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 Glossary of Music Industry Terms

This glossary was created to be informative and useful. This information should not be a substitute for legal advice and the use of this information should be discussed with a qualified attorney that practices and is licensed in entertainment or music law in your state.

360 Deal
This is a type of agreement where an artist signs with a company that has a stake in several of their interests other than recorded music – for example touring and merchandise.

Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is a digital file format similar to MP3. Its probable best known use is as the default encoding system used by Apple’s iTunes.

The A&R(Artist and Repertoire) department in a record company is responsible for spotting, nurturing and developing new artists as well as acting as a point of contact for existing ones. They work closely with the artists throughout recording projects, in conjunction with managers, producers, songwriters and other musicians.

An advance is a loan, normally from a record label to an artist, to be repaid (recouped) from record sales. An advance is for one or more albums depending on the contract. A publisher’s advance would be recouped from publishing royalties.

Someone who liaises with promoters and venues to book gigs for bands.

Aggregator (digital)
Digital aggregators (such as The Orchard or PIAS Digital) act as distributors in the online world, supplying downloads from labels and artists to online retailers (such as iTunes, Napster etc).

The Association of Independent Music is the UK record industry trade body for independent labels.

Airplay (royalties)
Broadcasters buy performance licenses from PPL (recordings) and PRS (compositions) for the right to play live and recorded music. Big stations make full usage returns of all the music they play to PPL and PRS. License money is shared among members minus the society commission.

Annual Statement of Account
The final step of the compulsory mechanical licensing procedures, this statement summarizes to copyright holders the annual distribution of a work licensed under the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions.  The notice includes information about the distribution of a project, explicitly as defined in the compulsory mechanical copyright law.  It is audited and signed by a certified public accountant.  It is due shortly after the end of the yea

The Association of Professional Recording Services serves the audio industry. Its members are recording studios, post-production houses, mastering, replication and other music facilities and providers of education and training, as well as audio freelance engineers, manufacturers suppliers and consultants

A modification of an existing composition.  Arrangements can be copyrighted separately from the compositions they reference.  When that happens, both the arranger and the composer receive royalties.  One of the protections the copyright law gives musicians is the exclusive right to arrange their compositions, so it is illegal to arrange a copyrighted work for distribution without permission from the composer

The individual who arranged the song.  Arrangements can be copyrighted separately from compositions.  When that happens, both the arranger and the composer receive royalties.

The artist is the person or group performing the song in the studio or live venue.

Copyright can be assigned to a label or publisher, or a third party such as a royalty collection society for a period of time. This allows the assignee to act on behalf the copyright owner to issue licenses and collect royalties within the terms of the assignment.

Assignment (copyright)
Copyright can be assigned to a label, publisher, or a third party such as a royalty collection society. This allows them to act on behalf of the copyright owner to issue licenses and collect royalties within the terms of the assignment

Audio Streams
Streaming is when a digital file is delivered electronically to a computer, read in real time by the computer and is stored temporarily on the computer for the purpose of a one-time use. It is analogous to a radio transmission. On demand streaming is the term given to streams that have been prepared and are available for users who wish to play a specific song at a specific time.  Public performance royalties apply to streams and mechanical royalties do not.


Band Contracts
A band partnership agreement spells out the rights of individual band members and how they get paid. If there is no band contract, anything not owned by individuals is liable to be shared equally between the members. Unequal shares must be formalised.

A barcode is a machine readable number (e.g. UPC code) used for various purposes in manufacture, retail and commercial use of CDs and Vinyl. Barcodes don’t just identify CDs at the counter, they are also used for chart returns. Some distributors and retailers insist on barcoding.

BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) is a trade association acting on behalf of songwriters, lyricists and composers of all genres of music.

Blanket License
A license issued by a performing rights society that authorizes the public performance of all the songs in the society’s catalog. This allows the licensee to perform as many or as few of the titles as desired.

Booking Agent
The booking agent is usually responsible for securing and booking gigs for the artist.

Bootlegs are unsanctioned releases usually consisting of live, demo or ‘rare’ recordings. They can also take the form of unauthorised DJ mixes, using material not licensed from the copyright holder.

