Music Industry Terms Every Artist Should Know

We’ve put together a glossary of music industry lingo that will help you boost your knowledge and make informed career decisions.

Written by
amuse

Whether you’re a newcomer or a more routined independent artist, knowing the music industry's “insider lingo” will help you make more informed decisions for your career. By studying our glossary, you will know what (TF 🤔) people mean when you’re at an industry event, collaborating with another artist, or in a negotiation with a label. We recommend that you bookmark this page so you can refer back when you’re ready to elevate your knowledge or when you’re in need of a reminder when someone starts speaking about Intellectual Property, and your mind goes blank. 

We’ve added some helpful resources to some of the definitions that dive deeper into the topic. Make sure to check them out for more in-depth coverage of the term.

360 Deal: A contract between a record label and an artist where the record company receives a percentage of other income the artist generates, not just from their recorded music. A 360, which is so named because it relates to a full circle of artist revenue streams, often includes merch, touring, publishing, endorsements, and more on top of records and singles.

A&R: Short for Artists and Repertoire, it’s the department at a record label or music publisher responsible for discovering new talent and signing them to the company. An A&R guides an artist through their career by for example working with them throughout the recording process, and bringing in producers, writers, and other collaborators to the table. 

Artist Manager: An Artist Manager is responsible for fostering an artist or band’s career to be as successful as possible. The manager guides the artist’s professional decisions and serves as a representative and advisor for business deals. They act as the conduit between the artist and the extended team, managing the relationship with the label, publisher, booking agent, publicist, etc. Learn more: Guide to Choosing the Right Music Manager.

Back Catalogue: This is a collection of an artist/writer’s music e.g. albums, EP, and/or singles. Also known as a ‘discography’.

Big Three (Major Labels): The music industry’s three largest record companies: Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group.

Blanket License: A license, often issued by a performing rights organization (PRO), that gives the entity permission to play any song in the rights holder’s catalog for a set period of time. Companies that use blanket licenses can include TV and radio stations, restaurants, bars, social networks, and streaming services.

Collaboration: The act of working together with another person or persons, to create one piece of work. Usually to complete a task that cannot be done alone. In musical terms, an example would be the joining together of a songwriter and lyricist or a rapper and a producer. A collaboration could happen between singers, songwriters, lyricists, composers, and/or producers.

Copyright: The legal statute entitles an artist to legally claim rights to an original body of work that they have written and/or performed, preventing unauthorized copying or sampling of the music or lyrics therein.

Cover Art: Also referred to as “Artwork”. A (stunning) 3000 x 3000 square that coordinates with your release, album, or EP — for your fans to be enticed enough to click play and listen to your music. It might seem simple, choose an image and upload it, but it requires a little more than that for your cover art to be accepted by the streaming stores and have an impact aesthetically on your audience. Learn more: Breaking it Down: Artworks.

Digital Service Provider (DSP): A streaming platform (like Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, etc) or an online store that distributes digital audio to consumers. Learn more: Music Distribution.

Door-Split Deal: A door-split deal is a financial arrangement between a venue and a performer, in which the musician doesn’t get paid a fixed fee to perform, but receives a percentage of the profit generated from ticket sales. Door-split deals are commonly offered to less-experienced, independent artists, whereas established acts will receive a pre-negotiated performance fee.

EP: An abbreviation of “extended play,” an EP is a “mini-album” that is significantly shorter than a standard full-length album. EPs typically include three to six songs.

EPK: Short for “electronic press kit,” an EPK is a digital promotional package of assets that an artist or their publicist sends to journalists, radio DJs, record labels, booking agents, etc. to provide a summary of the artist’s career and latest work. The assets typically include a biography, promotional images, current singles and videos, social media links, and highlights of the artist’s streaming, sales, and radio statistics (see also: one sheet). Learn more: How to Create a Successful Press Kit.

Intellectual Property: A broad framework of rights in a law that protects “creations of the mind”. Basically, anything created by humans that is considered artistic, cultural, or scientific creation has value and is considered Intellectual Property. There are four types of Intellectual Property: patents, trademarks, copyright, and registered design. It can get pretty technical and complicated so we recommend that you get the help of an entertainment lawyer when setting up your artist project.

