Music business glossary
terminology and jargon, meanings and definitions

Music biz glossary

Here are some basic definitions of music business concepts in alphabetical order. Links in the left-hand column are external and links in the right-hand column are internal. (You can search the whole page with your browser Find command, Ctrl and F.)

Music biz jargon What it means (with internal links)
8-track (cassette) The commercial 8-track cassette was developed by Lear Jet in the early 1960s and called Stereo 8. Audio (normally music) was held as 4 tracks of stereo on a continuos loop of tape. Regular albums were sold on 8-track in the 1970s. The Lear Jet Stereo 8 format was most successful in the USA for in-car entertainment. Carts used around the same time in radio studios for pre-recorded material such as adverts, trailers or station idents were a different type.
8-track (recording) 8-track recording refers to studio multi-track and was first available on audio tape machines in the UK in the late 1960s.
360° deal (contract) A 360° deal is a record label contract that takes a cut from all the artist’s income (merchandising, touring, publishing, etc.) as well as record sales. Sometimes called a Kitchen Sink deal.
1,000 True Fans 1,000 True Fans is the title of a Technium blog by Kevin Kelly (Wired magazine, Whole Earth Catalogue—Kelly is a longstanding motivational writer and analyst who famously inspired Steve Jobs). In this blog he explored the idea that an artist could fund their work and a living wage with a relatively small but dedicated fanbase. He also posted follow-ups.
10,000 hours 10,000 hours has become shorthand for the minimum apprenticeship time for an expert. It is based on work by Anders Ericsson in 2000 studying musicians, chess players and sportsmen. The idea was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 book Outliers.
A&R A&R is the person or group of people who sign new acts to a record label. (They used to select material from publishers for artists signed to their label, hence Artists and Repertoire.)
AAC Advanced Audio Coding is an MP4 file format. MP4 sounds better than MP3 and allows DRM to be added to the audio track. Apple and Real Audio use AAC. AAC is an MPEG standard.
acetate see dub plate.
advance (contract) 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.
aggregator (digital) Digital aggregators supply music downloads from labels and artists to many (often 20 or more) online retailers, e.g. iTunes, Amazon, Spotify.
AIM The Association of Independent Music is the UK record industry trade body for independent labels.
aimlabeldata Aimlabeldata used to provide information about works and recordings to CatCo for AIM members. These days the PPL Repertoire Database is accessible to all PPL members directly.
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.
agent There are various kinds of agents in the music business. A band may use a booking agent to secure gigs. Artists and writers may use agents to secure music deals (e.g. film or advertising work). The agent normally has a list of clients and knows their requirements, so is able to shortcut the process of finding venues, customers, suppliers, etc.
à la carte (digital) A download site, or cell phone music service, which charges for each download or album (cf. pre-payment/subscription).
all-you-can-eat All-you-can-eat describes music streaming services which allow unlimited access to their repertoire.
assignment (copyright) Copyright can be assigned to a label or publisher, or a third party such as a royalty collection society. This allows them to act on behalf the copyright owner to issue licenses and collect royalties within the terms of the assignment. Some rights may also be assigned to PRS and MCPS.
AURA A defunct UK collection society. The Association of United Recording Artists used to collect performers’ royalties from PPL and pay artists direct. AURA was mainly used by featured artists and producers but also by session musicians.
B2B Business-to-business: interfaces, systems and services designed to deal with other businesses rather than the general public. For example, a CD pressing plant would generally be a B2B service dealing only with brokers who re-sell duplication services.
B2C Business-to-customer: interfaces, systems and services designed to deal with the general public. The iTunes Store is an example of B2C.
back catalogue Back catalogue normally refers to the previous works of a writer or artist (or group) for example: the EMI recordings by Coldplay.
band call The traditional gathering of artists before a performance to check that everyone was present and prepared. It was a forerunner of the modern day sound check.
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.
bar-code (CD) A bar-code is a machine readable number (e.g. UPC code) used for various purposes in manufacture, retail and commercial use of a CD. Bar-codes don’t just identify CDs at the counter, they are also used for chart returns. Some distributors and retailers insist on bar-coding. The easiest and cheapest way for a DIY artist to bar-code a CD is to use a retailer like CD Baby.
bill matter You won’t hear this phrase often today. Bill matter refers to the prominence and position of an artist‘s name and slogan on the posters for a performance. Billing was an important factor in negotiations and bill matter would be traded for other considerations. Top billing provided valuable status and advertising for artists during and after music hall.