Black Box (royalties)
Royalty collection societies cannot always find the people they collected royalties for, either because they are non-members or lost. Their royalties are held as black box income. Different countries and organisations deal with black box income in different ways.

Blank Media Levy
Some countries impose a tax on CD-R, cassette, other blank media and players to compensate for supposed illicit copying. In the EU there are blank media levies in Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Greece. Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta plan to implement levies, or have recently done so. There are also blank media levies in Canada and some other non-EU countries.

Blanket License
A blanket license is an exclusive arrangement applied in the same way to everyone who licenses the material. Rights owners who sign a blanket license agreement get a basic package that fits most cases. Most mainstream broadcasters (such as the BBC) have blanket licenses with PPL and PRS.

The British Phonographic Industry is the UK record industry trade body for major labels and large independents.

Taking your band, music and image and creating something unique and sellable

The replaying of pre-recorded works to multiple listeners through various media or in a ‘semi-live’ setting such as a bar or bookstore, and including radio, TV, webcasting, podcasting, etc.
Business Manager
A representative who helps the musician with financial planning, investment decisions, tax matters, monitoring of income from contracts, estate planning and other financial matters.

CAE – Compositeur Auteur Editeur
is the most common global identification code for writers. Essential for registering with royalty collection societies.

Cassette Tapes
Cassette tapes were the standard media for delivery of music through retail channels during the ‘seventies and ‘eighties.  Mechanical licenses may apply to your tape recordings.

CatCo / PPL
app is an electronic system that sends details of recordings from record labels to PPL and MCPS. CatCo is owned by PPL and is free to PPL members.

Clearance (copyright)
For the right to use music in some circumstances it must be cleared with the copyright owners. Clearance is needed for copying, not just for commercial use. It is normally negotiated through licensing and collection societies, but may be collected through labels and publishers.

Collection Societies
Collection societies issue licenses to music users and share the license fees among copyright owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers). Examples of these in the UK are MCPS, PRS, PPL and VPL.

Compact Discs
Compact discs have been the standard media for delivery of music through retail channels for at least a decade.  Mechanical licenses may apply to your CD recordings.

People are legal entities: they can be taxed and sued. Companies (including legal partnerships etc.) have a similar status. You don’t have to set up a legal company to start a record label or publishing company but you will need to start one to join PPL.

The individual who wrote the song, found at the top right of the title page and used to identify a copyrighted work.  Often multiple songs share the same title.  So this is necessary to locate the proper copyright holder of a song.  It is also required information under the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions.

Compulsory Licensing
United States copyright laws that mandate that copyright holders issue licenses to licensees when they follow certain procedures outlined in the law.  The law includes compulsory provisions for various uses of copyrighted materials.  For music, there are mechanical compulsory provisions and streaming and limited (subscription) download provisions.

Compulsory Mechanical License
An exception to the copyright holder's exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution that allows anyone to record and distribute any commercially-released, non-dramatic song as long as the mechanical license rates established by copyright law are paid to the copyright owner of the song.

Compulsory Mechanical Licensing
A process, defined in the copyright law, that mandates that copyright holders issue mechanical licenses to licensees who follow the compulsory licensing procedures.  Those procedures require the licensee to notify the copyright holder, report distribution details, and provide a royalty payment at the statutory rate.

Copyleft is a copyright license that attempts to distribute material under public domain conditions while ensuring future changes are available to everybody in the same way. The main conditions are free distribution, credit for the originators and the same license for onward development. It was originally developed for software, and then used more widely for other creative content on the web. A reversed copyright symbol is sometimes used to identify copyleft, but copyleft isn’t the opposite of copyright. The copyleft symbol has no legal meaning.

Copy Protection (CD)
Major record labels used to use a number of different (so-called) copy-protection techniques for certain releases. These are formatted in a non-standard way to stop them playing normally in PCs.

A bundle of exclusive rights granted by law to the creator of an original literary, artistic, or other intellectual work - including songs and sound recordings.

The exclusive right to reproduce, publish, sell or distribute the matter and form of an original literary, artistic, or other intellectual work – including songs and sound recordings.

