What is an A&R?
What are Neighbouring Rights?
What is copyright?
Being an independent musician is hard enough without getting lost in the jargon and unique terms found in the music biz. And as an industry that grows and changes faster than most, we know it can be hard to keep up. So whether you’re a songwriter, producer, solo singer, emcee, or the guy at the back of the stage banging on the drums, we got you.
Welcome to Spinnup’s complete A-Z Glossary of Music Industry Terms.
Scroll down or click on a letter to read some of the key music industry terms and definitions, and if that isn’t enough for you, we have a whole Spinnup Academy ready for you to put your knowledge to good use.
Did we miss anything?
Send us a message @spinnup and let us know what term you want us to include.
360 Deal – In the heyday of sales of recorded music, successful labels could easily survive and thrive just from selling physical product (and for a time, downloads too). In this modern era when sales are much lower and streaming revenues are still maturing, many labels now offer a ‘holistic’ exclusive recording contract in which, on top of the revenue from sales of the artist’s recorded music, they are also work on and benefit from other artist income sources such as merchandise, touring, and endorsements. ‘360’ refers to the 360 degrees of a circle, referring to an all-encompassing deal. This falls on the legal side of things which we cover over HERE in our Spinnup Academy series.
A&R – Probably the most recognised music acronym around, but how many of us actually know what it means? A&R—which stands for artist & repertoire—is the division of a record company that’s responsible for discovering new talent, giving artistic direction, matching artists with producers, and facilitating the relationship between artist and label. Here at Spinnup, if you catch our ear, your music could be passed on to the A&R teams in our UMG labels to make you their next big thing! Watch A&R manager Rich Castello tell you more on our Spinnup Academy series.
Agent – Also referred to as a booking agent, they are the person responsible for organising an artist’s live dates. They will both proactively seek dates in certain territories to fit with an album release promotional cycle and field requests from festival and event promoters and venue bookers. We talk a bit more about them on our blog HERE.
Aggregator (Digital) – Digital Aggregators supply music downloads from labels and artists to many (often 20 or more) online retailers, e.g. iTunes, Amazon, Spotify.
Back Catalogue – This is a collection of an artist/writer’s music e.g. albums, EPs and/or singles. Also known as a ‘discography’
Blanket license – A license issued by a performing rights society that authorizes the public performance of all the songs in the society’s catalog.
Copyright – The legal statute entitling an artist to legally claim rights to an original body of work that they have written and/or performed, preventing unauthorised copying or sampling of the music or lyrics therein. Read more HERE.
Copyright Control – Copyright control means copyright is retained by the writer and not assigned to a third party.
Cover – This is a new version or performance of an original recording by someone other than the artist.
CRM – Customer Relationship Management originated in business enterprise software suites like Oracle and now appears in web services for music. It refers to functions for handling interactions with fans (email database, personal details, communications, activity logs, transaction histories, complaints, etc.).It should be integrated with other platform services e.g. buying, ordering, accounting and soon.
DAW – Stands for Digital Audio Workstation. A DAW is software or a computer program used to record, edit and produce music. Popular DAW software includes ProTools, Logic and Ableton. There are loads of free VSTs that you can use for these, check out a few HERE.
Demo – Demos are a sample of an artist’s work, typically used to present to record labels to give them a taste of their sound. Artists also sometimes send out demos to PR teams to create a buzz for an upcoming release. A demo typically consists of 3-4 of an artist’s strongest songs and can consist of a mix of covers and originals to show off both writing and performing abilities. Want to send your demo out? Read for some advice HERE.
Direct to Fan – Without middlemen. Mail order CDs sold by the band or T-shirts sold at a gig. It’s not a new thing.
Distribution – Welcome to our world! Distribution is the process of getting recorded music into the hands of music listeners. Physical distribution companies sign deals with record labels which allows them to sell that label’s products. The distributor then takes a percentage of the profit from each unit sold and then pays the label the rest. With digital distribution (i.e. us), the process works fairly similar, but instead the distributor will send over the releases in digital formats, such as WAV or FLAC files. Here at Spinnup, we handle digital distribution in-house, meaning you don’t have to worry about dealing with it! You upload your music on our platform, and then we send it over to our Digital Service Providers like Apple Music, Spotify or Deezer. We make sure that you keep 100% of your royalties—we don’t take a cent—and provide you with in-depth streaming and sales data in the Stats section of your account.
