MUSIC PUBLISHING GLOSSARY

Use this helpful glossary to better understand the language of music publishing!

Music Publishing
6 Exclusive Rights of a Copyright
Administrator
Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA)
Black Box Royalties
Blanket License
CAE
Catalog
Controlled Composition
Controlled Composition Clause
Compulsory License
Compulsory Mechanical License
Copyright
Copyright Royalty Board (CRB)
Cross Collateralization
Cue Sheet
Derivative Work
Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
DPD
DRM
Fair Use
First Use
Foreign Mechanicals
Infringement
IPI
ISRC
ISWC
Independent Publishers
Intellectual Property
Interactive Streaming
Major Publishers
Master Recording
Mechanical Royalties
Music Supervisor
Neighbouring Rights
Performance Royalties
Performing Rights Organization (PRO)
ASCAP
BMI
SESAC
Harry Fox Agency
SOCAN
CMRRA
PRS
MCPS
SoundExchange
RIAA
NMPA
AIMP
Printed Music Royalties
Public Domain
Rate Per Song
Reversion Clause
Royalties
Sampling
Score
Statutory Mechanical Royalty Rate
Sub-publisher
Sync Licensing Fees
U.S. Copyright Office
Work For Hire
 

Music Publishing
The business of protecting and promoting song copyrights and collecting the royalties that these copyrights generate. Think of a song as intellectual property (it’s an original piece of art!), and music publishing as the business that makes sure that songwriters get paid a fair compensation when their intellectual property is used by companies. Those companies could be record labels (mechanical royalties), radio stations, bars, and restaurants (performance royalties), or film studios and advertising agencies (sync license fees), and many more. Note that music publishing pays royalties only to the writer of a song, not to performers (so Bob Dylan, not Jimi Hendrix, gets the music publishing royalties for ‘All Along The Watchtower’). See below for more about royalties.

 

6 Exclusive Rights of a Copyright
  1. To reproduce the copyrighted work in copies or phonorecords (physical or digital format);
  2. To prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;
  3. To distribute copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  4. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and motion pictures and other audiovisual works, to perform the copyrighted work publicly;
  5. In the case of literary, musical, dramatic, and choreographic works, pantomimes, and pictorial, graphic, or sculptural works, including the individual images of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, to display the copyrighted work publicly; and
  6. In the case of sound recordings, to perform the copyrighted work publicly by means of a digital audio transmission.

 

Administrator
Responsible for supervising finances and copyright matters for a song or catalog. An administrator’s primary role is to protect song copyrights, collect royalties, issue licenses and insure that songwriters are paid accordingly.  All major publishers and most independents handle administration for the catalogs they own and control internally.  Smaller publishers and many individual songwriters who don’t want to sell their copyrights sign deals with companies that focus exclusively on providing administration services without taking an ownership interest.

 

Audio Home Recording Act (AHRA)
An act passed by Congress that made it legal for consumers to copy records at home for private, non-commercial without fear of committing copyright infringement. This act also imposed a tax on digital audio recorders and digital audiotapes, a portion of which would be paid as royalties to the record industry

 

Black Box Royalties
Unclaimed royalties for which a publisher or writer is named but cannot be traced by a collection society. Writers who are owed royalties but cannot be found are often referred to as “lost” writers.  Many US songwriters who sell their music internationally, but are not signed to a publishing company with representation abroad, often become “lost” writers and lose their mechanical royalties. See Foreign Mechanicals for more.

 

Blanket License
A type of license issued by a performing rights society allowing a music user to play or perform all compositions controlled by all publishers represented by that society. The user will generally pay a yearly fee that allows them to use all licensed songs without limit. Blanket licenses are typically issued to nightclubs, TV networks and radio stations.  Music publishers sometimes enter into “blanket licenses” with specific outlets with respect to their catalogs.  For example, a publisher might give a television production company a “blanket license” to utilize any song in their catalog (or a limited list of songs) for a previously agreed upon rate.  This would be in lieu of securing an individual sync license for each use.

 

CAE
Composer, Author and Publisher. This 9-digit number is used to uniquely identify a songwriter or publisher. CAE numbers are also referred to as IPI (Interested Parties Information) numbers. The CAE system was replaced by the IPI system – the new industry standard – in 2001, but the two are often used interchangeably. Rightsholders are assigned CAE/IPI numbers when they are granted membership to a PRO. You can find the CAE/IPI of an affiliated songwriter or publisher by performing a repertory search at ASCAP or BMI. Your CAE number is not the same as your ASCAP member ID or BMI account number.