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. Record labels and publishers may also have black box income for untraced artists and writers.
black swan Black swan is a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, used to describe unforeseen events in business that change previous thinking (based on the old Western belief that swans must be white before the discovery of the black swan). His point is you can’t control or predict the unknown and it may well happen.
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 which is the same for everyone who uses the license. Rights-owners who sign a blanket license agreement get a basic package that fits most cases. For example, if you don’t want tobacco companies to use your tracks in advertising you need a blanket license with that condition, or to opt out of that license (if you can).
BPI The British Phonographic Industry is the UK record industry trade body for Major labels and large independents.
broadcast (royalties) See airplay.
burning (CD) See duplication.
Copyright symbol The publishing copyright symbol. It represents the rights of the writer, for text or literary works. This symbol is also used for other copyrights such as graphics.
CAE Compositeur Auteur Editeur is the common global identification code for writers.
catalogue music See library music.
catalogue (publishing) The catalogue of a publisher refers to the works they own publishing rights to.
catalogue (distribution) The catalogue of a distributor refers to the products they have distribution rights for.
CatCo CatCo is an electronic system that sends details of recordings from record labels to PPL and MCPS. CatCo is owned by PPL and free to PPL members. (See PPL Repertoire Database)
clearance (copyright) In most circumstances the right to use music 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 through labels and publishers.
cloud Cloud services are provided from web servers as opposed to local hard drives. In other words the cloud is web sites where you keep stuff. The big idea is that what we used to have on our computers will be held on the network and streamed to Internet devices. Uptime needs to be 100% for this to work.
collection societies Collection societies issue licenses to music users and share the license fees among copyright owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers).
company People are legal entities: they can be taxed and sued. Companies (including legal partnerships etc.) have similar status. You don’t have to set up a legal company to start a record label or publishing company but you may need to start one later depending on your circumstances.
compulsory license (USA) This applies in the USA, not the UK (although PRS/MCPS repertoire is similarly licensed). When a song is published in the USA anyone can cover it. It’s a mechanical copyright license.
content resolution Today most legally available content is held under some kind of protection: an account often with a credit card, a password protected log-in, encryption or DRM. This makes it difficult to provide a comprehensive service. For example, there is no subscription service for Spotify and Pandora content. This means customers have to choose, which reduces sales and subscribers for each service. The (largely) theoretical solution is content resolution which would allow multiple sources to be offered through common services. One popular example is Tomahawk which resolves content from a number of streaming subscription services.
controlled composition (USA) This applies in the USA, not the UK. It’s a deduction by the record label when songs are written by the artist (on USA releases).
copyleft 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, 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 prevention (CD) See copy-protection.
copy-protection (CD) Major record labels have used 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.
copyright Music copyright gives content creators and owners legal backing for certain restrictions on copying.
copyright control Copyright control means copyright is retained by the writer and not assigned to a third party.
Creative Commons Creative Commons is 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.
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.
CRM Customer Relationship Management originated in business enterprise software suites like Oracle and now appears in web services for music. It refers to functions for handling interactions with fans (email database, personal details, communications, activity logs, transaction histories, complaints, etc.). It should be integrated with other platform services e.g. buying, ordering, accounting and so on.
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.
curator Traditionally a curator was the custodian of a substantial collection, gallery, museum or event. Today everyone with a collection regards themselves as a curator.
cue sheet A cue sheet holds detailed timing information for a film, video or broadcast and may be used to identify musical works and durations for royalty collection purposes.
cyber-locker A cyber-locker is online storage (normally for music or video) accessible by a limited group or a single user.
deal (contract) A record deal is a recording contract.
deductions (contract) Deductions or discounts reduce the effective royalty rate. The headline rate in a contract can be substantially reduced by clauses about other territories, music formats, etc. Any reductions extend recoupment (which puts back the date when the label owes the artist money).
Digipak Digipak is a proprietary range of CD (and DVD) packaging.
direct-to-fan Without middlemen. Mail order CDs sold by the band or T-shirts sold at a gig. It’s not a new thing.
distribution (CD) Traditional distribution is about moving CDs (or other physical recordings) from record labels to retailers. Distributors do more than carry boxes of CDs, they also promote their catalogue to retailers.
distribution (digital) Digital distribution means moving electronic files. It normally refers to the online equivalent of traditional music or video distribution (downloads or streams instead of CDs). See aggregator.
distribution (publishing etc.) In royalty collection distribution means regular payments to writers and artists or other society members. Depending on the society and the repertoire these are normally quarterly or twice a year.
