We couldn’t find a great Music Industry Glossary, so we’ve created one for all songwriters, composers and artists who want to know more music business, songwriting, music licensing, and production terms. This is a work in progress and the list will be updated on an ongoing basis.
A/B ing mixes - Comparing your mix against a commercially released, professional mix to achieve a similar balance of sound. I.e. compression levels, overall audio level, EQ, balance of instruments, level of reverb, etc.
A more compelling, polished performance - A compelling, polished performance will have high caliber musicianship and execution in all aspects of a recording. This includes instruments, dynamics, groove, and vocal performances, as well as more intangible elements (like emotional appeal) that separate “good” performances from “great” ones.
Administration (aka Admin or Publishing Administration) – The supervision of all financial, copyright and contractual aspects of either an entire catalog, a single song, or an instrumental track. Publishing administration companies typically do not pitch music. Their job is usually limited to royalty collection. Rates vary for administration, but they normally range between 10 to 25%.
Administrator – The person or company that administers the rights to your composition and will only [take]—depending on the terms, from 10 to 25%. They don’t own your composition, you still own the composition. The difference between a publisher and an administrator is that a traditional publisher will require all your rights. They own the composition and, hopefully, they’ve paid you some money for that. A film and TV publisher is sort of in between an administrator and a regular publisher. But an administrator basically handles all the paperwork, the international collections and the registrations. They’re listed as the publisher on any cue sheets, and have 100%. And then when they collect that 100%, they will forward 75% to 90% to you, depending on your agreement. An administrator is very useful for very large commercial artists whose name carries their song. So if they don’t want to hand it over to a publisher to handle their songs—that is, if they haven’t already signed from way back-an administrator is a great for them, because they don’t have to do the leg work or [deal with] getting paid or the international collections. The administrator will handle all that. A good administrator will also pitch your music to film and TV, but their main job is to collect and do all the paperwork for you worldwide.
Advance – The money paid to an artist or songwriter before the recording or release of a song or recorded work. The amount of the advance is typically deducted from future royalties generated by that song or recording and earned by the artist.
AF of M – The abbreviation for American Federation of Musicians, aka, the Musician’s Union.
Air Check – A recording made of a TV show or radio broadcast.
A&R – An abbreviation for Artists and Repertoire; The act of finding new talent, songs and masters. Record labels use A&R people to find new talent, sign artists, find them the best songs for their recording project, and shepherd the process of recording their music.
Arranger – One who adapts a musical work to particular instruments or voices, which can also include the re-arrangement of the song’s structure.
Artist Manager – The person or company in charge of the task of developing an artist's career. The artist manager typically advises the artist on all business decisions and works to promote the artist through any and all available means, including demos, media coverage, and person-to-person networking. Managers also work to exploit any and all of the artist’s work to develop revenue streams for the artist. Typical management deals give 10-25% of the artist’s income to the manager. 15-20% is the most typical range.
Artist – An individual or group of performers (such as a band) under a recording or management contract.
A.S.C.A.P – The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (commonly known as ASCAP) is an American performing rights organization that protects the musical copyrights of its members, tracks performances of their music, and collects (and distributes) the fees associated with those performances. ASCAP is not a music publisher.
Assignment – The transfer of rights to a song or catalog from one copyright holder to another.
Association of Independent Music Publishers – The AIMP includes in its membership not only independent music publishers, but those publishers that are affiliated with record labels or motion picture and television production companies. In addition, individuals from other areas of the entertainment community, such as motion picture, television, multimedia and home video producers, the record industry, music licensing and supervision, songwriters, artist managers and members of the legal and accounting professions are active in the Association of Independent Music Publishers.
Author – The creator of any work that can be copyrighted.
B Section - A new/different musical section that varies from the preceding section. The B section can be a variation on the A section or a different, yet cohesive, musical theme altogether. In popular music, a B Section can also refer to a bridge, or even a pre-chorus section.
Backend (or Back End) – A common term to describe the performance royalties a creator gets from his or her Performance Rights Organization (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC in the United States) when a piece of the creators music is played on radio, TV, etc. A Sync Fee is the money paid upfront to license the music for a TV show (for instance), while the Performance Royalty or backend is paid quarterly after the music has been played publically. It is notable that Performance Royalties or Backend is not paid in the United States when music in a film is played in a movie theater. However, if that same film is broadcast on TV, backend Performance Royalties will be paid for that.