 

Catalog
A collection of works controlled by a songwriter or publisher.

 

Controlled Composition
A song that is written, co-written or owned by the artist on whose album it appears. See below for more about controlled composition clauses and how they affect artist contracts.

 

Controlled Composition Clause
A clause in some artist contracts that limits how much record labels will pay for songs written, co-written, or owned (and therefore “controlled”) by the artist on whose album it appears. The record company will generally pay the publisher of the controlled composition a reduced rate, which tends to vary from 50 – 75 percent of the statutory rate. For example, if Lady Gaga writes a song that is recorded and released on her next album, her record label will typically pay her publisher only 50 – 75 percent of the statutory rate she would normally be owed as a songwriter. However, this is usually limited to physical sales.  Almost all digital downloads are paid at the full mechanical rate, irrespective of whether a writer is controlled or not.  See below for more about statutory rates.

 

Compulsory License
An exception to copyright law that grants permission to anyone wishing to use your work, whether or not you want to grant the license. Compulsory licenses must be be issued for use in cable television rebroadcast, on Public Broadcasting System (PBS), in jukeboxes, for digital  performance of records and as phonorecords and digital recordings. The latter are referred to as compulsory mechanical licenses. See below for more about compulsory mechanical licenses.

 

Compulsory Mechanical License
An exception to copyright law that grants permission to anyone wishing to re-record a song that has already been commercially released. For instance, if you (or anyone else) wanted to re-record a version of “Light My Fire” (or any other song that has been commercially released), you would not need explicit permission from the Doors’ publisher, so long as they were paid at least the statutory rate (the royalty rate as defined by copyright laws) of 9.1¢ per song for each copy sold. See below for more about statutory rates.

 

Copyright
Rights granted by law to the creator of an original work. The creator of such a work (like a songwriter, author, or artist) is entitled to the right to copy, distribute and adapt the work (whether it’s a piece of music, a book, an image, etc.). Under United States Copyright Law, as soon as you make a tangible copy of something, you have a copyright. Simply put, if you sing a song in your head, you have no copyright. But once you write it down or record it, your work is copyrighted. See below for more about copyright rights.

 

Copyright Royalty Board (CRB)
The CRB consists of three US judges who are responsible for setting statutory royalty rates for compulsory licenses. This is the board that periodically sets the statutory mechanical royalty rate, which is currently 9.1¢ per track or 1.75¢ for each minute of playing time, whichever is greater.

 

Cross Collateralization
A common clause in recording contracts that allows a party to recoup an advance against royalties from other sources or contracts. For example, if your label also owns your publishing rights, it could keep your publishing royalties until you recoup your recording advance.

 

Cue Sheet
A document usually created by the production company of an audio-visual work (film, TV show, etc.) that lists all music used within the program and accompanying information. The production company of a TV show, film or other audiovisual work using music should send a cue sheet to the relevant PROs. These PROs then use the information provided on cue sheets to properly collect and allocate royalties. A cue sheet should contain song title, writer and publisher information, song duration and use type.

 

Derivative Work
A work based on a pre-existing work. This can be a translation, dramatization, fictionalization, art reproduction, abridged or condensed version, or any other transformation or adaption of a work. Under U.S. Copyright Law, the only person who can grant the rights for a derivative work to be created is the holder of the copyright for the original work. For example, Kanye Wests’s Stronger, which samples Daft Punk’s Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, is considered to be a derivative work because it is based on a pre-existing song.

 

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)
A federal anti-piracy law that makes it illegal to create and/or use technology that allows people to bypass measures intended to restrict access to copyrighted material. The DMCA also criminalizes the distribution of copyright-protected material, and targets music, film, and software piracy in particular.

 

DPD
Digital Phonorecord Delivery. DPD is the technical term for the digital download of a sound recording. For example, an iTunes download is a DPD.

 

DRM
Digital Rights Management. A term for the practice of restricting or controlling how digital content is used on electronic devices. For example, a download that can only be activated on a set number of devices has DRM.

 

Fair Use
An exception and limitation to the exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder of a creative work. If something falls under the doctrine of Fair Use, someone can use the copyrighted material in a limited way without acquiring permission from the rightsholder. Commentary, search engines, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship may be considered Fair Use in certain situations.

 

First Use
An element of copyright law that grants the publisher or copyright owner control over the work’s first use. Though the custom is to charge the statutory rate, the publisher or copyright owner can decide who gets to record a copyrighted work for the first time and how much to charge them. See below for more about statutory rates.