Copyright Control
Copyright control means copyright is retained by the writer and not assigned to a third party such as a publishing company.

Copyright Date
The date a work was copyrighted.  Works are automatically copyrighted as soon as they are fixed in tangible form.  Registering a work with the copyright office is solid legal proof of the date of conception.

Cover Record
Another version of a song that already exists by a different artist

Cover Tune
The playing of a song that was written by someone else

Covers (copyright)
Anyone can cover another writer’s work, under the terms of PRS or MCPS assignments where they exist. Under these blanket licenses the writer is paid mechanical and performance income. If the work is not assigned to MCPS or PRS the cover should be cleared through the publisher. This rule applies unless the original work has not been covered before, and if this is the case permission must be granted by the original artist or their publisher.

Creative Commons
Creative Commons use a range of share-alike copyright licenses to package the ideas of copyleft for (mainly internet) creative content. It’s important to understand that a free distribution license is permanent and cannot be revoked. A symbol with two Cs is often used for Creative Commons, but the proper legal shorthand is the normal copyright symbol.

Cross-Collateralise (contract)
Cross-collateralisation means a label can recover (recoup) an advance on one album from sales on other albums. Generally, all your advances and royalties with one label will be in one pot.

For the right to use music, in most circumstances it must be ‘cleared’ (ie authorised) by the copyright owners. Clearance is also needed for copying, not just for commercial use. It is normally negotiated through licensing and collection societies, but may be through labels and publishers.

This is the term used to describe a physical product (CD or LP) that resembles an official release but is actually an unauthorised version not produced by the copyright holder.

Collection societies
Collection societies issue licenses to companies using music (for example radio stations) and share the resulting royalty fees among copyright owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers). Examples of UK collecting societies include PPL and PRS For Music.

Copyright is a property right which arises at the moment of creation of a song or sound recording. It does not need to be registered (in the UK) and gives content creators and owners the exclusive right to make copies, license and otherwise exploit their work. In music there are copyrights relating to lyrics (if applicable), music and the actual sound recording.

A sample recording of a band's music. Often rough recordings or early versions of "songs in progress."

Derivative Work
A new work based on or derived from one or more pre-existing works.

A work based on a preexisting work that is changed, condensed, recast, or embellished in some way.

Digital Phonorecord Deliveries
Permanent digital downloads (also known as Digital Downloads or DPDs) and are treated like CD sales.

DPDs reside on a recipient’s computer indefinitely. DPDs may be transferred to portable devices or burned onto CDs (in accordance with the rules set by the digital distributor of a specific DPD). DPDs fall under U.S. Copyright Act and are currently licensed at the statutory rate.  Mechanical licenses apply to DPDs.

Often labels will approach a distributor to act as a middleman between themselves and retailers. Traditional distribution is about taking orders for and supplying CDs (or other physical product) from record labels to retail, although their role can be more complex and they may also promote and invest in releases. Digital distributors (see ‘Aggregators’) serve online stores (such as iTunes) in a similar fashion, handling downloadable releases by many labels at the same time and ensuring they are supplied to all the different online outlets.

Downloading is the process of actively receiving data to a local system (such as your computer) from a remote system (such as a webserver). Downloads are storable on a hard drive, as opposed to ‘streamed’ data which is not accessible offline.

DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a form of code embedded in some digital files to enforce certain restrictions on the repeat copying or distribution of files.  While most music sold in the early years of digital retail encompassed some form of coded protection now most downloadable music is sold DRM-free.

The process of manufacturing CDs or DVDs with a laser that burns data onto the disc typically used for order quantities under 500 units.

One that manufactures CDs or DVDs through duplication.  The equipment is affordable, so small companies and individuals are able to duplicate.

Easy Song Licensing –
One of the most informative, helpful web site for music licensing.  They handle mechanical licensing, and can help point you in the right direction for all of your other licensing needs.  They can license any song in the USA in 5-7 business days and will beat  competitors’ fees by twenty percent.

Harry Fox Agency’s robust online licensing tool for intensive licensing users.

The Entertainment Retailers Association (previously BARD) is a UK trade association representing the retail and wholesale sectors of the music, video, DVD and multimedia products industry. The acronym may also refer to the Educational Recording Agency.