Blanket License – A type of broad license that allows the end user (such as a TV network) to use any or all of the songs in a Performance Rights Organization's repertory as much or as little as they like. Licensees typically pay a large annual fee for the license. The blanket license reduces paperwork, and reduces the effort in finding and negotiating licenses with all of the individual copyright owners of the works that might be used. Music libraries often contract for blanket license deals with a particular show or network for a lump sum, annual fee. The network or show gets a hard drive with thousands of songs and/or instrumental tracks on it, and the music supervisors and/or show’s video and music editors can use as much music from that hard drive as they like during a given year. Some music libraries or publishers pay the composers whose music is on the hard drive by giving them a proportionate amount of the upfront fee, determined by how much their music is ultimately used. Other publishers keep all of the upfront free, and the composers are only compensated through performance royalties when their songs or tracks are listed on the show’s cue sheet(s).
BMI – Broadcast Music Incorporated (commonly referred to as BMI) is an American performing rights organization that protects the musical copyrights of its members, tracks performances of their music, and collects (and distributes) the fees associated with those performances. BMI is not a music publisher.
Booking Agent – A person who finds employment for artists or performers in return for a percentage of the income from that employment, usually ranging from 10 to 15%. They can also be known as talent agents.
BPM – Beats Per Minute. A measure of a song or instrumental track’s tempo.
Broadcast Quality – Being sonically good enough to be broadcast in its current state. In other words, not a demo recording. Broadcast Quality is a subjective measure of audio quality, and the quality of the musical performance to some degree. The term is most often thought of in regard to the recording or audio quality, but if the audio is high quality but the musicianship or performance is less than wonderful, a piece of music might still not be considered Broadcast Quality. Conversely, if the style of music is typically ragged, distorted, or “under-performed,” it could have a less than stellar audio and performance quality, but still be Broadcast Quality in the context of that style or genre.
Business Manager – A person (or company) that manages the income, expenses, and investments of a performer or artist. A business manager usually charges an artist 2-5% of his or her income for the services rendered.
Button Ending - A short ending that resolves a composition in a succinct, more staccato fashion. Like a period at the end of a sentence.
Catalog – All the songs owned by a music publisher considered as one collection. If a songwriter has not assigned or licensed his or her own works, they are considered to be the songwriter’s catalog.
Clearance (Music Clearance) – The right of a radio station, TV network, or film production to play a song. To say that a song has been “cleared,” means that there is nothing to prevent a song or track from being used. Undisclosed copyright holders, or lack of signed work-for-hire agreements could be obstacles that prevent a song or track from being “cleared.” Music supervisors will not license a song for a film or TV placement if it doesn’t “clear.”
Collaborator – One of two or more partners in the writing of a song or instrumental track.
Commission – Percentage of income paid by musical artists or actors to their representative. If it is an agent, the amount cannot be over 10% for a union contract; if it is a manager, the percentage is unregulated, but is traditionally 15-20%.
Common-Law (or “Poor Man’s”) Copyright – The natural protection of a song based on common laws of the various states. Was superseded by a single national system effective January 1, 1978.
Composer – One who writes the music to a song or for an instrumental track.
Composition – A musical work; the art of writing music.
Compulsory License – The statutory mandate given to a copyright owner to permit third parties to make sound recordings of the copyright owner's song after it once has been recorded.
Conversational lyrics - Lyrical writing style that feels like you’re having a conversation, rather than being overly poetic. A simple, natural tone and word choice, as if you were talking to someone on the phone. This helps with listener connection as people often relate to what you are saying better when you say it plainly.
Co-Publishing – The joint publication of one copyrighted work by two publishers. When a songwriter or composer assigns half of his or her publisher’s share of a copyright to another entity—typically a music publishing company—they are said to have entered into a co-publishing deal.
Copyright – The exclusive rights granted to authors of copyrightable song, allowing the author to have control over that song and how it is (or is not) exploited for financial gain.
Copyright Infringement – The unauthorized use of a copyrighted work. Copyright law calls for the plaintiff to prove the defendant infringed their copyright through a three-part test: 1) Did the defendant have access to the copyrighted work? 2) Did the defendant copy, directly from the copyrighted work, a part of the song that is protected by copyright (some parts of songs or musical compositions are not protected by copyright, such as titles; themes and ideas; and stock chord progressions, such as a I-IV-V blues progression.) 3) Is the defendant’s composition substantially similar to that of the plaintiff’s composition?
Copyright Notice – Used on a published work to give notice that a copyright owner is claiming possession. A copyright notice includes the following: 1) the word “copyright,” or the “©” symbol 2) the year of first publication, 3) the name of the copyright holder/owner.