 

Foreign Mechanicals
Royalties paid to a publisher for the sale of copyrighted songs in foreign territories.  Unlike US mechanical royalties, foreign mechanicals do not have a fixed penny rate, but usually are paid as a percentage of the wholesale price (generally between 6 and 12%, depending on the territory.)  Foreign mechanicals are collected by local societies such as GEMA in Germany and SACEM in France.  If a US songwriter does not collect their foreign mechanicals within a set period of time (generally 6 – 18 months, depending on the territory) then the society will usually distribute those royalties to local publishers as “black box” income.

 

Infringement
The unlicensed use of works under copyright. Infringement occurs when someone other than the rightsholder violates one of the rightsholder’s exclusive rights. In music publishing, the 6 exclusive rights are Reproduction, Derivation, Public Display, Public Performance, Distribution and Digital Transmission. For more information, see 6 Exclusive Rights of a Copyright.

 

IPI
Interested Parties Information. This 9-digit number is used to uniquely identify a songwriter or publisher. IPI numbers are also referred to as CAE (Composer, Author and Publisher) numbers. The IPI database replaced the CAE database as the industry standard in 2001, but the two are often used interchangeably. Rightsholders are assigned IPI numbers when they are granted membership to a PRO. You can find the IPI of an affiliated songwriter or publisher by performing a repertory search at ASCAP or BMI. Your IPI number is not the same as your ASCAP member ID or BMI account number.

 

ISRC
International Standard Recording Code. This 12-character alphanumeric code is used to uniquely identify a sound recording. One song can have multiple ISRCs if the song has been recorded, remixed or edited more than once. Publishers, collection societies and music services use ISRCs to match master recordings to underlying compositions. ISRCs are typically assigned by your label or distributor.
An ISRC looks like this: US-S1Z-99-00001

 

ISWC
International Standard Musical Work Code. This 11-character alphanumeric code is used to uniquely identify a musical work. Each song should only have one ISWC, but arrangements, adaptations and translations should receive their own unique ISWCs. ISWCs are issued by your PRO, so if your works are already registered with your PRO, they have been assigned ISWCs.
An ISWC looks like this: T-123.456.789-Z

 

Independent Publishers
Music publishing companies that are independent from major recorded music businesses. Examples of independent publishers include Bug Music, Downtown Music Publishing, and Imagem.

 

Intellectual Property
Any product of someone’s intellect that has commercial value. This includes any form of creative expression and knowledge (like symbols, names, and images), whether it is documented or undocumented. Intellectual property can be protected through copyrights, patents, trademarks, and trade secrets laws. For example, Nike’s signature check mark logo is protected through trademark, and Coca-Cola’s secret recipe for Coke is protected through trade secrets law. Visit the World Intellectual Property Organization’s website for more information.

 

Interactive Streaming
An “on-demand” stream of a track that doesn’t require the listener to download the file. Interactive streams allow listeners to listen to recordings at their request, thus generating mechanical royalties. Interactive streaming services, like Spotify, pay both performance and mechanical royalties, unlike non-interactive streaming services, like Pandora, which pay only performance royalties.

 

Major Publishers
Major music publishing companies. Major music publishers, as opposed to independent publishers, tend to be affiliated with the major recorded music businesses. Examples of major music publishers include Warner/Chappell, EMI, Universal, and Sony/ATV.  BMG Rights Management, a venture between the buy-out firm KKR and Bertelsmann, has acquired many independent publishers and though not affiliated with a major record company, is now considered to be a “Major Publisher.”

 

Master Recording
A complete, original recording from which copies are made. Master recordings are usually controlled by a label, whereas the underlying compositions iare usually controlled by a publisher. A master recording’s copyright is represented by the “℗” symbol meaning “phonogram”.

 

Mechanical Royalties
Royalties earned through the reproduction of copyrighted works in digital and physical formats. Songwriters are paid mechanical royalties per song sold, downloaded and on certain digital formats. The standard mechanical rate for sales is set by the US Copyright Office and is called the statutory rate. The current statutory rate (it frequently changes to reflect increases in the cost of living) is 9.1¢ per track or 1.75¢ for each minute of playing time, whichever is greater. In other words, if a label releases your song on iTunes, you can generally expect to receive 9.1¢ for every download. Certain interactive digital streaming services, like Spotify (but not Internet radio services like Pandora), must pay mechanical royalties, however these rates are calculated differently. If you self-release your music via a distribution service like CD Baby, for example, your mechanical royalties from sales are generally bundled into your artist royalty and paid to you directly.  However, for sales outside of the United States, your mechanical royalties are not generally bundled with your artist royalty and often require the services of a publishing administrator to collect.

