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A

Adaptation

Rewriting a text, usually by translating it into another language. For example, Frank Sinatra's "My Way" is an adaptation of Claude François' "Comme d'habitude."

Administration Agreement

Publishing contract in which the songwriter retains full copyright and pays an administrative fee to the administrator/publisher.

 
Administration
Publishers act to register your music with Collective Management Organizations (CMO), issue licenses, collect and redistribute royalties, and all other responsibilities related to using your songs.
 
Advance
Payment when you sign a contract as a songwriter with a publisher.
The value of the advance is usually recouped by the publisher from your first royalty payments.
 
Affiliation
The act of joining a Collective Management Organization (CMO) or Independent Management Entity (IME) and thus granting this organization rights/responsibilities relating to the commercial exploitation of your musical works.
 
Aggregator
Another word for a digital distributor who takes responsibility for making your tracks available on streaming platforms. DistroKid, TuneCore, or Amuse are digital distributors, so they are aggregators.
 
Arrangement
A new adaptation or a blend of instruments, sounds, and voices for a pre-existing musical composition. The creator of an arrangement may be credited as a sound writer for this work.
 
Artists and Repertoire (A&R)
A&R is the department of a record company in charge of discovering new talents, overseeing the recording process and artist development, and assisting with the marketing and promotion of artists.
 
Author
The creator of a musical, literary, dramatic, audiovisual, or choreographic work.
 

B

Beatmaker

Composer of instrumentals for rap, hip-hop, and contemporary R&B genres.
 
Black Box
Denotes the large number of revenues generated by all the music aired on the various platforms that remains unattributable to the artists who created it. The Black Box exists mainly because many musical works and recordings have insufficient accompanying data to enable their creators to be identified.
 
Blanket License
A license authorizes the use of an entire repertoire for a specified period. For example, the blanket licenses signed between streaming platforms and Collective Management Organizations.
 
Buy-Out Agreement
Publishing contract in which you assign 100% of the copyright of a song to the publisher with a maximum 50/50 split of publishing revenues. This contract is more common in the US.
 

C

Catalog
Collection of your tracks, controlled either by you as a songwriter, by a publisher, or by a label.
 
Collapsed Copyright
A term used in the US when a creator owns and controls the copyright of their sound recordings and compositions.
 
Collection Society
An organization that represents the musical works of songwriters and publishers by mandate or contract. It also licenses, registers, collects and redistributes the rights generated by its members. Performing Rights Organizations, Collective Management Organizations, Mechanical Rights Organizations, and Independent Management Entities such as Bridger are collection societies.
 
Commission
A percentage is taken out of your collected royalties by a Collective Management Organization or an Independent Management Entity. It is sometimes their only source of revenue.
 
Composer
Any person who participates in the writing of the music of a song.
 
Composition
A combination of sound elements intended to constitute a musical work.
 
Co-Publishing Agreement
Publishing contract between two publishers in which a publisher shares a part of the royalties in exchange for creative and administrative services from the other one. The first publisher can receive an advance with this contract.
 
Copyright
Also known as "author rights," these are legally granted to the songwriter of an original musical work. They include moral rights, which allow the songwriter to claim the ownership of the musical work (release, credits, cover...), and patrimonial rights, which enable the receipt of the income earned by exploiting the music. These rights come into existence as soon as the piece of music has been created.
 
Copyright Registration
Registration of the creation date of a track to legally prove that you are its owner in case of infringement or plagiarism.
 
Cover
Performance of a song that has been written or made famous by another artist. For example, Jimi Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower" is a favorite cover of Bob Dylan's song.
 
Co-Writer
Someone you work with on a text or composition. It can also be the author of a song you sample.
 
Cue Sheet
A document that lists all the music used in audiovisual production. It includes the names of the owners of each piece of music, its length, and how it is used in the production - whether as background instrumental, the theme for the main title, or as a sound signature of the logo... The cue sheet is then used to facilitate collecting and paying the rights to their owners.
 
Cue
Music track used at a specific time in audiovisual production.
 