Exclusive Rights
For purposes of copyright law, the privileges that only a copryright owner has with respect to the copyrighted work.

For purposes of music publishing, to seek sources of revenue for a song.

Fixed in a Tangible Medium of Expression
A term coined by the Copyright Act meaning that an original literary, artistic or intellectual work has a valid copyright as soon as it is written down or recorded in a manner sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced or communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.

Filesharing is the activity of trading digital files with other users over the internet. Users trade files by downloading (to obtain them) and uploading (to distribute them). This is illegal when copyrighted material is made available without the permission of the rightsholders.

Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) is a digital file format using lossless (ie no loss of audio quality) compression. One of the other benefits is the size of the resulting file, which is typically 50-60% of the size of the original.

The medium for delivery of the music.  Common formats include Digital Downloads, CDs, Records, and Cassette Tapes.

Harry Fox Agency
A company that represents music publishers in the negotiation of mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses and foreign licenses, and the collection of music royalty income.
In 1927, the National Music Publisher’s Association established HFA to act as an information source, clearinghouse and monitoring service for licensing musical copyrights. Since its founding, HFA has provided efficient and convenient services for publishers, licensees, and a broad spectrum of music users.

With its current level of publisher representation, HFA licenses the largest percentage of the mechanical and digital uses of music in the United States on CDs, digital services, records, tapes and imported phonorecords.

IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) represents the recording industry worldwide, with a membership comprising some 1400 record companies in 72 countries and affiliated industry associations in 44 countries. IFPI's mission is to promote the value of recorded music, safeguard the rights of record producers and expand the commercial uses of recorded music in all markets where its members operate.

Indie is a broad term with many meanings. It refers to record labels, ways of doing business, styles of music and a number of philosophies. For chart purposes, ‘indie’ labels were traditionally classified as such if their product was handled by a non-major owned distributor; for the purposes of the independent chart launched in 2009 a title is eligible “if it is released on a label which is 50% or more owned by an independent (or non-major) company, irrespective of the distribution channel through which it is shipped or delivered”.

Intellectual property  
Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognised and the corresponding fields of law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works as well as words, phrases, symbols, and designs.

The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments. The agency administering the ISRC system in the UK is PPL.



A short musical piece normally used on radio to identify a programme or station, or to advertise content.



Length of Song
The length of your recording of a song in minutes and seconds is required information under the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions.  Songs over five minutes cost a little higher royalty.

Library Music
Off-the-shelf music and recordings for film and TV can be licensed from publishers and record labels.  Unlike licenses for broadcasting or performance the rates for these master use and sync licenses are not fixed, so film (video, advert, etc.) makers negotiate a price. Library and catalogue music providers offer ready-made, pre-cleared recordings for a wide range of video (and other) applications. These catalogues are normally licensed by PPL, PRS and MCPS but there are other business models.

the right, granted by the copyright holder, for a given person or entity to broadcast, recreate, perform, or listen to a recorded copy of a copyrighted work.

The person or entity to whom the work is licensed

License Request
A request for permission to use music that someone else owns.

This is the process whereby the copyright holder of a song (or songs) authorises its usage by a third party. Unlike assignment, licensing will usually take place for a finite period of time. This might be in the form of allowing a song’s appearance on a compilation right through to allowing a third party to reissue an artist’s entire back catalogue in full. The terms of the agreement will cover the term of the license (for example, how long the third party is allowed to use the song(s) for) as well as what kind of recompense will be received. Licensing also covers the commercial use of repertoire in adverts, films, TV etc (see sync licensing).

The owner of the licensed work.

Limited Downloads
A limited download is a digital file that is delivered electronically to a computer to reside there for a limited period of time. There are two types of limited downloads: limited-time download (i.e. the song resides on the computer for 30 days) and limited-use download (i.e. the song is can be heard 10 times before it can no longer be played).


The original definition of a ‘major’ was a record company which also owned manufacturing and distribution facilities. The ownership and structure of all the majors has changed since the definition was first coined but still the ‘big four’ (in terms of market share – Universal, Sony, EMI and Warners) are commonly identified by this term.

