in a streaming context – they are digestible, they retain the attention of listeners, and – ideally – they build a fan base that is willing to listen to longer releases.

Conclusion 

So, is this the end of the LP? Did singles and streaming kill records? Definitely not.


The record collecting community is still alive and well, and there are plenty of listeners who are ready and willing to devour an album from start to finish. If you’re one of those listeners, then vinyl is the perfect format for you. 


To learn more about record collecting and the power of vinyl, make sure to visit the Sound of Vinyl blog by clicking here.


Sources:

What is the Difference Between Mixing and Mastering? | Sweet Water

The Shrinking Attention Span & What It Means for Marketers | Boston Digital

You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish | Time

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