Glossary: Music

Glossary: Music

Record Company:

Refers to a party who owns or controls a sound recording. This is often a well-known label like Warner Bros. or MCA, but could really be anyone who holds rights to an important recording

Glossary: Music

Music Clearance for Visual Media:

The US copyright act distinguishes between recording music in audio media (i.e. records, tapes, CDs, etc.) and visual media (such as motion pictures and video), because of the potentially powerful effects of pairing music with images. (Consider: What picture comes to mind when you hear “As Time Goes By” or “Singing in the Rain?” And who doesn’t sing the Jaws theme while playing with their kids’ toys in the bathtub?)

Consequently, Congress gave copyright owners the absolute and exclusive authority to permit, set fees for, or prohibit visual uses of music, because they can and do transform the meanings of songs.

The type of license required for using music in visual media is called a synchronization license, because it permits recording music in “synchronization or timed relation” with a moving image.

Glossary: Music

Musical Arrangements:

Simply put, are an original way to play a song or other musical work. The music publisher almost always owns all the arrangement of their song. Some common types include marching band arrangements of current hit songs, intermediate piano arrangements, or a updated versions of older songs (“HARD TO SAY I’M SORRY” by ???, which updates a 1977 Chicago song, is a good example).

While anyone is free to create a new arrangement of an existing song, trying to exploit that arrangement without a license (i.e. on records, sheet music, or as part of a broadcast or commercial could draw an infringement claim from the publisher.

Publishers will usually include the right to make arrangements in a mechanical license or synchronization license, provided the publisher receives full ownership of any arrangement created.

Some types of sampling also qualify as arrangements.

Glossary: Music

Music Publisher:

Is an entity that owns or controls the copyright to a song or musical work and represents its business interests. Publishers often represent songwriters and hold exclusive rights to their works. Finally, many elite songwriters hold their songs in their own music publishing companies (this is a long and diverse list, including Irving Berlin, Bob Dylan, Rogers and Hammerstein, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Dianne Warren).

Glossary: Music

Tray Card:

The part of the album artwork that sits behind the tray and is seen when you look at the back of the CD case.

Glossary: Music

Radio Plugger:

Also sometimes simply known as a plugger, radio pluggers promote releases to radio. Pluggers usually work with specific singles and go around to radio station playlist meetings, playing the singles they are representing and trying to get them placed on a playlist. In some cases, pluggers may work with full albums, letting the stations themselves decide what the single is.

Glossary: Music

Promo Package:

A package used to promote music, including a promo CD and any appropriate press releases, one sheets, photos and other information. Also known as press kit or press pack.

Glossary: Music

Mechanical Rights:

The permission to make a audio-only, sound recording of song or musical work. Mechanical rights applies to audio media only, and excludes film, TV or multimedia. A Compulsory Mechanical License allows you to make a sound recording without having to contact the copyright owner, provided you do not change the words or fundamental character of the music, and you pay the statutory mechanical rate. To learn more about obtaining mechanical licenses, contact EMG or The Harry Fox Agency.

GLossary: Music

Master Rights:

The permission needed to use sound recordings in other media. in films or other visual media. Usually held by a record company; Master rights are worthless unless you also have synchronization rights to the underlying song.

Glossary: Music

Copyright Law:

Refers to a body of national and state laws, provisions of international treaties (such as the Berne Convention and the Global Agreement on Tarriffs and Trade), as well as customary business practices surrounding use of intellectual property.
In the US, music is protected under the Copyright Act of 1976. This law provides protection for songs and other musical works, as well as sound recordings of those works.

The law grants copyright owners the exclusive right to do and authorize any of the following:

Reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords (see Recording Rights);

Prepare derivative works based on upon the copyrighted work (see Adaptation Rights);

Distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease or lending (see Reproduction Rights);

In the case of music (as well as other protected intellectual property), perform the copyrighted work publicly (see Public Performance Rights);

Song copyrights are held by music publishers, while sound recordings are controlled by record companies.

Glossary: Music

P.D. – Per Diem:

A per diem, or P.D. for short, literally means “per day” and it is basically expense money for a touring band. P.D.s are paid out to each band member and usually members of the crew so that they can afford to cover basic personal expenses while on tour. P.D.s can vary dramatically depending on how much money the tour has behind it – for instance, a small tour for an indie band that is losing money probably won’t have any P.D.s at all, while a tour that has plenty of tour support from a record label might have very generous P.D.s that give everyone plenty of money for food and maybe even a little left over.

Glossary: Music


Buy-on refers to the practice of a musician paying a fee in exchange for being the opening band on a tour. Buy-ons are often used to give an up and coming act a chance to play in front of a large audience.

Buy-ons are most common for large, arena/stadium kinds of tours and are very rarely used in indie music. It is important not to confuse the idea of a buy-on with being charged a fee for playing a show. With a buy-on, you’re essentially buying an audience – you’re not paying for promotion. Being asked to pay a promoter a fee for them to put on a show for you in a club is a different practice and is frowned up. Further, a buy-on should always involve a contract.

Glossary: Music

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.

Glossary: Music


The 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.

Glossary: Music


identify recordings (tracks or masters).

Glossary: Music

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.

Glossary: Music


A Microsoft compatible with CD players.

Glossary: Music

Fingerprint (digital):

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.

Glossary: Music


codes can be used for bar-codes in Europe. UPC codes are used in the USA and Europe.

Glossary: Music


is a kind of copy-protection. It is a hardware or software device that forces users to comply with copyright owners’ conditions.

Glossary: Music

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.

Glossary: Music

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

Glossary: Music

Da Capo:

In sheet music, an instruction to repeat the beginning of the piece before stopping on the final chord.

Glossary: Music


A type of CD case that looks like a book instead of a plastic case. The outside is made of paper and the CD sits in a tray inside that is attached to the paper.


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