The making of copies of music.  For example, when CDs are duplicated, they are in manufacturing.

Mastering is the process of preparing the final mix of a song or album for duplication – the ‘master’ is the finalised source from which all copies of the finished product will be produced.  

Master Use License
A master use license is a phonographic copyright license to pay recording owners for music used in film, video, or TV soundtracks. There is no fixed fee for master use licenses. Recording owners will set or negotiate a fee.

When you create a recording (audio OR video) of someone else’s recording you need to get a master use license from the copyright holder of the recording.

MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) sits under the broader PRS for Music brand, and is a non-profit organisation that generates revenue for its publisher and writer members through license fees levied on the use of their works. This includes sales of the music alone such as CDs and downloads, and also products which use the music as a part of their soundtrack, such as films and computer games.

Mechanical License
A license that grants certain limited permissions to work with, reinterpret, (re-)record (etc.) music that is neither a free/open source item nor in the public domain.

Authorization from a music publisher or song writer to record and distribute a song on phonorecords. Compare to compulsory mechanical license.

A song that uses portions of other songs and blends them together into a new arrangement.

Metadatabase applications are used by the majority of music software programs to provide these applications with information about a CD when that CD is inserted into a computer.  To best illustrate this let’s use an example:
iTunes uses a metadatabase provider called Gracenote with an application called CDDB (short for “Compact Disc Data Base”).  When you insert a CD into your computer and iTunes starts, the iTunes application sees the CD, and makes a request over the Internet to the CDDB application “asking” if it “knows” what CD has been inserted into the computer.  If the answer is yes, then CDDB returns information about the release (Artist Name, Track Titles, etc…) back to iTunes, and iTunes then displays this information in its main window.

Merchandise, often called merch, is a blanket term for artist-related goods other than music e.g. T-shirts, posters, etc. Some artist-branded products, e.g. USB sticks, may be both merch and promo.

The MMF (Music Managers Forum) acts as a voice for artist managers within the music industry, provides a focus for dialogue with the Government and other industry organisations as well as between managers themselves.

Monthly Statement of Account
The second step of the compulsory mechanical licensing procedures, this statement announces to copyright holders the distribution of a work licensed under the compulsory mechanical licensing provisions.  The notice includes information about the distribution of a project, explicitly as defined in the compulsory mechanical copyright law.

MP3 is a popular digital audio encoding format and is compatible with most personal music players (such as the iPod). MP3 was invented in 1987 and made publicly available from 1995; it is now the standard music file format for most digital stores in the UK.

The Music Publishers Association (MPA) is a non-profit organisation representing music publishers in the UK. It exists to safeguard their interests, and those of the writers signed to them.

Music Publishing
The contractual relationship between a songwriter or music composer and a music publisher.  whereby the writer assigns part or all of his or her music copyrights to the publisher in exchange for the publisher’s commercial exploitation of the music.

Musical Work
A melody and any accompanying lyrics (a musical composition or song) that is embodied as a physical objects and are classified as either "copies" (sheet music) or "phonorecords" (eg, compact discs or tapes).

Musicians’ Union
The Musicians' Union represents over thirty thousand musicians working in all sectors of the music business. As well as negotiating on behalf of their members with all the major employers in the industry, the MU offer a range of services for professional and student musicians of all ages.

National Music Council
The National Music Council promotes the interests of the UK music industry as a whole. It facilitates the sharing of information between industry organisations and trade bodies through an annual series of lectures and debates, and provides the means for informing and influencing decision-makers. The NMC is also responsible for major research projects, including statistical research into the economic value of the UK music industry.

Notice of Intention
The first step of the compulsory mechanical licensing procedures, this notice informs copyright holders of the licensee’s intention to use a copyrighted work in a mechanical reproduction (cover tune in audio only).  The notice includes information about the project and about the song, explicitly as defined in the compulsory mechanical copyright law.  It is due after manufacturing and before distribution.

The Official Charts Company (OCC) collates sales data for the music and video industries, creating and licensing a number of different charts including the official singles and albums rundowns as used by the BBC. It gathers sales data from a wide variety of ‘bricks and mortar’ and online retailers and is a joint venture owned by BPI and ERA.

