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what is LP in music - Longplay explained.

What is LP?

build your skills May 22, 2024

Longplay In Music Explained

In the ever-changing world of music, some words have become deeply ingrained in the industry, each with its own special historical meaning and cultural importance. One of these words is "LP," which represents the lasting impact of vinyl records and the art of storytelling through music. But what does this abbreviation really mean, and why does it still fascinate music lovers and audiophiles?


In this article, we have tried to answer a few questions:

  1. What "LP" Stands For?

  2. What’s the difference between LPs and Other Formats?

  3. How Did Vinyls Become Relevant?

  4. FAQs

  5. Our Final Thoughts 


What "LP" Stands For?


The term "LP" is an abbreviation for "Long Play," a phrase that dates back to the golden age of vinyl records. In the early days of recorded music, the limitations of the medium meant that songs had to be relatively short, with each side of a 10-inch record typically accommodating only a few minutes of music. However, the advent of the 12-inch vinyl record, played at a slower speed of 33 1/3 revolutions per minute (RPM), revolutionized the industry by allowing for longer compositions to be engraved onto a single disc.

In modern times, the concept of an album encompasses the same idea of a cohesive collection of music as the LP did in the era of vinyl records. The transition from physical formats to digital platforms has blurred the distinction between LPs and albums, making them essentially synonymous in today's industry. Thus, when encountering the term "LP" in day-to-day discussions, it can be understood as synonymous with the concept of an album.

These larger discs, capable of holding up to 30 minutes of music per side, were dubbed "Long Plays" or "LPs" by the industry giants of the time, such as Columbia Records.


What’s the difference between LPs and Other Formats?


To fully appreciate the significance of LPs, it's essential to understand how they differ from other music formats, both in terms of physical characteristics and other characteristics.


Singles Vs LPs 

In the realm of physical music formats, LPs are distinct from their smaller counterparts, singles and extended plays (EPs). Singles, typically released on 7-inch vinyl discs, were designed to showcase a single song or two, often with a "B-side" (a secondary track on the flip side of the record). EPs, on the other hand, were longer than singles but shorter than full-length LPs, typically containing four to six tracks and clocking in at around 20 minutes or less.


LPs, with their extended playing time and capacity for up to 12 tracks (or even more in some cases), offered artists a broader canvas for their creative freedom. This format allowed for the creation of cohesive, thematic albums that took listeners on a journey through a carefully curated sequence of songs, each one contributing to a larger narrative or conceptual framework.


Artistic Expression and Storytelling


One of the primary reasons for the enduring appeal of LPs lies in their ability to facilitate artistic expression and storytelling on a grander scale. Unlike singles or EPs, which often serve as standalone releases or promotional tools, LPs provide artists with the opportunity to make a collection of music that resonates with listeners on a deeper level. The main difference between an EP and an LP lies in the scope and artistic expression, with EPs typically containing 3 to 5 songs and serving as short story-telling formats or promotional tools, while LPs, containing 8 or more songs, allow for a more extensive musical narrative and cohesive sonic experience.



Through the careful curation and sequencing of tracks, artists can convey intricate narratives, explore complex themes, and create music that breaks the boundaries of individual songs. Each track becomes a chapter in a larger story, with the album functioning as a cohesive whole, greater than the sum of its parts.


This artistic freedom has given rise to some of the most iconic and influential albums in music history, from conceptual masterpieces like Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon" to genre-defining works such as Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours." These albums have not only stood the test of time but have also inspired countless artists across generations, solidifying the LP's status as a reputed medium.


How Did Vinyls Become Relevant?


While the advent of digital music formats and streaming services initially threatened to relegate LPs from the scene, a remarkable resurgence of vinyl has breathed new life into this beloved format. In recent years, vinyl sales have experienced a significant upswing, with music enthusiasts and collectors alike embracing the warm, analog sound and organic experience that LPs provide.

This renewed interest in vinyl has not only rekindled the appreciation for LPs but has also prompted artists to approach album creation with a renewed sense of enthusiasm. Many contemporary musicians now view the LP as a canvas for artistic expression, crafting albums that are meant to be experienced in their entirety, from start to finish.



Moreover, the physical nature of vinyl records has added an extra layer of collectibility and nostalgia to LPs. Limited edition pressings, unique artwork, and the tactile experience of holding a record in one's hands have all contributed to the enduring allure of this format, solidifying its place in the hearts of music lovers worldwide.




What is the difference between an LP and a vinyl record?


While the terms "LP" and "vinyl record" are often used interchangeably, they are not entirely synonymous. An LP specifically refers to a long-playing vinyl record, typically 12 inches in diameter and designed to hold up to 30 minutes of music per side. However, vinyl records can come in various sizes, such as 7-inch singles or 10-inch EPs, and may not necessarily qualify as LPs.


Can an LP be released in digital format?


Absolutely! While the term "LP" originated from the physical format of vinyl records, it has evolved to encompass full-length albums released in digital formats as well. In the modern era, when artists release a comprehensive body of work, it is often referred to as an "LP" or "album," regardless of the medium in which it is distributed. There are a few criteria to keep in mind while releasing your LP/Album digitally. 


  • Verified Distributor or Record Label


The album needs to be submitted through a verified distributor or record label that has a direct partnership with Spotify and iTunes, ensuring proper delivery and metadata accuracy.


  • Content Guidelines


The album must adhere to the streaming platform content guidelines, which include restrictions on explicit content, copyrighted material, hate speech etc.


Are LPs superior in sound quality compared to digital formats?


This is a topic of ongoing debate among audiophiles and music enthusiasts. Many argue that the nature of vinyl records, combined with the warm, rich tones produced by the physical grooves, result in a more authentic and immersive listening experience compared to digital formats. However, others contend that modern digital recording and playback technologies have advanced to the point where the differences in sound quality are negligible, if not indistinguishable, to the average listener.


Can an LP be released on a single vinyl disc?


Yes, it is possible to release an LP on a single vinyl disc. While traditional LPs often spanned two discs (one for each side), advancements in vinyl pressing technology have allowed for longer playing times on a single disc. Some modern LPs can accommodate up to 45 minutes of music on a single side, effectively fitting the entire album on a single vinyl record.


Are LPs more expensive to produce than other music formats?


Generally speaking, the production costs associated with LPs are higher than those of digital formats or CDs. The manufacturing process for vinyl records involves specialized equipment and materials, as well as additional steps such as mastering and pressing. Additionally, the physical packaging and artwork for LPs can contribute to higher production costs. However, many artists and record labels view these costs as a worthwhile investment in creating a high-quality, collectable product for their fans.


Our Final Thoughts


In conclusion, LPs have left a significant mark on the music industry, offering a platform for artistic expression, storytelling, and a tangible, immersive listening experience that continues to captivate music lovers around the world.


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