DIY Do it yourself: making, distributing and selling records (and sometimes publishing) under your own steam, without a traditional record label or music publisher.
DRM Digital Rights Management is a kind of copy-protection. It is a hardware or software device that forces users to comply with copyright owners’ conditions.
draw The number of fans a particular act can attract to a performance.
dub plate A dub plate is an acetate disc which has been cut from a (normally) tape master. The acetate can be played on a record player but it isn’t very robust. Acetates are designed to be metal-plated and used to manufacture finished vinyl records but can be used for limited demo purposes.
dubbing license A dubbing license is a master (recording or phonographic) copy license—as opposed to a mechanical copy license for publishing.
duplication (CD) Standard CDs are pressed. Some duplicators (or replicators) burn CD-Rs and these copies are cheaper but less reliable.
EAN European Article Numbering codes can be used for bar-codes in Europe. UPC codes are used in the USA and Europe.
EP Extended Play (EP) records were originally 3 or 4 track 45 rpm 7 inch vinyl singles. (A normal vinyl single had one track on each side.) Later the term EP was also used for 12 inch vinyl records, cassettes and CDs with more than two tracks. (cf. LP)
EPK Short for “electronic press kit”. This is just a computer or web version of an artist’s publicity material: biography, pictures, showreel, news, etc. There are loads of sites with advice on compiling a good one.
exclusive (contract) Exclusive means that something can only be done by some people. It’s a contractual term that normally ties an artist to one record label or a writer to one publisher.
fair use (copyright) Fair use is a non-UK music copyright term. In certain countries (USA, Canada, Germany, Belgium, and others) CD buyers are allowed to make a number of copies for personal use.
fair dealing (copyright) The UK (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988) term for certain exceptions to copyright law. These don’t include the equivalent of personal (fair use) copies.
featured artist (recording) The featured artist on a recording is a performer (or group) who is signed to the record label. Other performers such as session musicians are contracted and paid differently.
film music For off-the-shelf soundtrack music see library music. Other music may be commissioned, especially for big budget films.
fingerprint (digital) Fingerprinting is a way of recognising digital files by patterns in their data. The fingerprint is a short code, which can be read by special software to reliably identify the title and other details of a particular track. Shazam uses fingerprinting algorithms to identify music on a cellphone. Fingerprinting is sometimes (erroneously) called watermarking.
first use (USA) This is different in the USA. Because of compulsory mechanical licensing, first use has a particular meaning in the USA. There is a first use provision in some UK licenses but it doesn’t refer to compulsory mechanicals.
fixer A fixer is an agent who can assemble a group of musicians to order, normally for a recording session or a live performance.
FLAC Ogg Free Lossless Audio Codec is a popular music file format used for downloading and digital music players. It’s called lossless because unlike MP3 the files can be played back at the original quality. The files are about half the original size. Ogg FLAC is a open standard.
freemium A two tier subscription which offers a limited free service that can be upgraded to a paid premium service with additional features.
gatekeeper The term gatekeeper describes aggregators or other services who may filter the material available to the public. The classic gatekeepers were the Major labels and national media but the Internet has new gatekeepers. No music service is open to all comers without exception.
getting signed (contract) Getting signed means signing a contract with a record label (for performers) or with a publisher (for writers).
Google Content ID Content ID is a licensing library used by YouTube to identify infringing uploaded content. It is supposed to use audio fingerprinting technology but uploaders still receive warning emails from YouTube when legitimate cover versions merely have the same title words.
HDCD A Microsoft music disc format compatible with CD players.
ident A short piece of audio or video normally used to identify a broadcaster or production company.
IFPI The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry is the international trade body for Major labels and large independents.
imprint An imprint is a record label, normally a sub-label of a larger group.
incubator An incubator is a company or part of a company that specialises in developing artists or writers.
independent Independent normally means record labels that are not Majors.
indie Indie is a broad term with many general meanings. It refers to independent record labels, several ways of doing business, various styles of music and a number of philosophies.
IP (rights) Intellectual Property normally refers to creative rights such as copyright.
