Recording artists whether they are independent or signed to major record labels all release projects either in the form of a record single, an EP (extended-play album), an LP (long-playing album), or mixtapes.
However, mixtapes have sorta faded out from the music scene because many record labels hate giving throwaway songs for free in contemporary times as they used to for promotional purposes. Because these days a collection of throwaway songs can be packaged to make some coins on DSPs (“digital streaming platforms”) or (“digital service providers”). Anyway, the difference between these music project formats can be hexpagorated as follows:
This is a song that is either released on its own (i.e., not part of a complete album) alternatively, it is also a song that is often released before the official launch of an EP or LP album, and in that case, it is referred to as a lead single (or lead singles assuming a series of records are released before an entire album is launched).
Note: The main purpose of dropping a lead single /s is to build up hype as a means to promote an upcoming album so that people (music fans) can proceed to make pre-orders on music digital platforms and to also promote new merchandise as well.
EP (extended-play album)
This is a body of work that is on average less than 30 minutes long (i.e., 1800 seconds), or in other words roughly somewhere between 4 to 6 tracks, of course depending on the duration of songs on that project thereof.
LP (long-play album)
This is a collection of songs that is commonly known as a full-length studio album. For example, if a musician (or a band) signs a record contract of say six albums, this means they are expected to release six LP albums to fulfill the end of their bargain.
However, some music productions can be longer than an average commercial song (i.e. 3 minutes 30 seconds) therefore, the number of tracks is going to be a lot less and in that case, even a project with only 1 song is considered to be an album so long as the duration surpasses 30 minutes.
It is important to state that some record contracts have terms and conditions which specify that a record label will only recognize a project with a minimum X amount of time to be an album. For example, say a minimum of 45 minutes.
So if an artist hands in a project less than a contractually stipulated playing time a record company may (at their discretion, if they want) proceed to release that body of work but it won’t count amongst other studio albums an artist has already completed.
This is a music project that often consists of multiple licensed song remixes and is used for promotional purposes to keep a recording artist relevant to the masses, lest they are overshadowed by new acts on the rise. A mixtape can also include throwaway songs (i.e., those terrible records that fail to make it on previous EP or LP albums).
For example, some artists have to put extra effort into the game whereas some artists either have that X-factor that makes them click with fans or are handpicked by the machine to lead the rest. Well, that’s capitalism for you and it is always a cardinal sin to curse corporations that pull the strings of your purse.
At the end of the day, a mixtape strategy, if you will, isn’t suitable for every recording artist, and neither does it work in every genre of music. Because you don’t want to flood the market with an oversaturation of microwave music. You will soon find yourself throwing salt in the game by watering down the value of your brand.