D

Derivative Work
Musical work that uses elements of another musical work. This might include translation, dramatization, fictionalization, artistic reproduction, condensed version, or any other transformation of existing musical work. For example, "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang is a derivative work because it includes a sample from "Good Times" by Chic.
 
Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
Software that includes tools for creating, recording, editing, manipulating, and playing audio content. For example, Avid Pro Tools, Ableton, or FL Studio are digital audio workstations.
 
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
Anti-piracy law that outlaws the bypassing of rules restricting the access and distribution of copyrighted materials.
 
Digital Rights Management (DRM)
System guarding against the unauthorized use and piracy of digital content.
 
Digital Service Provider (DSP)
A company providing digital music services. For example, Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, and Tidal are digital service providers.
 
Direct-to-fan
Act of selling music directly to fans without relying on a retailer or a distributor. Platforms like Bandcamp or Twitch do direct-to-fan.
 

E

Exclusive Songwriter Agreement ("Staff Writer" Contract)
Publishing contract in which you, as the songwriter, renounce all claims to the share of the copyright dues normally attributed to the publisher for any songs you may write during the term of the contract in exchange for advances. This contract is specific to the US.
 
Exploitation
Act of generating money from a musical work.
 
Extended Play (EP)
Compilation of audio recordings released together on a CD, disc, audiotape, or any other media, longer than a single but shorter than an album/LP.
 

F

Fair Use
An exception that allows a third party to use copyrighted musical works in specific circumstances without the need to obtain permission from the copyright owner. Use cases may include parody, commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving, and scholarship.
 

I

Independent Artist
An artist who has not signed a contract with a music label and who is fully in charge of his or her career.
 
Independent Management Entity (IME)
Independent, for-profit organizations are mandated by publishers or songwriters to collect and redistribute their copyright royalties. EMIs are a European alternative to traditional Collective Management Organizations. Bridger is an Independent Management Entity.
 
Independent Publishers
Music publishing companies that are not part of the three major companies. BMG and Downtown are independent publishers.
 
Independent Songwriter
A songwriter who doesn't have a publisher and keeps full control of his or her musical works.
 
Infringement
Act of using, broadcasting, or distributing a track without being the copyright owner or having any license or agreement.
 
Intellectual Property
Ownership of a concept that you have invented or created. It can be musical, pictorial, mechanical, or procedural.
 
Interactive Streaming
Also known as "On-Demand Streaming", a service that allows listeners to choose the tracks they want to hear. Interactive streaming generates mechanical and performing rights. For example, Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, and Tidal are examples of interactive streaming services.
 
Interested Parties Information (IPI)
A nine-digit number is assigned by a Collective Management Organization or Independent Management Entity to identify a songwriter or a publisher.
 
International Standard Recording Code (ISRC)
12-character alphanumeric code assigned by a label or distributor to identify a sound recording. The ISRC code is used in the collection of master rights. There may be as many ISRC codes as there are broadcast recordings of a track (for example, if there is a live, acoustic, or cover version).
 
International Standard Work Code (ISWC)
11-character alphanumeric code assigned by a collective management organization or an independent management entity to identify a unique musical composition. The ISWC code is used in the collection of copyright. There can be as many ISWC codes as there are arrangements, adaptations, and translations of a song.
 

J

Joint Work
Any musical work written in collaboration by several songwriters, who are then co-authors.
 

L

Label

A company that manufactures, distributes and promotes the recordings of affiliated artists. Labels sell the artist's brand and the products they create.

 

License

A legal agreement granting permission to a person to use a musical work under certain conditions or for specific purposes for a limited time. Does not change the ownership or the copyright.

 

License Fee
The fee linked to a license agreement. It can be either a one-time upfront payment, an ongoing royalty, or a percentage of the generated revenue.
 
Long Play (LP)

Also known as an "album". A compilation of audio recordings released on a CD, vinyl, audiotape, or any other media. 

 

M

Major Label

A multinational company that represents a large percentage of annual record or music video sales and which includes its own distribution solution. there are three majors: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.

