This is a type of agreement where an artist signs with a company that has a stake in several of their interests other than recorded music – for example touring and merchandise.
Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) is a digital file format similar to MP3. Its probable best known use is as the default encoding system used by Apple’s iTunes.
The A&R(Artist and Repertoire) department in a record company is responsible for spotting, nurturing and developing new artists as well as acting as a point of contact for existing ones. They work closely with the artists throughout recording projects, in conjunction with managers, producers, songwriters and other musicians.
Advance – An advance is a loan, normally from a record label to an artist, to be repaid (recouped) from record sales. An advance is for one or more albums depending on the contract. A publisher’s advance would be recouped from publishing royalties.
Someone who liaises with promoters and venues to book gigs for bands.
Digital aggregators (such as The Orchard or PIAS Digital) act as distributors in the online world, supplying downloads from labels and artists to online retailers (such as iTunes, Napster etc).
AIM – The Association of Independent Music is the UK record industry trade body for independent labels.
Airplay (royalties) – Broadcasters buy performance licenses from PPL (recordings) and PRS (compositions) for the right to play live and recorded music. Big stations make full usage returns of all the music they play to PPL and PRS. License money is shared among members minus the society commission.

The Association of Professional Recording Services serves the audio industry. Its members are recording studios, post-production houses, mastering, replication and other music facilities and providers of education and training, as well as audio freelance engineers, manufacturers suppliers and consultants.

The artist is the person or group performing the song in the studio or live venue.
Copyright can be assigned to a label or publisher, or a third party such as a royalty collection society for a period of time. This allows the assignee to act on behalf the copyright owner to issue licenses and collect royalties within the terms of the assignment.
Assignment (copyright)Copyright can be assigned to a label, publisher, or a third party such as a royalty collection society. This allows them to act on behalf of the copyright owner to issue licenses and collect royalties within the terms of the assignment.
Band Contracts – A band partnership agreement spells out the rights of individual band members and how they get paid. If there is no band contract, anything not owned by individuals is liable to be shared equally between the members. Unequal shares must be formalised.
Barcode – A barcode is a machine readable number (e.g. UPC code) used for various purposes in manufacture, retail and commercial use of CDs and Vinyl. Barcodes don’t just identify CDs at the counter, they are also used for chart returns. Some distributors and retailers insist on barcoding.
BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) is a trade association acting on behalf of songwriters, lyricists and composers of all genres of music.
Blanket License
A license (usually granted by a collecting society) that gives an organisation authorisation to use all of the recordings or songs that are owned or controlled by the collecting society in a specified way.
Booking Agent
The booking agent is usually responsible for securing and booking gigs for the artist.
Bootlegs are unsanctioned releases usually consisting of live, demo or ‘rare’ recordings. They can also take the form of unauthorised DJ mixes, using material not licensed from the copyright holder.
Black Box (royalties) – Royalty collection societies cannot always find the people they collected royalties for, either because they are non-members or lost. Their royalties are held as black box income. Different countries and organisations deal with black box income in different ways.
Blank Media Levy – Some countries impose a tax on CD-R, cassette, other blank media and players to compensate for supposed illicit copying. In the EU there are blank media levies in Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Belgium and Greece. Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus and Malta plan to implement levies, or have recently done so. There are also blank media levies in Canada and some other non-EU countries.
Blanket License – A blanket license is an exclusive arrangement applied in the same way to everyone who licenses the material. Rights owners who sign a blanket license agreement get a basic package that fits most cases. Most mainstream broadcasters (such as the BBC) have blanket licenses with PPL and PRS.
BPI – The British Phonographic Industry is the UK record industry trade body for major labels and large independents.
Branding – Taking your band, music and image and creating something unique and sellable.
Broadcast (royalties) – See airplay.
Burning (CD) – See duplication.
CAE – Compositeur Auteur Editeur is the most common global identification code for writers. Essential for registering with royalty collection societies.
Catalogue Music – See film music.
CatCo / PPL
app is an electronic system that sends details of recordings from record labels to PPL and MCPS. CatCo is owned by PPL and is free to PPL members.
For the right to use music in some circumstances it must be cleared with the copyright owners. Clearance is needed for copying, not just for commercial use. It is normally negotiated through licensing and collection societies, but may be collected through labels and publishers.
Collection Societies Collection societies issue licenses to music users and share the license fees among copyright owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers). Examples of these in the UK are MCPS, PRS, PPL and VPL.
Company – People are legal entities: they can be taxed and sued. Companies (including legal partnerships etc.) have a similar status. You don’t have to set up a legal company to start a record label or publishing company but you will need to start one to join PPL.
Copyleft is a copyright license that attempts to distribute material under public domain conditions while ensuring future changes are available to everybody in the same way. The main conditions are free distribution, credit for the originators and the same license for onward development. It was originally developed for software, and then used more widely for other creative content on the web. A reversed copyright symbol is sometimes used to identify copyleft, but copyleft isn’t the opposite of copyright. The copyleft symbol has no legal meaning.
Major record labels used to use a number of different (so-called) copy-protection techniques for certain releases. These are formatted in a non-standard way to stop them playing normally in PCs.
Music copyright gives content creators and owners legal backing for certain restrictions on copying.
Copyright control means copyright is retained by the writer and not assigned to a third party such as a publishing company.
Another version of a song that already exists by a different artist
Creative Commons Creative Commons use a range of share-alike copyright licenses to package the ideas of copyleft for (mainly internet) creative content. It’s important to understand that a free distribution license is permanent and cannot be revoked. A symbol with two Cs is often used for Creative Commons, but the proper legal shorthand is the normal copyright symbol.
Covers (copyright) – Anyone can cover another writer’s work, under the terms of PRS or MCPS assignments where they exist. Under these blanket licenses the writer is paid mechanical and performance income. If the work is not assigned to MCPS or PRS the cover should be cleared through the publisher. This rule applies unless the original work has not been covered before, and if this is the case permission must be granted by the original artist or their publisher.
Cross-collateralisation means a label can recover (recoup) an advance on one album from sales on other albums. Generally, all your advances and royalties with one label will be in one pot.
For the right to use music, in most circumstances it must be ‘cleared’ (ie authorised) by the copyright owners. Clearance is also needed for copying, not just for commercial use. It is normally negotiated through licensing and collection societies, but may be through labels and publishers.
This is the term used to describe a physical product (CD or LP) that resembles an official release but is actually an unauthorised version not produced by the copyright holder.
Collection societies
Collection societies issue licenses to companies using music (for example radio stations) and share the resulting royalty fees among copyright owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers). Examples of UK collecting societies include PPL and PRS For Music.