 

Music Supervisor
The person responsible for selecting the music to be used within an audiovisual production, such as a film or TV show. The Music Supervisor may also have the responsibility of acquiring the necessary licenses for the music uses selected.

 

Neighbouring Rights
The public performance right associated with the copyright of a master recording. Neighbouring rights, also called ‘related rights’, are similar to the public performance right associated with compositions, but they are paid to master recording owners (usually the label) and performers, rather than songwriters and publishers. In the US, neighbouring rights are only recognized for non-interactive digital transmissions, like satellite and digital radio (Sirius XM, Pandora). Only nations that have signed and ratified the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations of 1961 (not the US) recognize neighbouring rights across a broader spectrum of uses, like terrestrial radio.

 

Performance Royalties
Payments made to a songwriter or publisher for the public performance or broadcast of a musical work. Public performance refers to playing a song on the radio, on television, in bars and nightclubs, at concert venues, and other public places. Performance royalties are collected by performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

 

Performing Rights Organization (PRO)
Societies responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast. Public performances can include play in television, radio, clubs, restaurants, websites, or other broadcasting systems. PROs collect fees from these establishments which they then pay to their registered songwriters. The PROs in the United States are ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. See below for more about each of these PROs.

 

ASCAP
The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. One of the three PROs in the United States. Visit ASCAP’s official website for more information.

 

BMI
Broadcast Music, Inc. One of the three PROs in the United States. Visit BMI’s official website for more information.

 

SESAC
Originally, the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers. SESAC is the smallest of the three PROs in the United States and membership is by invitation-only. Visit SESAC’s official website for more information.

 

Harry Fox Agency
The foremost mechanical licensing, collections, and distribution agency for U.S. music publishers. The Harry Fox Agency is the biggest licensor of mechanical and digital uses of music in the United States, including CDs, digital services, records, tapes and imported phonorecords. In short, Harry Fox issues mechanical licenses on behalf of a publisher, makes sure users pay for use of these licenses, and accounts to the publisher. Harry Fox charges a percentage of total revenue for its work. Visit the Harry Fox Agency’s official website for more information.

 

SOCAN
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. As the foremost PRO in Canada, SOCAN is the Canadian counterpart of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. Visit SOCAN’s official website for more information.

 

CMRRA
Canadian Mechanical Rights Reproduction Agency. The foremost mechanical licensing, collections, and distribution agency for Canadian music publishers. CMRRA is the Harry Fox Agency’s Canadian counterpart. Visit CMRRA’s official website for more information.

 

PRS
Performing Right Society. As the foremost PRO in the UK, PRS is the UK counterpart of ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. PRS partnered with MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society), the Harry Fox Agency’s UK counterpart, in 1997 to manage both performance and mechanical rights. Their partnership is called “PRS for Music”. Visit PRS for Music’s official website for more information.

 

MCPS
Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society. The foremost mechanical licensing, collections, and distribution agency for UK music publishers. MCPS is the Harry Fox Agency’s UK counterpart. MCPS partnered with PRS (Performing Right Society), ASCAP, BMI and SESAC’s UK counterpart, in 1997 to manage both performance and mechanical rights. Their partnership is called “PRS for Music”. Visit PRS for Music’s official website for more information.

 

SoundExchange
A performance rights organization that collects and distributes royalties from platforms like satellite radio (like Sirius XM), internet radio (like Pandora) and cable television stations (like Music Choice). SoundExchange is a non-profit PRO, and is the only American entity that collects and distributes royalties earned by artists through these platforms.  SoundExchange works on behalf of record companies and artists whereas ASCAP, BMI and SESAC work on behalf of music publishers and songwriters.  For example, when Pandora streams Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” SESAC accounts to Bob Dylan and his publisher for the performance of his song copyright and SoundExchange accounts to Jimi Hendrix and his record company for the performance of the specific master recording.  Visit SoundExchange’s official website for more information.

 

RIAA
Recording Industry Association of America. The trade association representing the American recorded music industry. Its members include record labels and distributors. The RIAA lists the following as its goals as: to protect intellectual property rights and the First Amendment rights of artists, to perform research about the music industry, and to monitor and review relevant laws, regulations and policies. Visit the RIAA’s official website for more information.