Ogg is a container for a range of music file formats used for downloading and digital music players. Ogg is used with FLAC and Speex but normally refers to the lossy codec, Vorbis. File sizes are generally about a tenth of the original size. These Xiph codecs were invented to counter the threat of closed MP3 licensing. Ogg Vorbis is a open standard.

One Sheet
A one sheet is a single page of information about a record release including information about the artist. One sheets normally form part of a press kit and are used by distributors and retailers.

Option (contract)
An option is normally an option to extend the term of a contract but it doesn’t mean everybody has options. Sometimes only the label has the option and it may be automatic.


P2P (Peer-To-Peer) is a way of networking computers over the internet so they can exchange files directly. P2P became more widely known through the use of filesharing systems and applications such as the original Napster and Kazaa in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Performing Rights License
Authorization for the public performance of a song frequently granted by a performing rights society through a blanket license.

Performing Rights Society
The associations or companies that issue performing rights licenses, track public performances, collect performing license revenues and distribute those revenues to song writers and music publishers. The performing rights societies in the United States are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

Performing Rights License
Authorization for the public performance of a song frequently granted by a performing rights society through a blanket license.

Performing Rights Society
ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are the main organizations that issue performing rights licenses, track public performances, collect performing license revenues and distribute revenues to song writers and music publishers.

Personal Manager
A representative who assists the musician in the development and management of his music and entertainment career

The material objects that store or fix copyrightable sounds, other than soundtrack accompanying a motion picture. Phonorecords can be audiotapes, compact discs, computer chips that store sounds, etc.

Podcasts are downloadable audio (or video) programmes that can be transferred onto portable MP3 players or watched/listened to on a computer.

PPL (Public Performance Limited) is a music service company working on behalf of performer and record company members. It licenses (and distributes the royalties generated by) sound recordings and music videos for use in broadcast, public performance and new media.

PPL Repertoire database
The PPL Repertoire Database (formerly CatCo) is an electronic system that collates details of recordings from record labels to help ensure accurate royalty distribution. The system also provides information to IFPI (to assist with anti-piracy activity) and the Official Charts Company (enabling digital sales to be included in the UK Charts).

Print License
Print licenses are typically issued to those companies that manufacture and distribute sheet music. The print license authorizes the sale of your song in printed form.

The producer is responsible for putting the record/song/album together and making it sellable. This can involve picking out songs or helping the artist with songwriting. A good producer will usually ensure that the songs are acceptable to the record label and for radio as well as see the project through, from pre production to the final mastering stage.

A promotional copy or product normally sent out free to broadcasters and media.

A promoter stages events. They normally bid for rights to stage a concert or a tour and recoup their outlay through ticketing and sub-licensing.

PRS For Music
Formerly known as the Performing Rights Society, PRS collects and distributes royalties arising when music by its writer and publisher members is recorded onto any format and distributed to the public, performed or played in public, broadcast or made publicly available online.   

Public Domain
Public Domain (or PD) refers to any material not ‘in copyright’ and therefore available to be exploited without the permission of any copyright holders. Under current intellectual property law, the copyright in a sound recording expires fifty years after the recording is first made commercially available, hence recordings released up to the late 1950s are currently free to be commercially exploited without the permission of the original sound copyright holder.

Public Performance License
Permission from the copyright holder, typically the composer or their publisher, to legally perform, or play a recording of, a song you did not write in public, or to broadcast over radio, internet, or television.

You can get public performance rights in the United States by contacting the three public performance rights agencies (ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC) that handle public performance permissions.

Whilst publishers traditionally made their living reproducing and selling sheet music, today they invest in, promote and represent songwriters (or particular song catalogues) and are responsible for ensuring payments are made when their clients’ compositions are used commercially.

Publishers help musicians give permission and collect payments when they share their compositions with others.  They also help musicians promote and distribute their compositions. Publishers also help with Print Rights, Mechanical and Synchronization rights.

Some musicians choose to self-publish, meaning they handle these tasks on their own.


