Saturday, 8 of August of 2020

Glossary of Music Industry Terms

This glossary was created to be informative and useful. These information  should not be a substitute for legal advice and the use of this information should be discussed with an attorney in your state.

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 year.

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.

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.

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.

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 person who helps a musician with financial  planning, investment decisions, tax matters, monitoring of income and other financial matters.

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.

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.

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 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.

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

Derivative Work
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.

The delivery of product from manufacturing to the user. Distribution happens whenever product leaves possession of the licensee, regardless of whether it is sold or given away for 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.

Exclusive Rights
The privileges that only a copyright owner has with respect to the copyrighted work.

To seek sources and opportunities leading to gain of revenue for a song or artist.

Fixed in a Tangible Medium of Expression
A requirement for copyright protection. A work must be recorded in some physical medium, whether disk, or computer hard drive. This means that spontaneous speech or musicianship that is not recorded, (an impromptu solo at a live performance) is not protected by copyright.

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.

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.

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

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

The person or entity to whom the work is licensed

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

Master Use License
Permission from the copyright holder, typically the recording artist or their record label, to legally record a copyrighted recording you did not record.

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.

Mastering is a discreet discipline, distinct in its specialty from those of the mixing, tracking, or live sound engineer.

The dedication to subtlety, nuance, and performance are the mastering engineers strengths, and the ability to perceive, extract, and enhance the finer points of a mix are life-long pursuits of the mastering engineer.

Consider mastering as having two primary domains:  An audio domain, and a quality domain.

Audio Domain:

Within the Audio Domain, mastering achieves the complete realization of artistic intent using frequency, amplitude, and time as source.  This source is passed through the engineers tools of eq, compression, limiting, etc. while leveraging the skill and expertise of the mastering engineer.

Quality Domain:

Within the Quality Domain, mastering achieves consistent, measured results that meet if not exceed tolerances required by the manufacturing sector (CD, Vinyl), and data integrity checks & balances for encoded data (CD, Digital Assets).  Additionally, professional mastering delivers formats suitable for long term storage.
(from Mike Wells Mastering:

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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 person who assists a 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.

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.

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. 

Public Domain
Materials for which no individual can claim copyright.  No license is needed to use public domain materials.  For music specifically, works published before 1923 are in the public domain. says,
"Music and lyrics published in 1922 or earlier are in the Public Domain in the United States .   No one can claim ownership of a song in the public domain, therefore public domain songs may be used by anyone.  Sound recordings, however, are protected separately from musical compositions.  There are no sound recordings in the Public Domain in the USA .   If you need a sound recording – even a recording of a public domain song – you will either have to record it yourself or license one."

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

Talent Agent
One who arranges live performances and other employment opportunities for a musician.  Agents make their money by taking a percentage of the money their client is paid.

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).

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