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Music Terminology

Music Terminology

Have you ever seen a strange music word and felt like your head is going to explode? Sooner or later we all get tripped up by these daunting terms. The music industry has a lot of terminology that many people find difficult to understand. With this in mind we’ve put together a handy guide of some of the most used terms around music distribution… 

A&R – Artist and Repertoire

A&R reps have great power within the music industry. Usually music distribution agencies, record labels and promotion companies have an A&R department who are responsible for finding and attracting new artists and growing their catalogue.  Using their network of contacts and their knowledge of the industry, they can discover and build up new artists. 

Be careful of A&R reps who aren’t what they seem! You should never pay an A&R to review your music. You can find out more about scammy A&Rs in our recent blog.

Distributor

A distributor is a company who will manage your distribution for you. Distribution is the process of delivering your music to the public via channels such as Digital, where it can be downloaded or streamed. Digital distributors upload music to streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer, as well as to digital stores including Amazon and iTunes.

Independent artists can benefit from utilising a digital distributor’s service to get their music out to the world. By using a distributor, independent artists can sell their music without constraints and retain full ownership.

EP (Extended Play)

Remnant from the vinyl age! An EP (extended play) is the middle ground between singles and albums, although their name implies otherwise and EP is a mini-album. The EP is a collection of three to six songs, which is too short to be classified as a full studio album, but is longer than a single. 

Indie 

The term indie is rather broad with multiple meanings. Most often it refers to an independent label or independent artists. The term indie artists was formed from “independent artist” showing that artists have independently released their music. It used to be pretty hard to get a label deal if you were a small band or artist and there were no distributors around back in the day! 

ISRC – International Standard Recording Code

The ISRC is a unique code associated with the audio of a release and is used to track sales and radio plays. Every single new recording and every version of a recording is assigned a unique 12 digit code which allows the tracking to take place. The ISRC is needed when you move distributors in order to keep track of the release’s data such as stats and streams. 

Mechanical Licence

You will require a mechanical license every time you create a copy of a song, either physically or digitally. In order to release any form of cover version you will need to obtain one from the copyright holder. A mechanical license is usually controlled by the music publisher or songwriter who produced the original track. When you distribute using a mechanical license the original content owner will receive the royalties which they are rightfully owed.

This license does not give permission for an artist to use the song in their video. In order to do this you will need to require a sync license. 

Metadata

Metadata is fundamental to distributing your digital music. The literal meaning is “data about other data”, but specifically music metadata is the information pertaining to a song/track. This includes the artist name, producer, writer, song title, release date, genre, duration and more! If any of the publishing metadata is missing or is incorrect it will pose challenges to creators being compensated correctly. The correct metadata allows for compensation and credit for those who deserve it. 

PRS (Performing Right Society)

PRS for music is an organisation within the music industry. The organisation acts on behalf of musicians and publishers to collect and redistribute the royalty revenue generated by broadcast on radio, TV, cinema and advertising. 

Publisher

A publishing company deals with the copyrights of distributing music. They are responsible for ensuring that songwriters and producers receive the deserved payment whenever their work is used in a commercial setting. By managing the licenses for the client they collect the generated royalties and pass them back to the relevant parties. Publishers will often support artists with mechanical and synchronization rights as well.

Rights

“Music rights” refers to the ownership of music. Accordingly, someone who owns 100% of the rights would own 100% of the music.

Royalties

A royalty is a fee which is paid to the owner of music content for the using their work. When you distribute your music, you are able to collect the money which is rightfully owed to you. Every time your song is played, downloaded or streamed, royalties are generated. 

Sampling

Sampling, when a section of a sound recording is re-used in another, is growing more common in the music industry. This can be lyrics or sound. If a musician attempts to sell music that uses sampling without the licenses and permissions of the copyright holders they will be infringing copyright regulations.

UPC- Universal Product Code

A UPC is the identifying barcode applied to a release and gives each track an identity that can be tracked in stores. It differs from an ISRC because it refers to the release while an ISRC relates specifically to the audio track.

By setting up your music distribution with Identity Music, you can take full advantage of our music promotion support services and get your music out to all corners of the globe. You can get in touch with our team to discuss your options here!

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