From the lowest to the highest note of a singer’s voice

Record Labels
A Record Label (or record company) helps musicians sell recordings of their music. Record Labels are responsible for obtaining rights from music publishers in order to publish and distribute songs. Some musicians choose to start their own record label handling these tasks on their own.

Records (LPs)
Records were the standard media for delivery of music through retail channels during the before the mid-seventies.  Mechanical licenses may apply to your record and LP recordings.

The process of manufacturing CDs or DVDs with a glass master and stampers that press data onto a disc. The majority of retail products are replicated.

A company that manufactures CDs or DVDs through replication. Once replicated, the discs are either offset or silk-screen printed.

Ringback tone
This is the audible ringing heard by the caller when dialling another person’s phone. It is now possible to customise these so that the music of the phone owner’s choosing plays to the caller instead of a traditional ‘ringing’ sound.

The payment that goes to a copyright holder in exchange for permission to use their music.

Royalties are fees paid to rights owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers) for the use of their work.

The runner is responsible for fetching guitar strings, food, drum heads, rented equipment or other items that will assist with the comfort of the artist or smooth operation of the studio or session. They may also be asked to deliver items to places like Fed Ex or radio stations.


Sampling is the act of copying a portion of one sound recording and reusing it in a new recording. Without the appropriate clearance from the copyright holders of the original song, sampling can be held to be an infringement of copyright in the original sound recording from which the sample was taken.

The Serial Copy Management System stops controlled digital media from being copied on certain machines by setting a marker on new recordings. Recordings with the marker cannot be copied again in these machines. SCMS is part of the Sony/Philips Digital Interface (S/PDIF) format.

Sound Recording
The recorded performance of a song onto a phonorecord.

Split Ownership
When copyright ownership rights are split among multiple owners.  Often several owners will share rights to a single song.

Statutory Rate
Federally mandated amount that composers are paid whenever a CD or Digital Download with their song is distributed.  This rate is determined by a national committee.  Compulsory mechanical law mandates that copyright holders issue a license at this rate.  For this reason it stands as the norm rate for the industry for mechanical licenses.
As of October, 2008 the statutory mechanical rate is as follows: 9.1 cents for songs 5 minutes or less and 1.75 cents per minute or fraction thereof over 5 minutes.

These rates will remain in effect until December 31, 2012, at which time the national committee will issue a new rate schedule.

Streaming audio or video is that which is processed and watched over the internet in ‘real time’, rather than being made available to download, store and watch at another time.

A foreign agent retained by the original music publisher of a song to exploit the song in the foreign agent’s geographic territory.

Sync license
A music synchronisation license (or ‘sync’) is required to use a copyrighted piece of music in (for example) a film, game, or advert. It will usually cover a specific period of time and stipulate how the song can be used.

Synchronization License
Authorization granted by a music publisher, or songwriter to use a song with visual images such as motion picture or television.


Talent Agent
A representative who arranges live performances and other employment opportunities for a musician. Also referred to as a booking agent.
Talent Agency
A company that arranges live performances and other employment opportunities for a musician.  There may be several people in the Agency working on behalf of the performer(s).

Term can have a number of definitions but in recent months has been most used in the context of ‘term of copyright’, referring to the length of time the recording of a song is protected under current copyright law. In the UK this is currently 50 years from the time of the recording’s first release, although BPI is currently lobbying for an extension of this term.

The name of a song, found at the top center of the title page and used to identify a copyrighted work.

The legal protection of a trademark is about misuse of the business asset, passing off and confusing potential customers. It isn’t an exclusive right to the trademarked name.


UK Music
UK Music (previously British Music Rights) is an umbrella organisation representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry, from artists, musicians, songwriters and composers, to major and independent record labels, managers, music publishers, studio producers and collecting societies. Its many members include AIM, BPI, MMF, MU and PPL.

Whereas downloading is the process of actively transferring data onto a local system in a storable file, uploading is the term given to the reverse process – ie transferring/making available a digital file from your local system onto a remote one.


VPL (Video Performance Limited) is the company responsible for licensing of the use of music videos. It is now run in-house by its sister organisation


A streaming (rather than downloadable) piece of content broadcast, either pre-recorded or live, over the Internet.