Copyright Office – The Copyright Office is part of the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington D.C., where copyrights are registered and filed in both physical and electronic files.
Cover – Another artist's version of a song that has already been recorded by a previous artist.
Cover Songs - Your version and recording of a song that was originally created and recorded by somebody else.
Co-Writing – Joint authorship of one work by two or more writers.
Cross Collateralization – A means of recouping the money spent on one song or recording against the earnings of another song or recording.
Crossover – A song that receives airplay in more than one market, chart, radio format, or genre.
Cue – While the word “cue” has many meanings depending on the context, the most common meaning for TV and film music is; a musical work created to fill a spot in a TV show or film. An instrumental cue would play in the background or under dialogue in a reality TV show, for instance. A cue could also mean a “spot” in which a piece of music is needed and will be inserted in a film or TV show.
Cue Sheet – A log or spreadsheet of all music used in a TV show or film, listing each individual use, where in the show or film it is used, the duration of the use, the type of use (ie. background, feature, etc.), and the composer(s) and the publisher(s). The cue sheet is often filled out by the TV show’s editor or assistant editor, then given to the show’s producer, and/or network, and ultimately to the appropriate performing rights organization, which in turn collects and distributes the money to the composers and publishers. Here is an example of a cue sheet.
DAW – Digital Audio Workstation. The computer used to run recording and music creation software.
Demo – A recording that demonstrates the talent and music of an artist to potentially interested parties, such as booking agents, or A&R representatives. As the cost of a professional-grade recording has dramatically decreased as home recording equipment and technology has improved, the recording and production standards applied to demos have generally been raised.
Developmental Arc – Much like a movie script or a novel, music can also have a developmental arc. While the term could be applied to songs and instrumentals, it is most often used in the context of instrumental cues, which are typically comprised of an “A” section repeated throughout the entire piece of music, sometimes with a “B” section included as well to add some variation within the instrumental’s main theme. The developmental arc refers to how the track builds as it moves forward, oftentimes adding or subtracting layers of new instrumentation to create some dynamic interest, and most importantly, the sense that the piece is developing and moving forward to a crescendo- like conclusion (often referred to as a stinger).
Digital Distribution – A distribution method in which the consumer logs in to an approved website that offers preview samples, singles or full albums online for "download" (transfer from the Internet Web server to the individual user's computer hard drive or mobile device).
Discography – A catalog or list of recordings made by a particular band or artist as well as the related information such as the playing time, recording date and label.
Distributor – A company that handles the sales and shipment of a record company's product to retail outlets and one-stops for a certain territory defines what a distributor is in the physical media realm. A company that distributes music via electronic means using digitally encoded files is considered to be a digital distributor.
Distortion/Clipping - An audio mixing term used to describe the result when audio is recorded with too much input or, more often, exported with too much output causing the sound to be degraded.
Dynamic contour - The “shape” of the variation in the dynamics throughout a composition – the ebb and flow of volumes, densities, feel, and approach.
Dynamic Range – The range between the loudest and softest sounds or passages on a soundtrack and/or sound system can reproduce properly.
Edit point - A natural sounding break in the composition that allows an editor to cut into or out of your piece easily. A big dynamic “hit” such as a snare or kick drum beat can also serve as an edit point, and one that isn’t always associated with a musical rest or compositional break. A legato string line would likely not have a lot of great edit points.
Emotionally uplifting - A combination of melody, tempo, and lyrics that make listeners feel emotionally good, positive, and uplifted.
Entertainment Law – A specialty area of commercial law that looks after the needs pertaining to music, theatre, sports, dance, literature, architecture, visual arts, Internet and television industries
EQ – The abbreviation for the word Equalization. Electronically boosting or cutting the level in certain frequency ranges relative to other frequencies from the same source is commonly referred to as EQing. Equalizers are processing units that adjust the individual levels of specific frequencies within the EQ spectrum.
Equalization / EQ Shaping - Adjusting (increasing/decreasing) specific frequencies of an audio track, a specific instrument, or a section within a mix to improve the focus and clarity of the overall recording sound and mix.
Exclusive Publishing Agreement (Sync Licensing) - A written agreement allowing a specific music publisher, music library, music licensing company, etc. the exclusive right to represent and pitch some or all of the works by a songwriter or composer for a certain period of time. Under an exclusive agreement, the composer or artist may not pitch or sign the music under contract with any other entities or companies.