IP (Internet) Internet Protocol is one of the technical standards used on the web. The abbreviation IP is frequently heard in the phrase IP address, the computer address of an online device. IP addresses are not unique, they can easily be faked, and they may not be what they seem. A web user can communicate through many IP addresses from their local address.
ISRC International Standard Recording Codes identify recordings (tracks or masters).
ISWC International Standard Musical Works Codes identify compositions (songs, etc.).
J-card The front insert for a slim jewel case.
Jewel case A standard plastic CD case.
jingle A short musical piece normally used on radio to identify a programme or station, or to advertise content.
JOL The Joint Online License is a combined license from MCPS and PRS to cover the performance and duplication of tracks online. It is intended for commercial sites like iTunes, not artist sites.
jukebox (digital) Can mean either PC playlist software or an online coin-op jukebox in a commercial venue.
key man clause (contract) A key man clause names a person in a contract between organisations or partnerships (e.g. between record labels and groups). A band member or writer might be specified by a record label or an A&R man might be specified by a band. The contract normally depends on the key man or key men remaining in place.
label See record labels.
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..
license A license is a permit. A record label may license another label to sell recordings it owns. A publisher may license a film maker to use works by one of its composers. A license allows limited rights to another party. The terms of the license will specify duration, exclusivity, territory, etc.
LP Long Playing (LP) records were 12 inch 33 rpm vinyl records. They were also known as albums because each would replace several of the shorter-running 78 rpm records. A piece of music or compilation of songs was previously issued as an album of records. (cf. EP)
live performance See venue licensing.
long tail The long tail is a concept first described by Chris Anderson of Wired. It suggests that Internet retail should sell relatively more low volume items (the long tail) than high volume items. Although this theory has its uses it has largely been disproved as a general rule. Internet stores still sell a few high volume items rather than a large number of low volume items.
Major A Major record label. The Major record labels are the biggest members of record industry trade bodies (e.g. RIAA in America and BPI in the UK). There isn’t a fixed definition—the Majors are just the labels that sell most records. The number has got smaller over the years.
manager (artist) An artist manager handles the organisational, financial and business affairs of an artist. They are normally paid a percentage (15%–25%) of overall earnings. There is a complete and authoritative guide to music management here.
mastering (CD) Mastering is the final engineering stage in audio production, normally for duplication. It is a skilled, genre-specific job.
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.
MCPS The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society issues licenses for copying recordings (see mechanicals) and collects royalties. MCPS is part of PRS For Music, an umbrella group for PRS and MCPS.
MD (music) Musical director (for recording sessions or live work).
MD (business) Managing director.
mechanical (royalties) A mechanical license is a publishing license to pay writers for copies of music that play mechanically. It was originally for piano rolls (punched sheets that worked automatic player pianos) to compensate for lost sheet music royalties. Today mechanicals include CDs, downloads, ringtones, musical toys and MIDI files, and are collected in the UK by MCPS.
merchandise 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.
MIDEM MIDEM is a music trade fair held annually in Cannes, France. It has become widely known recently for music business panels and discussions but there is more to it than that.
mid-weeks The mid-weeks are provisional record sales figures issued to the industry during the week.
MP3 MP3 is a popular music file format used for downloading and digital music players. File sizes are generally about a tenth of the original size. MP3 was invented in 1987 and available publicly from 1995. MP3 is an MPEG standard.
music like water David Bowie suggested in a 2002 interview that “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity.” Music business futurologists David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard later popularised the idea in several books.
MPA The UK Music Publishers Association (parents of PRS For Music, PRS and MCPS).
NDfM New Deal for Musicians: A UK government scheme to enable unemployed musicians, who are eligible for either the New Deal for 18 to 24 year olds or New Deal 25+ programmes, to pursue a career in the music industry.
needle drop A needle drop is a digital recording made from an analogue recording on vinyl or acetate. It would normally be unlicensed but might be licensed.
neighbouring rights (copyright) Neighbouring rights generally apply to recordings rather than the published content itself. The rights of performers and broadcasters to recordings of their work are neighbouring rights.
OCC The Official Charts Company compiles the UK music charts.
Ogg 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.
On Air/On Sale On Air/On Sale would mean a track is available to buy as soon as it is released (the opposite is some kind of Windowing). The theory is that releases will be pirated, so if they aren’t on sale the record label only has itself to blame. Nevertheless some labels still believe the release window gives them better chart position when the track eventually goes on sale.