 

Major Publishers

They are Warner Chappell (Warner Music Group), Universal Music Publishing Group (Universal Music Group), and Sony Publishing (Sony).

 
Manager

Professional representative and advisor for an artist. In exchange for a percentage of the artist's earnings, the manager helps build the artist's career, makes their music available to producers and labels, negotiates their contracts, and organizes their tours.

 

Mastering

Part of the song creation process that balances the sound elements of a stereo mix and optimizes playback on all systems and media formats.

 

Mechanical License

A license authorizing the reproduction of your music, physically or digitally.

 

Mechanical Rights

Rights generated when a track subject to copyright is reproduced and distributed on different supports such as CDs, vinyl, downloads, and streaming platforms.

 

Mechanical Rights Organization

Organization responsible for collecting revenue on behalf of songwriters and publishers when a song is reproduced physically or digitally. MROs collect and redistribute mechanical rights to the affiliated songwriters after taking a commission. This type of company hardly exists anymore in Europe, as Collective Management Organizations now collect both performing and mechanical rights. However, this model still exists in the US and Canada.

 

Micro-Sync Royalties
Revenues generated by the synchronization of a piece of music to moving images on platforms such as TikTok or YouTube, even if these images are content created by a user. Depending on the platform, it can generate performing and mechanical rights as well as revenues for the video creator and the recording owner.
 
Mixing
Part of the song creation process that optimizes and combines multitrack recordings into a final mono, stereo, or surround the product.
 
Music Distribution
Opportunity to make your tracks available to everyone, in a physical or in a digital format. With the evolution of music consumption and technologies, distribution is now easily accessible to everyone through digital distributors such as DistroKid, TuneCore, or CD Baby.
 
Music Producer
A person who supervises the entire process of recording a track or a musical project, artistically and financially.
 
Music Publishing
Acquisition, protection, and promotion of copyrighted musical works as well as the collection and distribution of royalties to songwriters
 
Music Supervisor
Member of a studio or advertising company who is in charge of choosing the music that will be used in audiovisual production.
 

N

Neighboring Rights
Also known as "master rights", these are legally granted to the performer and producer of a master recording. They are made up of moral rights, which allow the performer or producer to secure the integrity of the work (credits, cover versions), and patrimonial rights, which enable the recovery of income earned when music is used. These rights come into existence as soon as the work is recorded or broadcast.
 
Non-Interactive Streaming
Services that don't allow the listener to choose the song they want to listen to. In the US, non-interactive streaming services pay only for performing rights. Pandora Radio, Sirius XM, and iHeart Radio are examples of non-interactive services.
 

O

Orphan Works

Musical works under copyright for which an owner cannot be identified or located. This situation makes the musical works almost impossible to license.
 

P

Performing Artist

Any person who represents sings, declaims, plays, or performs music work.
 
Performing Rights
Rights generated when a copyrighted track is broadcast beyond a private environment, in such instances as streaming, television, radio, public places, and website.
 
Performing Rights Organization
Organization in charge of collecting revenue on behalf of songwriters and publishers when a song is broadcast in public or performed. PROs collect and distribute the performing rights to affiliated songwriters, having removed their own commission from the total distributed.
 
Preemptive Right
Contract in which the songwriter receives an advance in exchange for granting the publisher sole rights to publish his or her work for a period of time or a certain number of projects (this applies only to Europe).
 
Printed Music Royalties
Revenues are generated from the sale of printed music, such as scores or lyric sheets. These revenues are paid to the publisher.
 
Private Copy
Reproduction of tracks legally acquired for personal and non-commercial use (eg: adding music purchased on a platform to one's hard drive). Private copy generates revenues.
 
Public Domain Work
Musical work that doesn't have copyright protection and that can therefore be used by anyone for any purpose without any license or agreement. Some musical works fall into the public domain when their copyright expires, and others are government-commissioned musical works. Beethoven's "Ode an die Freude" is in the public domain. However, for a new recording of the musical work, the consent of the performers and the producers are still required. 
 
Public Performance License
A license that authorizes the copying and lending of a recorded music work within the family circle without incurring any copyright fees or neighboring rights.
 