Finder's Fee – A finder's fee is any compensation in cash, cash equivalents, or anything of value that a third party is paid for any services in connection with a deal made between an artist or songwriter, and a record company or a music publishing company.
Forward momentum - Creating the feeling that your music doesn’t stagnate, lack dynamics, or stay in the same place throughout. Music played at the same level, with the same sounds/instrumentation, over the same groove, at the same velocity or intensity, will often lack forward momentum. Forward momentum is often the device that keeps the listener engaged in your composition.
Further development - Additional work is required to bring the composition or recording to the next level. This might include improvement of the melodic ideas, lyrical concept, recording, arrangement, instrumentation, etc.
Genre - A way to categorize different musical composition styles and flavors based on similar traits commonly found in the compositions and arrangements. For example; Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, and Country are four of the most common genres found in popular music today.
Groove - An audible, infectious, intuitive rhythm that can be felt. This term is generally used in reference to the rhythm section of a song/piece.
Harry Fox Agency – The Harry Fox Agency represents music publishers for their mechanical and digital licensing needs. The agency issue mechanical licenses and collects and distributes royalties on their affiliated publisher's behalf. This includes licensing for the recording and reproduction of CDs, ringtones, and Internet downloads. HFA no longer issues synchronization (or synch) licenses for the use of music in advertising, movies, music videos, and television programs, but they do collect and distribute on synch licenses that were granted prior to our discontinuation of the synch service in 2002. HFA also conducts royalty examinations, investigates and negotiates new business opportunities, and pursues piracy claims.
HFA delivers a diversified suite of copyright, licensing, royalty distribution, technology and consulting services to key music industry participants.
HFA does not:
- Issue synchronization (aka "synch") licenses for the use of music in advertising, movies, music videos and television programs.
- Represent songwriters and publishers for the placement of their music in films and for use by other performers.
- Administer performance rights that permit the play or performance of the music in a public setting such as a restaurant, concert hall, radio station, or nightclub.
- Issue print rights that are required to change the lyrics, or to publish them in printed form.
- Issue master use rights that permit the use of an original artist recording.
- Provide clearance for the use of samples.
HFA is often confused with the performing rights societies, ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Performing rights are separate and apart from mechanical rights, and are necessary to obtain for public performance of copyrighted music, such as at concerts, radio and television broadcasts, and the like. We suggest you contact these companies if you are interested in any performance rights or synch licenses. These companies also represent songwriters and publishers for the placement of their music in films and for use by other performers. We suggest you contact these companies if you are interested in only performance rights, synch licenses, or clearance for the use of samples. HFA does not provide any of these services.
- Neither HFA nor the performing rights companies issue the rights for printed lyric reproduction.
- For "master use" or sampling rights, you will also need to contact the owner of the master recording, usually the record company that issued the original recording.
Heartfelt vibe - Music that sounds and feels like it’s coming from the creator’s heart and working its way into the listener’s heart.
Hook – A phrase or melody line that repeats itself in a song; the catchy part of a song, often the song’s chorus.
Hybrid – The musical combination or fusion of two—or sometimes more— music styles or genres. Electro/Orchestral is a good example of a hybrid style.
Indie – Music industry slang for "independent." The term is vague and is used to variously to refer to small record labels, small publishing companies, artists signed to these labels and publishers, and unsigned artists who act as their own labels and publishers.
In the Box – Refers to the way music is created. If the entire piece was created using computers and software, musicians would commonly say it was created “in the box.”
Inviting rhythms - Rhythms that are so well-conceived and performed that they “invite” the listener to feel and more fully engage with the music. If a listener is feeling the groove and tapping their feet, then the song probably has an inviting rhythm.
Layer - A track or element that is added in or stacked onto another element to create interest and density in a section. One example would be stacking multiple snare samples (played at the same time) to create a stronger, more unique sounding overall snare. Another example would be using a second layer or track of strings or background vocals to create a richer or fuller sound.
License – When used as a noun, it means a legal permit. When used as a verb, it is to authorize by legal permit. In the music industry context, it means to grant permission for one person or company to use or perform another person’s song or instrumental track.
Licensor – The owner of the licensed musical work. The songwriter or composer who creates the song or track is often the licensor. A publisher who has acquired the rights to the song or composition can also be the licensor.
Licensee – The person or entity to whom the work is licensed. The end user, such as a TV show or feature film that licenses a song or composition is a licensee because they have licensed the right to use that musical work.
Loop – Typically, one to four bars of music that are edited to repeat over and over.
Lyrics – The words to a song.