DSP – This stands for Digital Service Provider, and is what we (and many other distribution services) call the stores we send your music to, like Spotify and Apple Music. Spinnup has over 35 DSPs, you can check out the full list here.
Dynamic Range – The range between the loudest and softest sounds or passages on a soundtrack and/or sound system can reproduce properly.
EP – Extended Play (EP) describes a release that has more than two tracks, but is too short to be considered a full studio album. EPs are usually a great starting point for an artist wanting to show their skills over a longer format than a single, as it is less expensive to produce than an album, and less of a time commitment. When creating your release on Spinnup, an EP product is defined as one that contains 3-6 tracks in total.
EPK -Short for “electronic press kit”. This is just a computer or web version of an artist’s publicity material: biography, pictures, showreel, news, etc. There are loads of sites with advice on compiling a good one, including ours.
EQ – The abbreviation for the word Equalization. Electronically boosting or cutting the level in certain frequency ranges relative to other frequencies from the same source is commonly referred to as EQing. Equalizers are processing units that adjust the individual levels of specific frequencies within the EQ spectrum.
Freemium – Most streaming platforms have a limited ‘free’-to-use option, usually supported by advertising. This model where users can have limited access in exchange for their time or data, is known as ‘freemium’.
Hook – Another word for a chorus or the key melodic motif in a track—i.e. the catchy part of a song that sticks in your head. Think “If you liked it, then you should’ve put a ring on it.” Whether you liked it or not, you couldn’t avoid singing it at one point.
LP – Long Playing (LP) records were 12 inch 33 rpm vinyl records. They were also known as albums because each would replace several of the shorter-running 78 rpm records. A piece of music or compilation of songs was previously issued as an album of records.
Neighbouring Rights (Copyright) – Generally apply to recordings rather than the published content itself. The rights of performers and broadcasters to recordings of their work are neighbouring rights.
One Sheet – The info sheet for a release; this can contain info about the band, the recording or anything else significant about the release. One sheets are used by labels and distributors to sell a new release. They get their name from the fact that they are (or at least they should be) one page long
QC – This is short for Quality Control
QR Code – A Quick Response (QR) code is a square barcode used to link people to a designated web page. These days you can scan the barcode with a mobile camera or QR app to go straight to the URL.–
Sampling – The process where a portion of an existing recording is used an adappated in the creation of a new recording. Examples include Nina Simone’s ‘Four Women’ being sampled by Jay Z on ‘The Story of O.J” and The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ being sampled on M.I.A.’s ‘Paper Planes’. Always bear in mind that if you don’t receive clearance from the copyright holders of the recording, you are unauthorised to use it, and you risk legal action being taken against you for copyright infringement. For more information on using samples, check out our articlein the Help Centre.Support Slot / ActThis is where a lot of artists starts their career. The support slot or slots are the warm-up sets performed by bands ‘supporting’ the headline act at a gig. These can be great ways for artists to gain exposure to new audiences and to hone their craft. Almost everyone is a support act relative to someone else, which means you can sometimes see a huge name performing a support slot for an even huger one (e.g. Liam Gallagher for The Rolling Stones or James Blake for Kendrick Lamar).Sync/SynchronisationA music synchronisation license, or “sync” license, is a music license granted by the owner or composer of a particular piece of work. This allows the licensee to use the relevant artist’s track in the context of a film, TV show, computer or advert or at an event. Landing a high-profile sync can be a great source of attention for an artist’s music, plus a welcome top-up on income.
Session Musician – A musician who contributes to a recording or a live performance but is not actually a full-time member of the band.
Showcase – An event staged to present a developing act to A&R men (in the hope of getting signed) or to present a signed act to the media for promotion.
Sync License – A Sync License is a publishing license to pay writers for music used in film, video or TV soundtracks. There is no fixed fee for sync licenses. Publishers set or negotiate these fees.
UPC – The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a barcode widely used to track record sales and streams. Similarly to an ISRC, once you distribute your music (either online or physically) you will get a unique UPC which contains 12 numerical digits. An ISRC represents a single track, or recording where as an UPC represents a body of work or product (e.g. an EP or album). If you are releasing your music digitally and physically, you will be provided two separate UPCs.
Now that you know your ABCs of the music industry you’re ready to go out and smash it, we’ll be expecting big things!
And don’t forget to check out our Blog and Artist Guides pages for even more know-how on navigating the ‘biz.