Submit Request

Creator Glossary

We're breaking down common music industry jargon so you can better understand your conversations.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

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.


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.

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 from 10 to 25%.


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, which is the international collections and the registrations. They’re listed as the publisher on any cue sheets and have 100%. Once they collect that 100%, they will forward 75% to 90% to you, depending on your agreement. An administrator is 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 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.


The money paid to an artist, producer, 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.

Air Check

A recording made of a TV show or radio broadcast.


One who adapts a musical work to particular instruments or voices, which can also include the re-arrangement of the song’s structure.


An individual or group of performers (such as a band) under a recording or management contract.

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.


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 also 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.


The creator of any work that can be copyrighted.


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.


Beats Per Minute. A measure of a song or instrumental track’s tempo.

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 U.S.) when a piece of the creator's 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 publicly. 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 fee, and the composers are only compensated through performance royalties when their songs or tracks are listed on the show’s cue sheet(s).

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.

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.


This is something that a Producer should never sign because it is an assignment of all future Master and Publishing Royalties.


All the songs owned by a music publisher are 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 isn't “clear.”


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.


Joint authorship of one work by two or more writers.


One of two or more partners in the writing of a song or instrumental track.


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.


One who writes the music to a song or for an instrumental track.


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 has been recorded.


The exclusive rights granted to authors of copyrightable songs, 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.


Another artist’s version of a song that has already been recorded by a previous artist.

Cross Collateralization

A means of recouping the money spent on one song or recording against the earnings of another song or recording.


A song that receives airplay in more than one market, chart, radio format, or genre.


A musical work created to fill a spot in a TV show or film, typically playing in the background or under dialogue.

Cue Sheet

A log or spreadsheet listing all music used in a TV show or film, including details like where it's used, duration, type of use, and composer/publisher information. Used for royalty collection and distribution.


Digital Audio Workstation, a computer used for recording and music creation.


A recording demonstrating an artist's talent and music to potential interested parties, such as booking agents or A&R representatives.

Developmental Arc

A concept often applied to instrumental cues, describing how a track builds and develops as it progresses, adding or subtracting layers of instrumentation to create dynamic interest.

Digital Distribution

A method of distributing music online for download, typically via approved websites that offer samples, singles, or full albums.


A catalog or list of recordings made by a particular band or artist, including details like playing time, recording date, and label information.


A company responsible for sales and shipment of a record company's products to retail outlets. In the digital realm, a distributor handles digitally encoded file distribution.

Entertainment Law

A specialty area of commercial law focused on the entertainment industry, including music, theater, sports, literature, Internet, television, and more.

Exclusive Publishing Agreement

A written agreement allowing a specific music publisher to publish some or all of a songwriter or composer's works for a specified period. The publisher manages and collects royalties for commercial use of these songs.

Exclusive Songwriting Contract

A contract, also known as an Exclusive Publishing deal, that prohibits the songwriter from writing for more than one publisher.

Harry Fox Agency

An agency representing music publishers for mechanical and digital licensing, issuing mechanical licenses and collecting royalties. Handles mechanical licensing for CDs, ringtones, and digital downloads.


Interested Party Information number, an international ID for songwriters and publishers assigned by PROs (Performing Right Organizations).


International Standard Musical Work Code, a unique identifier for specific musical works or compositions.


Music industry slang for "independent," referring to small labels, artists, and publishers not associated with major companies.


As a noun, a legal permit; as a verb, to authorize by legal permit. In music, it grants permission to use or perform another person's song or instrumental track. Non-exclusive licenses can be sold to multiple buyers, while exclusive licenses allow for a more expensive sale to one buyer.


The person or entity to whom the work is licensed, such as a TV show or film licensing a song.


The owner of the licensed musical work, often the songwriter or composer. A publisher can also be the licensor.


Musical Instrument Digital Interface, a standard language/interface for electronic instruments and editing devices to communicate.


The person or organization responsible for developing an artist's career, providing advice and promotion, typically taking a percentage of the performer's income.


The process of increasing product sales by generating public interest in an artist's music through various promotional means, including media exposure.


The original master recording used for duplications and distribution.

Master Points

The percentage of net record sales the producer receives as royalties. For example, The industry standard for Producers is 2 - 5 points or 2 - 5% per track.

Master Use License

A license permitting the use of existing recorded material (master recordings) in various forms, such as vocals, music, dialog, speeches, and sound effects.