Lyric Theme – The general idea or broad concept that underlies a lyric. Introspective, emotionally upbeat, or romantic are good examples of lyric themes. A lyric theme can also be more specific, such as NASCAR-related, summer fun, road trip, etc.
Manager – The person or organization responsible for developing an artist's career. The manager typically advises the artist on all business decisions and attempts to promote the artist through all available means, including demos, media coverage, and person-to-person networking. In return for their services, personal managers usually takes 15-20% of the performer’s gross income.
Marketing – The process of increasing product sales by generating public interest in an artist's music through various promotional means, including exposure in print media, television broadcasts, radio broadcasts, and especially in modern times, the Internet.
Master – The original master recording. The original media type or form, from which dubs or copies are made. It also refers to a finished recording of the song from which records are pressed and distributed to radio stations and record stores.
Mastering – The preparation of a recording for mass distribution, whether as a performance or to be sold on physical or digital media . This includes the evening out audio levels (so that loudness is consistent throughout the album) and polishing the audio quality of the recording through the use of equalization adjustments by a trained specialist, known as a mastering engineer. The mastering engineer does not mix the music, but applies his expertise to the already finished 2 track or stereo master mix.
Master Use License – A license that grants permission to use existing recorded material (master recordings), including, but not limited to: vocals, music, TV or film dialog, speeches, and sound effects. For sampled material, a Master Use License is required regardless of the length or amount of material that is used.
Mechanical Rights – A right given, allowing the mass reproduction of a song on CDs, tapes, records or other forms of physical media.
Mechanical Royalties – The payment from a record company to a songwriter or publisher for use of a song on a CD or other physical media. These payments are referred to as “mechanicals.” The statutory mechanical royalty rate of 9.10 cents per song/per unit sold took effect January 1, 2006. If a song is more than five minutes long, the rate paid will be increased to 1.75 cents per minute. See also – The Harry Fox Agency.
Melodyne - A popular audio plug-in used for realistic vocal tuning/pitch correction, timing, and alignment.
Meta Data – In the context of music, Meta Data is the information embedded in a musical file (such as an MP3) that typically identifies things like (but not limited to) the creator(s), the publisher(s), the song title, the date created, email address, phone number, etc.
MIDI – The abbreviation for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. MIDI is a standard digital language/interface that enables electronic instruments and editing devices (synthesizers, computers, drums machines, etc.) to communicate with each other.
Mix – The final audio product combining all of the separate music elements and instruments into one composite soundtrack. "Mix" also applies to the act of creating the mix. This is sometimes referred to as the "mixdown."
Modulate – To change from one key to another during a song.
Motif – The shortest, thematically significant melody of a song.
MP3 – Abbreviation for MPEG Audio Layer-3, it is a compression system for digital audio. The MP3 format is one of three compression systems derived from MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) technology. The MP3 format compresses digitized audio data. The MP3 reduces the number of "bytes" (unit amount of digital data) in an audio file by a factor of 12. This reduces the file size of an audio file (to 1/12 its original size) so that it can be quickly and efficiently transmitted over the Internet. An MP3 may be downloaded in minutes rather than an uncompressed CD audio file, which could take hours.
Music Catalog – A collection of musical works.
Music Library – Music Libraries (aka Production Music Libraries) are music publishers that generally specialize in licensing music to media projects like TV shows, films, TV commercials, corporate videos, streaming videos, etc. Both instrumental tracks and full songs with lyrics can be licensed from music libraries, depending on which company you license the music from. Music libraries can range from very small, one-person companies with a few hundred pieces of music in their catalog, up to very large companies with dozens of staff members and hundreds of thousands of songs and instrumentals in their catalog. Songwriters, artists, and composers can have their music in several different catalogs, and they typically sign publishing agreements that are either exclusive (only one company can represent a particular piece of music) or non-exclusive (the same piece of music can be re-titled and represented by several companies). If you were to hear an instrumental track (aka a cue) in a reality TV show, there’s a very high likelihood it came from a music library. A song (with lyrics and vocal) could come from a music library as well, or it might also come from a big publisher and/or record label, depending on how large or famous the artist or song is. Independent artists’ songs would most likely come from a music library.
Music Licensing – The act of licensing a musical work for placement in various forms of media. Wikipedia defines Music Licensing as follows: Music licensing is the licensed use of copyrighted music. Music licensing is intended to ensure that the owners of copyrights on musical works are compensated for certain uses of their work. A purchaser has limited rights to use the work without a separate agreement.