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.
open reel Reel-to-reel tape (i.e. audio recording tape not in a cassette). Professional open reel recorders normally run at 15 or 30 inches per second (ips).
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.
Copyright symbol The recording copyright symbol. Sometimes called phonographic or master copyright.
P2P P2P is a way of networking computers over the Internet so they can exchange files directly. It has many legal applications.
P@MRA A defunct UK collection society. The Performing Artists’ Media Rights Association (P@MRA or PAMRA) used to collect performers’ royalties from PPL and pay artists direct. P@MRA was mainly used by session musicians.
Parsons Code Parsons Code is a simple form of musical notation which uses U (up), D (down) and R (repeat) to describe melodic passages.
phonographic (copyright) Phonographic and phonogram are old technical terms for audio recordings. The phonographic copyright gives recording owners rights over the use of their recordings.
PPD The Published Price for Dealers is the wholesale record price paid by a retailer.
podcast A podcast is a download through podcasting software such as iPodder. Podcasting software finds new downloads using RSS and adds them to playlist software for automatic transfer to a music player.
points (royalties) A point is a percentage point (one hundredth, or a penny in the pound). It normally applies to royalties. The total amount (100%) is not always what it appears to be. For example, you may expect 10% gross but only get 10% after costs or other deductions.
PPL Phonographic Performance Limited issues licenses for playing recordings and collects royalties for record labels. They also distribute performers royalties from recordings.
PPL Repertoire Databse The PPL Repertoire Database is a database of all the sound recordings assigned to PPL with some performer and publisher data. It provides information to OCC and MCPS.
pre-payment (digital) Sometimes called Pay-As-You-Go or subscription: a download or streaming site, or cell phone music service, which charges a (normally) monthly fee. Rarely, lifetime fees may be bundled with a phone.
pressing (CD) See duplication.
PRO Performing Rights Organisation is a general term for publishing rights societies like PRS (UK) or ASCAP (USA).
production music See library music.
promo A promotional copy or product normally sent out free to broadcasters and media.
promoter 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 The Performing Right Society issues licenses for performing music and collects royalties. PRS is part of PRS For Music, an umbrella group for PRS and MCPS.
public domain Not copyright. This happens when copyright expires or the owner explicitly puts the material in the public domain.
publish Music publishing used to refer to the availability of printed sheet music. Today it refers to the public availability of copyright material in any form.
publisher A music publisher was originally a company that published sheet music. Recordings are more important in publishing today. Now, publishers invest in writers, promote songs and collect earnings from publishing copyrights.
publishing administration Publishing administration is limited to royalty collection—the publisher will not get additional customers for the compositions. The rate for administration is normally about 10%.
QR code A QR code is a 2D (two dimensional) matrix barcode designed to be read quickly. QR is short for Quick Response. They can contain a wide range of text data but they have become popular for web links readable by mobile phone cameras. A QR app can scan the code and take the phone browser straight to the URL.
Here is the QR code for graphic
record label A record label was originally a company that made recordings (their company or imprint label was stuck on the centre). Today few if any record labels make records themselves. Now, record labels invest in artists, promote recordings and collect earnings from phonographic copyrights.
recoup (contract) To recoup means to repay a record label from royalties earned on record sales. Un-recouped artists theoretically owe their record label money and may have to be bought out if they sign with another label. Publishing advances are recouped from publishing royalties.
Red Book The technical rule book for standard audio CDs is known as the Red Book.
release The release of physical (vinyl, cassette, CD) records to radio and retail was always coordinated and formal. The release of a big record was staged like the premiere of a major film. This still happens in the mainstream but the delivery of content on an independent artist’s site is normally much less formal.
repertoire Repertoire is a catalogue of material: all the songs of a band, all the recordings of a label, all the works of a publisher, etc.
reversion (copyright) Reversion is when a copyright assignment ends. Assignments are normally limited to a period of time or some other condition depending on the circumstances of the original rights-owner.
RIAA The Recording Industry Association of America is the USA record industry trade body.
royalties Royalties are fees paid to rights-owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers) for the use of their work.
SACD A Sony music disc format compatible with CD players. Higher quality audio is played back on new SACD machines.
sampling (copyright) Sampling requires record label and publishing clearance. There is no fixed rate for clearance. Sampling may be allowed under the terms of a blanket MCPS assignment to pay the writer mechanical income. If the work is not assigned to MCPS the sample should also be cleared through the publisher.