The preparation of a recording for mass distribution, including audio level adjustments and audio quality polishing by a mastering engineer.

Mechanical Rights

Rights allowing mass reproduction of a song on physical media like CDs, tapes, or records.

Mechanical Royalties

Payments from a record company to a songwriter or publisher for using a song on physical media, often referred to as "mechanicals."


Information embedded in a musical file, identifying creators, title, date, and more.


The final combination of separate music elements and instruments into one soundtrack.

Music Catalog

A collection of musical works.

Music Library

Publishers specializing in licensing music to media projects. Offer instrumental tracks and full songs for licensing.

Music Licensing

Licensing a musical work for placement in various forms of media, ensuring compensation for copyright owners for certain uses of their work.

Music Placement

Placing or licensing a musical work in visual media like TV shows, films, advertising, video games, etc. When used as a noun, it refers to a specific placement of a musical work.

Music Publisher

Entities that exploit the licensing and commercial use of copyrighted songs, collect payments for such use, and share royalties with songwriters.

Music Publishing Companies

Companies that generate income for songwriters and composers by exploiting the copyrights of songs.

Music Supervisor

Professionals responsible for pairing music with various forms of visual media, overseeing music aspects in film, television, advertising, video games, and other visual media platforms.

PRO (Performing Rights Organization)

Organizations responsible for collecting performance royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers.

Performance Rights Organization

Organizations that collect payments for licensed public performances of songs and distribute royalties to copyright owners (songwriters and publishers). In the U.S., examples include ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.

Performance Royalties

Income earned from public performances of music in venues like radio, television, concerts, and other public settings.

Platinum Album

Certification indicating that an album has sold at least one million units, typically issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Platinum Single

Certification indicating that a single has sold at least one million units, typically issued by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).


Percentage points representing the money earned by producers and artists based on the retail list price of records sold.

Producer Agreement

The Agreement that an Artist uses to outline ownership, fees, and roalties owed to a Producer for the use of their Beat.

Professional Manager

Individuals responsible for screening new material for music publishers and obtaining commercial recordings of songs in a publishing company's catalog. Not to be confused with artist managers.

Public Domain

Recordings or compositions not protected by copyright, available for unrestricted use after the copyright expires.


Individuals or companies that seek out users for artists' music, issue licenses, collect fees and royalties, pay songwriters, and share proceeds, typically governed by publishing contracts.

Record Label

Companies that invest in artists' careers in exchange for a percentage of income generated by record sales, sometimes involved in various income streams under "360 deals."

Recording Contracts

Legal documents detailing agreements between recording labels and recording artists, whether major or independent labels.


In order to recieve royalties owed, a track has to Recoup the recording costs and any advances paid our related to the track. Producer should always go for Master Level Recoupment so that they get paid once the tracks that they work on recoup instead of doing Album level Recoupment. Album Level recoupment means that a Producer has to wait for all the songs on an Album, even the ones that they didn't work on, to recoup their Recording costs and Advances paid out from the tracks.


Common practice among non-exclusive music libraries, where songs or instrumental works are renamed to avoid conflicts or confusion when present in multiple catalogs.

Reversion Clause

A contractual agreement in which a music publisher commits to securing a recording and public release for a songwriter's material within a specified period. Failure triggers rights reversion to the songwriter.


Income earned from record or song sales.


Performing rights organization protecting musical copyrights, tracking performances, and collecting and distributing associated fees.

Sample Clearance

Authorized use of a copyrighted sound recording incorporated into a new composition.


Composing and recording instrumental music added to enhance scenes or dialogue in movies, TV shows, or Broadway plays.

Song Plugger

Individuals responsible for arranging meetings with executives at record labels and producers to pitch songs written by the songwriters they represent.


The process of writing lyrics, melody, song structure, and arrangement to create a song.

Sub Publisher

Companies that publish songs or catalogs in territories other than those under the original publisher's domain.

Sync (Synchronization) Rights

Rights granted by copyright owners to synchronize a song with visual media, such as TV or films, often aligning on-screen imagery with the music.

Term of Copyright

The duration of copyright protection, which varies based on factors like the creation date and type of work. Copyrights eventually expire, potentially requiring reassignment or new licensing agreements.


The section of a song or instrumental that precedes the chorus, often used to set up the song's storyline.


A voice, sound, or instrument with added reverb.


Any copyrighted product, including music, literature, visual art, or dramatic work.