Music Placement – When used as a verb, it is the act of placing (or licensing) a musical work (song or instrumental) in a form of media, typically visual media like TV shows, films, advertising/TV commercials, video games, etc. When used as a noun, Music Placement refers to a specific placement of a musical work.
Music Promotion – An often misunderstood and misused term. The true meaning is the act of promoting an artist’s music, typically to radio stations in order to garner airplay. Promotion can also be used in the context of promoting an artist’s upcoming concert or performance. The more generic use of the term music promotion has morphed into any act performed to promote an artist’s music via marketing, word of mouth or advertising. The Internet has become an integral part of modern artist marketing and music promotion.
Music Publisher – Music publishers exploit the licensing and commercial use of copyrighted songs, and also collect the payments for the use of those songs. The copyrights must be assigned to the music publisher or by the songwriters in a written contract in return for a percentage of royalties generated by the song. Here is a list of music publishing companies.
Music Publishing Companies – Companies that exploit copyrights of songs to generate income for the songwriter or composer and the publishing company as well. See above.
Music Supervisor – A music supervisor pairs music with visual media of all types. According to The Guild of Music Supervisors, a music supervisor is “a qualified professional who oversees all music related aspects of film, television, advertising, video games and other existing or emerging visual media platforms as required.”
Non-Exclusive Publishing Agreement (Sync Licensing) - A written agreement allowing a specific music publisher, music library, music licensing company, etc. the non-exclusive right to represent and pitch some or all of the works by a songwriter or composer for a certain period of time. Under a non-exclusive agreement, the composer or artist is able to pitch or sign the music under contract to as many other non-exclusive entities, companies, or placements as they like.
“Non-faded” ending - The end of a piece is specifically determined by a final note/beat/phase. “Non-faded” endings in this context are the opposite of “faded” endings which are endings that slowly decrease in volume until the sound is gone. An example of a “non-faded” ending would be “Toxic” by Britney Spears. An example of a faded ending would be “I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder. NOTE, a “non-faded” ending will still have a natural decay/ring/fading out of a final note, which is fine and expected (and should not be cut off resulting in a bad edit/abrupt ending).
Obviously midi driven - Subpar use of VST (virtual sound technology) or various “in the box” sounds leading to an overtly mechanical or over-quantized-sounding final result. This can leave the Instrumentation feeling stiff or unnatural.
Organic-based Instrumentation - Arrangements and instrumentation that feel organic, real, and natural, and are typically not created using electric or electronic instrumentation. Acoustic guitars, violins, live drum kits, and grand pianos are good examples of organic instruments. Farfisa synthesizers or 808 drum machines are not.
Original Composition - A composition that you’ve written and created from scratch.
Payoff in the chorus - Melodically, this is the arrival, or release that the verses (and pre-choruses) are building up to. Lyrically, this can refer to the main concept line that ties the song together. Melodically and lyrically, the payoff can happen at the top of the chorus section, at the end as a “tag,” or both for V-Ch-V-Ch structured songs, or in the B section for AABA structured songs.
Performing Rights Organization – Organizations that collect the payment for licensed public performances of songs on behalf of the copyright owners, and pays royalties to the songwriters and publishers of the performed works. There are three organizations in the U.S. (among many others worldwide) that do this: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.
Performance Royalties – The income earned from use of one's song on radio, television, concerts, and other public performances of music.
Platinum Album – The certification by the Recording Industry Association of America that an album has sold a minimum of one million units.
Platinum Single – The certification by the Recording Industry Association of America that a single has sold a minimum of one million units.
Points – percentage points -- the money producers and artists earn on the retail list price of 90 percent of all records sold. The term can broadly apply to any percentage earned in the music industry. “The producer got two points (2% of sales) on that record.”
Post – A short form of "post production." This is the term applied to all the work that goes into a production after the talent has left the studio. This includes such processes as overdubbing, editing, adding special effects and mixing.
Publishing Agreement (Songwriting) - A
written agreement allowing a specific music publisher to publish some
or all of the works by a songwriter for a certain period of time. The
publisher is allowed to oversee the management and collection of
royalties for any commercial use of these songs. In exchange for the
right to publish the songwriter’s works, the publisher agrees to pay the
songwriter a specified percentage of revenue from the commercial use of
the songs, often paid as an advance against future income.
Press Kit – A printed or electronic presentation news clippings, reviews, a biography, headshot and resume given to the media and interested industry professionals. Also called an electronic press kit or E.P.K.