Publisher
Company with the goal of increasing the income of music creators and protecting songwriters' rights. They also play a supportive role in the creative process and manage the administrative side of projects.
 
Publisher Share
A royalty share belonging to a publisher, an administrator, or a songwriter who doesn't have a publisher.
 
Publishing Administrator
A third-party publisher who controls all licensing and publishing money on behalf of a songwriter or publisher for a specific period of time.
 
Publishing Agreement
Legal contract between a composer, a songwriter, an author, and a publisher. There are several types of publishing contracts in every country.
 

R

Retroactive Royalties

Generated revenues that are unallocated, and that are waiting to be paid to copyright owners. This situation can occur when the songwriter is not affiliated with a Collective Management Organization, a Performing Rights Organization, or an Independent Management Entity when the tracks are released.
Songwriters receive these revenues when they get affiliated if the period does not exceed a specific time that varies according to the collecting organization.
 
Reversion Clause
A clause that may appear in a publishing contract that gives you back the ownership of specific tracks, if specific conditions are met.
 
Rights Administration Entity (RAE)
A for-profit organization that in addition to delivering mechanical licenses, also collects and distributes mechanical rights to songwriters and publishers in the US.
Music Reports (MRI) is an example of an RAE.
 
Royalties
Revenues generated by the exploitation of a track for the songwriter, the performer, and the producer. Incomes can be generated by physical or digital album sales, digital downloads, streams, radio or TV broadcasts.
 

S

Sampling

Use of an existing sound recording to integrate into a new composition.
To have the right to legally use a sample you need to make a legal agreement with the rights holder of the sound you are using.
 
Songwriter
Someone who participated in writing the lyrics and creating a musical work.
 
Sound Engineer
Also known as "audio engineer". Person in charge of the technical part of the recording or a live show. the sound engineer may also be responsible for the editing, mixing, and mastering of the tracks.
 
Sound Recording
Adding a sound, in a durable way, onto a digital or physical audio support, such that it may then be listened to, modified, or streamed.
 
Soundtrack
Music composed for a film, a television show, or a video game. The composer of the soundtrack can be remunerated either by being paid in advance and waiving his or her copyright or by a combination of fees and permanent royalties linked to his or her rights.
 
Split
Percentage of ownership given to every co-author for musical work collaboration.
 
Split Sheet
A document that describes the rights split of musical collaboration. It must be written and signed by the co-authors before the exploitation of the musical work.
 
Sub-Publishing Agreement
Publishing contract between two publishers to allow the exploitation of one or more tracks in a specific territory.
 
Synchronization License
A license authorizing the diffusion of your music on audiovisual products such as TV shows, commercials, video games, movies, and mobile applications.
Sync licenses are required from the recording owner and the composition owner when a song is used.
In addition to an upfront payment, songwriters/publishers receive public performing rights once the content containing their music broadcast.
 

T

The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC)
The MLC's mission is to provide blanket licenses to all streaming services in the United States as well as to collect and redistribute all resulting royalties.
 
Topliner
Also known as "topline songwriter". A person who creates vocal melodies, harmonies, and lyrics to accompany the instrumental part of a track. Topliners mostly perform in genres such as rap and pop music.
 
Tier
A tier is a subscription level, giving access to different benefits according to what has been defined for each level.
 

U

Unallocated Royalties

Generated revenues that cannot be distributed to the right songwriters because it is, possible. to trace them. After a period of up to three years, in most Collective Management Organizations, these revenues are shared among the bestselling artists, according to their market share.

 

User-Generated Content (UGC)

Content created by the users of a platform that contains copyrighted music. It may be unlicensed or subject to a general license between the platform and the copyright owner.

 

W

Work-For-Hire

Agreement for a songwriter to create an original musical work, as an employee and for a one-off payment (this applies to the US only).

 

Writer Share

Part of the performing rights that are paid directly to the songwriter.

 

360 Deal

Exclusive recording contract allowing a record company to receive a percentage of all your revenues, ie: sales of your music, publishing rights, concert revenues, merchandising revenues, sponsorship contracts and more.
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