Copyright is a property right which arises at the moment of creation of a song or sound recording. It does not need to be registered (in the UK) and gives content creators and owners the exclusive right to make copies, license and otherwise exploit their work. In music there are copyrights relating to lyrics (if applicable), music and the actual sound recording.

A sample recording of a band’s music. Often rough recordings or early versions of “songs in progress.”
Often labels will approach a distributor to act as a middleman between themselves and retailers. Traditional distribution is about taking orders for and supplying CDs (or other physical product) from record labels to retail, although their role can be more complex and they may also promote and invest in releases. Digital distributors (see ‘Aggregators’) serve online stores (such as iTunes) in a similar fashion, handling downloadable releases by many labels at the same time and ensuring they are supplied to all the different online outlets.
Downloading is the process of actively receiving data to a local system (such as your computer) from a remote system (such as a webserver). Downloads are storable on a hard drive, as opposed to ‘streamed’ data which is not accessible offline.
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is a form of code embedded in some digital files to enforce certain restrictions on the repeat copying or distribution of files.  While most music sold in the early years of digital retail encompassed some form of coded protection now most downloadable music is sold DRM-free.


The Entertainment Retailers Association (previously BARD) is a UK trade association representing the retail and wholesale sectors of the music, video, DVD and multimedia products industry. The acronym may also refer to the Educational Recording Agency.




Filesharing is the activity of trading digital files with other users over the internet. Users trade files by downloading (to obtain them) and uploading (to distribute them). This is illegal when copyrighted material is made available without the permission of the rightsholders.
Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) is a digital file format using lossless (ie no loss of audio quality) compression. One of the other benefits is the size of the resulting file, which is typically 50-60% of the size of the original.


IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) represents the recording industry worldwide, with a membership comprising some 1400 record companies in 72 countries and affiliated industry associations in 44 countries. IFPI’s mission is to promote the value of recorded music, safeguard the rights of record producers and expand the commercial uses of recorded music in all markets where its members operate.
Indie is a broad term with many meanings. It refers to record labels, ways of doing business, styles of music and a number of philosophies. For chart purposes, ‘indie’ labels were traditionally classified as such if their product was handled by a non-major owned distributor; for the purposes of the independent chart launched in 2009 a title is eligible “if it is released on a label which is 50% or more owned by an independent (or non-major) company, irrespective of the distribution channel through which it is shipped or delivered”.
Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognised and the corresponding fields of law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works as well as words, phrases, symbols, and designs.
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments. The agency administering the ISRC system in the UK is PPL.
International Standard Musical Works Codes identify compositions (songs, etc.).
A short musical piece normally used on radio to identify a programme or station, or to advertise content.


Off-the-shelf music and recordings for film and TV can be licensed from publishers and record labels.  Unlike licenses for broadcasting or performance the rates for these master use and sync licenses are not fixed, so film (video, advert, etc.) makers negotiate a price. Library and catalogue music providers offer ready-made, pre-cleared recordings for a wide range of video (and other) applications. These catalogues are normally licensed by PPL, PRS and MCPS but there are other business models..
This is the process whereby the copyright holder of a song (or songs) authorises its usage by a third party. Unlike assignment, licensing will usually take place for a finite period of time. This might be in the form of allowing a song’s appearance on a compilation right through to allowing a third party to reissue an artist’s entire back catalogue in full. The terms of the agreement will cover the term of the license (for example, how long the third party is allowed to use the song(s) for) as well as what kind of recompense will be received. Licensing also covers the commercial use of repertoire in adverts, films, TV etc (see sync licensing).
The original definition of a ‘major’ was a record company which also owned manufacturing and distribution facilities. The ownership and structure of all the majors has changed since the definition was first coined but still the ‘big four’ (in terms of market share – Universal, Sony, EMI and Warners) are commonly identified by this term.
Mastering is the process of preparing the final mix of a song or album for duplication – the ‘master’ is the finalised source from which all copies of the finished product will be produced.
A master use license is a phonographic copyright license to pay recording owners for music used in film, video, or TV soundtracks. There is no fixed fee for master use licenses. Recording owners will set or negotiate a fee.

MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) sits under the broader PRS for Music brand, and is a non-profit organisation that generates revenue for its publisher and writer members through license fees levied on the use of their works. This includes sales of the music alone such as CDs and downloads, and also products which use the music as a part of their soundtrack, such as films and computer games.

Mechanical License
A mechanical license is issued by MCPS to pay writers’ royalties for the commercial use of their compositions. While the term ‘mechanical’ is derived from the practice of licensing the use of compositions in automated pianos in the early 20th century, today these royalties are payable on the reproduction of music on many different formats such as CDs, downloads, ringtones, musical toys and computer games.
Merchandise, often called merch, is a blanket term for artist-related goods other than music e.g. T-shirts, posters, etc. Some artist-branded products, e.g. USB sticks, may be both merch and promo.

The MMF (Music Managers Forum) acts as a voice for artist managers within the music industry, provides a focus for dialogue with the Government and other industry organisations as well as between managers themselves.

MP3 is a popular digital audio encoding format and is compatible with most personal music players (such as the iPod). MP3 was invented in 1987 and made publicly available from 1995; it is now the standard music file format for most digital stores in the UK.
The Music Publishers Association (MPA) is a non-profit organisation representing music publishers in the UK. It exists to safeguard their interests, and those of the writers signed to them.

The Musicians’ Union represents over thirty thousand musicians working in all sectors of the music business. As well as negotiating on behalf of their members with all the major employers in the industry, the MU offer a range of services for professional and student musicians of all ages.


The National Music Council promotes the interests of the UK music industry as a whole. It facilitates the sharing of information between industry organisations and trade bodies through an annual series of lectures and debates, and provides the means for informing and influencing decision-makers. The NMC is also responsible for major research projects, including statistical research into the economic value of the UK music industry.