Producer – Also known as a record producer. The individual who oversees the overall process of making a recording. The producer can be involved in the engineering, mixing, arranging, songwriting, and business practices and management of the recording budget.
Prosody – The marriage of words and music.
Professional Manager – The person in charge of screening new material for music publishers and of obtaining commercial recordings of songs in his publishing company's catalog. Not to be confused with artist manager.
Public Domain - Compositions that are not subject to copyright, and are available to the public.
Publicist – The person(s) hired to create awareness of a person or project. A publicist is generally responsible for getting articles about the project into various forms of media, including, print magazines and newspapers, Internet articles, blogs, TV, radio, etc.
Publisher – The person(s) or company, who on behalf of a songwriter or composer, seeks out people to use the artist's music, issues licenses to them, collects all licensing fees and royalties generated, pays the songwriter, and splits the proceeds. The publishing contract assigns the administration rights to the publisher as well as all the rights of the copyright owner.
Record Label – A record company. The company that invests in an artist’s career in exchange for a percentage of the income generated by record sales. In the last decade, record companies have begun to enter into what are called 360 deals—meaning that they participate in the income of touring, merchandising, and other income streams in exchange for their investment to launch the artist’s career.
Recording Contracts – The legal documents detailing an agreement between a record label and recording artist, whether on a major record label or independent label.
Red Book Standard – The digital format standard for the audio CD that allows universal compatibility with any Compact Disc or any CD player. The format stipulates that the audio be recorded in stereo at 44.1kHz sample rate with a 16 bit word, among other things.
Repetitive/Looped - Musical phrases that are identical and repeated “as is” without variation throughout the track.
Retitling – A common practice among non-exclusive music libraries in which they re-title songs or instrumental works to avoid confusion or conflicts regarding music that may be in more than one catalog.
Retro - Imitative of a musical style of the past. New sounds made to sound like old sounds. Nostalgic, or a nod to the old-fashioned. An example would be adding a Dick Dale-style Fender guitar sound to a pop or rock track to give it a retro element that harkens back to the Surf Rock era, but without the song being totally in the surf rock style. In other words, it has retro elements.
Reversion Clause – The contractual agreement in which a music publisher agrees to secure a recording and public release (marketing) for a songwriter's material within a specified period of time—usually one to five years. Failure to secure a recording and release triggers a reversion of the song’s rights back to the songwriter.
Royalty – The income earned from the sales of the record or song.
Sample Clearance – The authorized use of a copyrighted sound recording to be incorporated into a new composition.
Scoring – The process of composing and recording the instrumental music added to help fill scenes or dialogue in a movie, TV show, or Broadway play.
S.E.S.A.C. – (commonly referred to as SESAC) is a performing rights organization that protects the musical copyrights of its members, tracks performances of their music, and collects (and distributes) the fees associated with those performances. SESAC is not a music publishing company.
Slightly better mix - Balances between the levels, frequencies, effects, etc. of the song or instrumental track’s different elements (vocals, instrumentation, groove, etc.) could be improved in relationship to one another. Various effects (EQ, compression, reverb, tape simulation, etc.) and master settings could be stronger to help improve the overall presentation of the piece and make it more competitive with professional recordings in that genre.
Song Plugger – The person who is charged with getting meetings with executives at record labels and with record producers for the purpose of pitching the songs written by the songwriters he or she represents.
Song Shark – An unscrupulous person who profits from dealing with songwriters using deceptive methods that may not be illegal, but are at the least, unethical.
Songwriting – The process of writing the words and melody that make up a song. Song structure and the arrangement are also part of the process.
Stinger, Stinger ending, or sting out: A short musical phrase that strongly and succinctly indicates the end of a piece. Like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.
Style - Similar to Genre, this is a more general term to describe characteristics of a song or an instrumental. It can be used to reference elements like mood, genre, instrumentation, arrangement, vocal performance style, etc.
Subpublisher – The company that publishes a song or catalog in a territory other than that under the domain of the original publisher.
Synch (Synchronization) Rights – The right granted by copyright owners that allow for a song to be recorded on a soundtrack for TV or Films, or to be used as background music within a TV show or movie. The on-screen images are often synchronized with the song, thus the phrase synchronization rights.
TAXI – TAXI.com is the world’s leading independent A&R company. The company was founded by Michael Laskow in 1992, and specializes in connecting independent songwriters, artists, and composers with major and independent record labels, music publishing companies, production music libraries, film and TV music supervisors, ad agencies that need music, and video game companies who are looking for songs or scores for their games. TAXI is sometimes referred to as TAXI A&R, TAXI music, and TAXI music licensing.