LP: Short for “long-playing,” an LP historically referred to as a 12-inch phonograph record. Now, it means any full-length album, roughly considered to be around 40 minutes or longer.

Mastering: The final process of preparing a mixed recording for commercial distribution. Several adjustments are made during this process, such as configuring the playing order placement of the songs (if it’s an album or EP), balancing the sonic elements of a mix, and optimizing the volume experienced during playback across all media formats. Volume fade-out can be placed at the end and beginning of tracks, and other final adjustments are to ultimately achieve a sound that is in line with other released material in the market. Read more: Best Sound, Mixing & Mastering Tools for Independent Artists.

Master Recording: A master recording is the original recording of a song. It’s the most authentic supersonic account of the song, everything else is a copy. Learn more: What Does It Mean to Own Your Masters?

Merch: Short for merchandise, merch is any item featuring the artist’s likeness, logo, or other proprietary design meant to be sold to fans at concerts or online. Merch can be almost anything, but standard items include clothing, posters, stickers, buttons, and physical recorded music like vinyl, cassettes, or CDs. Read more: A Complete Guide to Merch for Artists.

Metadata: Metadata can mean many things, but in music, it refers to the metadata contained within the ID3 Tags of an mp3 file. It can be additional data about the music or song and can include rights holder information, who the writers are, and their percentage share of the publishing split. Metadata can also be specific search criteria and information like moods, lyrics, beats per minute, era, and release date to name a few examples.

Metaverse: A virtual world rendered to look like a three-dimensional space where users are digital avatars that can interact with each other and the environment. Two examples are Roblox and Fortnite, where several artists like Ariana Grande and Travis Scott have put on virtual concerts. The benefit of hosting a concert in the metaverse space is that millions of fans (12.3 million people attended Travis Scott’s virtual concert) are able to attend instead of being limited to a live concert venue’s max capacity requirements. Learn more: Watch Travis Scott’s Fortnite performance.

NFT: Non-fungible token. An NFT is a unique digital collectible whose ownership is tracked via blockchain. Music NFTs can be one-of-a-kind or limited editions and can include exclusive recordings or artwork. Learn more: What Are NFTs & What Do They Mean for the Music Industry?

One Sheet: A single-page document that highlights an artist’s new music and summarizes their bio, stats, and achievements. It’s given to media, promoters, or anyone else who can further the artist’s career in some way — for example, by hiring them for a gig, interviewing them, or playing their music.

Performance Rights Organization (PRO): An organization that ensures songwriters and other rights holders receive performance royalty income generated when their musical works are broadcast or played in public. PROs also issue licenses for musical works. In the United States, PROs include ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, and GMR. Outside of the U.S., organizations that perform this function are known as Performing Rights Societies. 

Per Diem: Translating to “per day” in Latin, a per diem is a daily allowance given to an artist usually while on tour to cover basic needs like food. 

Pre-Save Link: Pre-Save links are a key part of any new music campaign. They allow your fans to “pre-save” your upcoming track or album to music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. When a fan clicks on your pre-save link, they’re taken to a page that lets them “pre-save” your new release, meaning that on release day it’s automatically available in their music library.

On the day your music becomes available, the link will automatically convert over to a released version and you can continue sharing the same smart link to direct fans to your music. Read more: Set Up a Pre-Save Link for Your Music.

Royalty Advance: An “advance” is most commonly defined as a pre-payment of royalties, whether the advance is paid by a record company to an artist, a publisher to a writer, or a merchandiser to an artist. The advance is “recoupable” meaning that the advance is applied against earned royalties. An advance can be used to pay for an upcoming music video, poster campaign, or studio time — either way for an artist, a royalty advance can go a long way. Learn more: amuse offers two types of royalty advances Fast Forward and Early Access.

Sampling: The act of copying a section of one sound recording and reusing it in a new recording. Without receiving the appropriate clearance from the copyright holders of the original recording, sampling can result in copyright infringement. Learn more: Easy (And Legal) Sampling with Tracklib.

Song Identifiers: There are five key codes that are part of any musical work’s essential metadata: the IPI identifies the songwriter or composer, the ISWC identifies the musical work, the ISRC identifies the specific recording, the IPN identifies the performers, and the ISNI links the other four codes together. 

Split Sheet: A document that identifies who did what during songwriting, and what percentage of royalties each party is entitled to.

 

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