SCMS 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.
SDMI The Secure Digital Music Initiative is a failed copy-protection project. The technology that was used in MiniDisc.
second screen A second screen is a device used alongside a TV, so it would generally be a smart phone, a tablet or a laptop connected to a service while related content is broadcast.
session musicians Session musicians are paid a one-off fee (which should not be less than the Musicians’ Union rate) for playing at recording sessions.
sharity Sharity is a portmanteau word made from share and rarity. A sharity blog hosts a collection of rare works: music, literature, artefacts, etc.
sheet music Sheet music (notation, fake books, scores, etc.) is where publishing started but it’s not so popular today. Publishers still collect royalties for printed paper and digitised copies of sheet music.
shellac 78 In the early days of audio disc pressing (making records) many different materials were tried at different speeds. By the 1920s record manufacturers settled on shellac at 78 rpm. Shellac is an organic resin produced by small beetles and is soluble in alcohol. It is used as a wood lacquer and for various other purposes. When the disc format was updated in the 1940s shellac was superseded by vinyl which is less brittle and harder wearing.
showcase An event staged to present a developing act to A&R men (in the hope of getting signed) or to present a signed act to the media for promotion.
side end distortion Side end distortion refers to the loss of audio quality at the end of a side of vinyl where the pickup stylus is tracking at about half the speed of the outer (first) track.
spider (CD) A small piece of plastic that holds CDs in a card case.
statutory rate (USA) This applies in the USA, not the UK. The statutory rate is not normally paid in full.
sting A short piece of pre-recorded audio or music used during a broadcast as a sound effect or marker.
streaming Internet broadcasting.
SXSW South By South-West is an annual music fair in Austin, Texas. It became more widely known recently for breaking live acts at numerous local gigs and showcases.
sync license A sync license is a publishing license to pay writers for music used in film, video or TV soundtracks. There is no fixed fee for sync licenses. Publishers set or negotiate these fees.
term (contract) Term means duration—how long something in a contract lasts.
territory (contract) Territory normally means country. Contracts and copyrights don’t work the same way in every country.
torrent An Internet file transfer system.
trademark 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.
U-card The paper CD tray or back insert for a jewel case.
U-matic The Sony U-matic video cassette recorder was introduced in the late 1960s. Sony also used the transport and media for digital audio in the PCM 1600 series. U-matic was then used in 1980s to supply digital audio masters for CD manufacture. You may still encounter U-matic cassettes for mastering CDs.
UPC Universal Product Code is the American bar-code number, also used in Europe.
usage return A usage return holds repertoire information about a performance and may be used to identify musical works for royalty collection purposes.
vanity publishing A vanity publication or recording is paid for by the artist but not released, distributed or sold by retailers. The finished print or record looks as though it was made for a professional.
VAT UK sales tax.
venue license (royalties) Venues buy performance licenses from PPL (recordings) and PRS (compositions) for the right to play live and recorded music. Big venues make complete usage returns of all the music played to PPL and PRS. License money is shared among members minus the society commission.
walled garden (Internet) Walled garden is a term used to describe self-contained (normally social network) sites where the population rarely uses the web outside. The facilities of a walled garden site are only available to members within the site. For example, a Facebook band page is only available on Facebook.
watermark (digital) Watermarking is a way of recognising digital files by patterns added to their data. The watermark is a code that can be written and read by special software to reliably identify the title and other details of a particular track. Watermarking is sometimes (erroneously) called fingerprinting.
Web 2.0 Web 2.0 is a theoretical combination of blogs, microblogs, podcasts, streams, forums, databases, social networks, wikis, portable devices, communications and other Internet tools. It is hoped that a critical mass will enable a new level of functionality, the second generation of the Internet. No deadline has been set.
white label A white label was originally a pre-production vinyl pressing without the final printed label. These recordings were valued as rare artefacts or versions. More recently the term white label has been used for any short run club vinyl.
windowing Windowing is about selective release of music tracks. It can mean release to radio and TV prior to retail, or release to retail prior to freemium streaming. There is currently a debate about the effectiveness of managing the music lifecycle like this. (Windowing also applies in cinema releases and is usually calculated to pump up the first weekend box office.)

go to the top of this page  go to the main menu for this page  go to the home page

© Rob Cumberland 2002–2013, all rights reserved • This is a UK web site • About Bemuso