 

NMPA
National Music Publishers Association. The trade association representing American music publishers and their songwriting partners. The NMPA’s mandate is to protect and advance the interests of music publishers and songwriters in matters relating to the domestic and global protection of music copyrights. Visit the NMPA’s official website for more information.

 

AIMP
The Association of Independent Music Publishers. A trade organization whose members include independent music publishers and other members of the entertainment community. The AIMP’s mandate is to educate music publishers and other entities about current industry trends and platforms. Visit the AIMP’s official website for more information.

 

Printed Music Royalties
Payments made to a publisher for the sale of printed sheet music, which can take the form of musical notation and/or lyrics. Printed music royalties are generally paid directly to the publisher, and can vary depending on the type of sheet music and whether it’s a physical or digital print.

 

Public Domain
Works that don’t have intellectual property protection are in the public domain, and can be used by anyone and for any purpose without the need of permission or the payment of a fee to the original composer. A work can be in the public domain because of its copyright or patent protection has expired, because it is a government work, or for a number of other reasons.  An example of a work in the public domain is Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. See above for more about intellectual property.

 

Rate Per Song
The mechanical royalty amount owed to the publisher per song for each copy of the song that is distributed and/or downloaded. The rate per song is often based on a statutory rate set by the Copyright Statute (which is currently 9.1¢ per track or 1.75¢ for each minute of playing time, whichever is greater), but there are exceptions in which the rate per song is less than the full statutory rate. See below for more about statutory rates.

 

Reversion Clause
A clause included in some publishing contracts stating that ownership of some or all works contained within the agreement will revert back to the songwriter after a certain period of time or if certain conditions are met, like successful placement on a major label release.

 

Royalties
Payments made on a per-use basis. In the context of music publishing, royalties refer to the income earned through the use of a song. This can include album sales, digital downloads, streams, radio airplay and a host of other forms through which songs earn income for songwriters and music publishers. See below for more about different kinds of royalties.

 

Sampling
The act of taking material from a previously existing sound recording and incorporating it into an entirely new sound recording. Sampling began as a technique used by experimental composers, but became became a popular production technique in 1970′s hip-hop culture and then spread to electronic music and other genres. In order to avoid copyright infringement, samples almost always require a license to use the sound recording and often require a license to use the underlying composition.

 

Score
The music composed for an audiovisual work, such as a film or TV show. Scores are often used to create a specific mood in a way that a perviously existing, licensed work cannot. Scores are often written by a composer as a “work for hire” by the production company. This means that while the composer is the creator of the musical works, he was paid by the production company specifically to do so. Therefore, the musical works fall under the scope of his employment and are owned by the production company, not the composer.

 

Statutory Mechanical Royalty Rate
The rate set forth by the Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel for compulsory mechanical licenses. Assuming the work has been previously released to the public, this is the licensing fee the licensee can pay to sell a cover version of a song without having to obtain direct permission from the rightsholder. In the US, this rate is currently set at 9.1¢ per track or 1.75¢ for each minute of playing time, whichever is greater.

 

Sub-publisher
A Sub-Publisher is a company that is assigned the right to administer songs outside of a publisher’s territory.  For example, an American publisher would engage the services of a sub-publisher in Germany to handle its affairs in that country.

 

Sync Licensing Fees
Payments made to a songwriter or music publisher for permission to use a song in “sync” with visual images on a screen. More specifically, sync refers to the use of a song in television, movies, and commercials. Sync royalties are generally a one-time sum paid directly to the publisher. For example, when the CW uses The xx’s “Crystalised” or Sebastien Tellier’s “La Ritournelle” in Gossip Girl, the publishers representing those songs are paid directly for the use of the music.  In addition to the sync license fee, songwriters and publishers also benefit from Performance Royalties when the program is aired in certain instances.  See Performance Royalties for more information.

 

U.S. Copyright Office
The official government body that maintains records of copyright registration in the United States. Your work is technically copyrighted once it’s in tangible form, but registering it with the U.S. copyright office is an additional way to protect your copyright. In order to file an infringement action (to recover damages or stop someone from using your copyright without your permission), your work needs to be registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Visit the UCO’s official website for more information.

 

Work For Hire
A musical work prepared by an employee within the scope of his employment. Work For Hire situations are common in film, TV and advertising. Production companies often hire a composer to write works specifically for a project. Rather than the composer retaining ownership of the work and subsequently licensing its synchronization use to the production company, the company retains ownership of the copyright after its creation and compensates the composer in the form of a fee.