The Official Charts Company (OCC) collates sales data for the music and video industries, creating and licensing a number of different charts including the official singles and albums rundowns as used by the BBC. It gathers sales data from a wide variety of ‘bricks and mortar’ and online retailers and is a joint venture owned by BPI and ERA.
Ogg is a container for a range of music file formats used for downloading and digital music players. Ogg is used with FLAC and Speex but normally refers to the lossy codec, Vorbis. File sizes are generally about a tenth of the original size. These Xiph codecs were invented to counter the threat of closed MP3 licensing. Ogg Vorbis is a open standard.
A one sheet is a single page of information about a record release including information about the artist. One sheets normally form part of a press kit and are used by distributors and retailers.
An option is normally an option to extend the term of a contract but it doesn’t mean everybody has options. Sometimes only the label has the option and it may be automatic.
P2P (Peer-To-Peer) is a way of networking computers over the internet so they can exchange files directly. P2P became more widely known through the use of filesharing systems and applications such as the original Napster and Kazaa in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Podcasts are downloadable audio (or video) programmes that can be transferred onto portable MP3 players or watched/listened to on a computer.
PPL (Public Performance Limited) is a music service company working on behalf of performer and record company members. It licenses (and distributes the royalties generated by) sound recordings and music videos for use in broadcast, public performance and new media.
PPL Repertoire database
The PPL Repertoire Database (formerly CatCo) is an electronic system that collates details of recordings from record labels to help ensure accurate royalty distribution. The system also provides information to IFPI (to assist with anti-piracy activity) and the Official Charts Company (enabling digital sales to be included in the UK Charts).
The producer is responsible for putting the record/song/album together and making it sellable. This can involve picking out songs or helping the artist with songwriting. A good producer will usually ensure that the songs are acceptable to the record label and for radio as well as see the project through, from pre production to the final mastering stage.
A promotional copy or product normally sent out free to broadcasters and media.
A promoter stages events. They normally bid for rights to stage a concert or a tour and recoup their outlay through ticketing and sub-licensing.
Formerly known as the Performing Rights Society, PRS collects and distributes royalties arising when music by its writer and publisher members is recorded onto any format and distributed to the public, performed or played in public, broadcast or made publicly available online.
Public Domain
Public Domain (or PD) refers to any material not ‘in copyright’ and therefore available to be exploited without the permission of any copyright holders. Under current intellectual property law, the copyright in a sound recording expires fifty years after the recording is first made commercially available, hence recordings released up to the late 1950s are currently free to be commercially exploited without the permission of the original sound copyright holder.
Whilst publishers traditionally made their living reproducing and selling sheet music, today they invest in, promote and represent songwriters (or particular song catalogues) and are responsible for ensuring payments are made when their clients’ compositions are used commercially.
From the lowest to the highest note of a singer’s voice
This is the audible ringing heard by the caller when dialling another person’s phone. It is now possible to customise these so that the music of the phone owner’s choosing plays to the caller instead of a traditional ‘ringing’ sound.
Royalties are fees paid to rights owners (normally record labels, publishers, writers and performers) for the use of their work.
The runner is responsible for fetching guitar strings, food, drum heads, rented equipment or other items that will assist with the comfort of the artist or smooth operation of the studio or session. They may also be asked to deliver items to places like Fed Ex or radio stations.
Sampling is the act of copying a portion of one sound recording and reusing it in a new recording. Without the appropriate clearance from the copyright holders of the original song, sampling can be held to be an infringement of copyright in the original sound recording from which the sample was taken.
The Serial Copy Management System stops controlled digital media from being copied on certain machines by setting a marker on new recordings. Recordings with the marker cannot be copied again in these machines. SCMS is part of the Sony/Philips Digital Interface (S/PDIF) format.
Streaming audio or video is that which is processed and watched over the internet in ‘real time’, rather than being made available to download, store and watch at another time.
Sync license
A music synchronisation license (or ‘sync’) is required to use a copyrighted piece of music in (for example) a film, game, or advert. It will usually cover a specific period of time and stipulate how the song can be used.
Term can have a number of definitions but in recent months has been most used in the context of ‘term of copyright’, referring to the length of time the recording of a song is protected under current copyright law. In the UK this is currently 50 years from the time of the recording’s first release, although BPI is currently lobbying for an extension of this term.
The legal protection of a trademark is about misuse of the business asset, passing off and confusing potential customers. It isn’t an exclusive right to the trademarked name.


UK Music (previously British Music Rights) is an umbrella organisation representing the collective interests of the UK’s commercial music industry, from artists, musicians, songwriters and composers, to major and independent record labels, managers, music publishers, studio producers and collecting societies. Its many members include AIM, BPI, MMF, MU and PPL.
Whereas downloading is the process of actively transferring data onto a local system in a storable file, uploading is the term given to the reverse process – ie transferring/making available a digital file from your local system onto a remote one.




VPL (Video Performance Limited) is the company responsible for licensing of the use of music videos. It is now run in-house by its sister organisation   

A streaming (rather than downloadable) piece of content broadcast, either pre-recorded or live, over the Internet.