What Is the Difference Between a Record and an Album?

The term “record” is often used interchangeably with “album”. This is because vinyl albums (long-playing records) and vinyl records were called “records” in the music industry.

To those with even a passing interest in music, the terms “musical record” and “musical album” must be familiar.

‘Record’ and ‘album’ can be used in a variety of ways, and they aren’t restricted to a single meaning. In other words, they vary depending on the context in which they are used. As a result, it is essential to know the fundamental distinctions between them.

Differences between a record and an album

A record is a single piece of music, while an album is a group of multiple pieces of music.

“Record” is a word that means any kind of personal or formal “documentation”, or “information” that is recorded in various ways. But, an album refers to various products or works that are arranged together to look like a portfolio or notebook. Or, if it is a musical case, most likely a playlist.

The word “record” can be used as either a noun or verb, depending on the context. The term “album”, however, is principally used as a collective noun.

In musical terms, the word “record” only refers to one song, while an album is a collection of many songs. There are many ways to store the songs you get in both cases. You can put a record or an album on a CD, vinyl, or any type of storage device.

The usual duration of a musical record is 2.30 – 6 minutes. However, an album must include at least 30 minutes of multiple tracks to be considered an album.

Finally, using the same ways of storage to record the music creates confusion. You may think that an album is a kind of record in the end, which is partially true when you think of the old use of the term. This is why it may be helpful to see the definitions one by one for better clarifications.

What is a Record?

A record, today, refers to one song, no matter if it is published as a single or is one of the songs in an album.

The word “record” comes from the old French word “recorder,” which means to “bring to mind.” It comes from the Latin “recordari,” which means “to remember.” The origin of the word “recordari” comes from cor, which means heart (Coeur) in old French.

The word was first used in law to describe the fact that the evidence had been recorded. The original meaning of the verb was “tell orally or in writing,” as well as “repeat to commit the words to memory. ” (you can find the source here)

Formerly, the word ‘record’ was used for any type of vinyl recording, whether it was an entire album, a single, or even a short EP.

However, today the meaning of the term has changed especially with the influence of the “record of the year” category of musical awards. Today, a record refers to the recording/production of one song.

What is an Album?

An album is a collection of at least seven songs with at least thirty minutes of duration.

The origin of the word “album” can be found in the 17th century. It derives from the Latin phrase neuter of albus, which means “white,” thus referring to a blank tablet.

The English translation of the Latin phrase “album amicorum” was done as a reworking of the German counterpart. It means an album of friends, with signatures, drawings, poetry, etc. (you can find the source here)

An album has to include at least seven tracks in it, the number of songs may go up to twenty-four. The standards of Grammy Awards for the album of the year category are different though.

Grammy Awards for Record and Album

The “Record of the Year” award goes to the producer, artist, recording engineer, and everyone else involved in the song.

But, the “Album of the Year” award goes to the mastering engineer, producer, recording engineer, and performer. I.e. those who worked on the project from start to finish on that particular album in question. You can find much more details here.


The difference between a record and an album is in the definitions of the terms. The term “record” encompassed both in the past. A record refers to one song and its production, while an album refers to a collection of songs. The categories of the Grammy Awards influenced the use of the terms.

Arda Tuncer

Arda Tuncer

Arda Tuncer is a music producer, composer, songwriter, arranger, and performer. She releases music as part of the music duo, Kronik Leila. She has worked and collaborated with some prestigious orchestras around Europe, while also holding University positions as music theory professor and music research assistant. Arda studied music theory and clarinet at the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris and completed her degree at the Conservatory of Strasbourg in France.

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