Term of Copyright – The amount of time that a copyright is in effect. Copyright protection does not last forever. A copyright has a "term" or length, depending on when the work itself was created. For works created after January 1, 1978, the term of copyright is the life of the author (or last surviving author) plus 70 years or, if the work is a Work-for-Hire, the term is 95 years from first Publication or 120 years from creation, whichever expires first. For works published or registered prior to January 1st, 1978, the term of copyright is 95 years. Copyright owners also have the right to assign their copyrights to their heirs or any other person or business. It is the right and responsibility of those parties to find ways to exploit the song, should the previous publishing contracts or licensing agreements expire.
Three Acts - Often used to describe a compositional technique used for writing film or video game trailer music where there are three distinct acts: the introduction, the middle, and the ending. Act I introduces the musical theme and builds into Act II where intensity is added (oftentimes with percussion) and the dynamics are increased. It then progresses to Act III where elements (like epic layers, choir, strings, and brass) build further to a big, climactic ending. A fourth section, often referred to as a tail, can sometimes follow, giving editors the option for an alternate, softer ending and different resolution.
Too choppy - Patterns, edits, rhythms, chords, or melodic components may be too abrupt and the composition would need more continuity throughout to create a stronger sense of forward motion and cohesive flow. This can also result from over-quantized tracks.
Topline - The vocal melody and lyric added to the top of a pre-existing instrumental recording.
Track - A single stream of recorded sound. Multiple tracks make up most recordings - i.e. a track of guitar, a vocal track, and a track with maracas can be mixed together to create a recording for public release. A 24-track tape in the world of analog recording would have 24 separate tracks, each of which would have a single instrument, or possibly a submix of several instruments on it. The same is true in digital recordings, but with virtually unlimited tracks.
Universal lyrics - Universal lyrics for film and TV songs are typically more broad and general than lyrics found in songs created for records. Universal lyrics often don’t have specific names, dates, times, places, brands, or profanity that would conflict with the script or dialog in a film or TV show. For example; a song about a girl named Sally wouldn’t work in a film where the character is named Ruth, Betty, Rosie, or any name other than Sally. If the song’s story takes place in New York city, then the song couldn’t easily be used in a TV show that takes place in Las Vegas. If the song talks about hot summer days down at the swimmin’ hole, then it would be hard for a music supervisor to use it in a film that takes place in the winter. Instead, universal lyrics often use broad concepts like, “I feel so alive,” or “We’ve been down this lonely road before,” or “This broken heart is all that’s left behind.” Universal lyrics tend to focus on emotions that are universally relatable, rather than specifics that make it hard for a music supervisor to use it, no matter how much they might personally like the song.
Verse – The section of a song or instrumental that precedes the chorus. Typically, it is the A section of a song using the AABA arrangement. The Verse follows the song’s intro and is usually the first part of the song to have a vocal in it. The first Verse’s lyric often sets up the song’s story line. The second Verse lyric often completes the story.
Vintage vs. Retro - Vintage is authentic to the time period, meaning the time during which it was created and recorded. Retro imitates the time period.
Visual lyrics or "Show, don’t tell" lyrics - Using visual descriptors to paint the picture of the story, as opposed to words that plainly TELL or list what is happening. Lyrics that set the stage and immerse the listener in visual and emotional aspects while still providing important/pertinent information to the story/situation. I.e., rather than “she was sad and crying” (which would be telling what is happening), you could say “tears rolling down her face like sudden rain on a summer day.” This conveys that she is sad and crying, but allows the listener to visualize and feel more connected to the story.
Velocity - Primarily referring to the amount of “attack” on MIDI notes. It can also be an adjective or description word used to define the attack or speed of audio, as well.
VST/Sample Library - Virtual Studio Technology (VST) and sample libraries are computer softwares that emulate real sounding instruments.
Wet – A voice, sound, or instrument with reverb added to it.
Work-For-Hire – A form of copyright that removes ownership from the actual author of a work. According to the Copyright Act, in the case of work-for-hire, the work belongs to the employer of the actual author, since the work was done within the scope of his/her job. Copyright cannot be legally assigned to the employer without a signed, written contract stating that the author relinquishes the copyright; verbal agreements will not hold up in court. The work-for-hire clause often refers to advertising jingle writers more than songwriters, although, it is often used in contracts by production music libraries that do “Buy Out” deals with composers and songwriters.
Work – Any product that can be copyrighted – musical, dramatic, visual art, or literary.