Spinning the Facts
Whatever the format, the lingo and attributes of modern music are rooted in vinyl record days:
When an artist releases an “LP,” this is short for “Long Play,” which was a full-length album on a 12-inch vinyl record played at 33 RPM (rounds per minute), while the “single” was released on a 7-inch record that played at 45 RPM, also known as “a 45.” Between the single and the LP in length is the “EP” for “Extended Play,” which typically has 3-6 songs on it.
The 45 RPM record could hold roughly 3 minutes of music per side, and having a 45 record was essential to get an artist’s songs played on the radio and build their fanbase. Accordingly, the 3-minute song became the standard. Despite the near-limitless song length now offered by digital media storage, the vast majority of songs released are still under 5 minutes long.
The “B side” or “flip side” of a 45 RPM record often had a secondary or less radio-ready song on it, though many B-sides songs still became successful on their own right.