Glossary of Terms

Administrator Publishing company that represents another publisher. An administrator is responsible for registering compositions, licensing and negotiating on behalf of, and collecting and tracking royalties for, the publisher(s) with whom it has a contract.
Affiliate Entering into a membership agreement with a society to represent rights. Artists who own their copyrights can affiliate as both a writer and a publisher with a PRO.
Agent In library music an ‘agent’ is another word for a sub-publisher, a company who represents your main publisher in another territory.
Aggregator A distribution service, such as TuneCore or CD Baby, that provides music to online stores and streaming sites.
All Media In synchronisation licenses, "All Media" is the highest price tier and indicates that the client has paid for the right to distribute the video containing the music anywhere including cinema (theatrical) trailers, TV, radio and online.
Assignment There are two different classes of contract for intellectual property - a license where you retain ownership but grant certain rights, and an assignment where you hand over ownership either in perpetuity or with a reversion clause. Typically writers assign ownership to the library music publisher, and the publisher grants licenses to clients.
Blanket license/blanket deal A blanket license or blanket deal is where your publisher and their agents offer an annual subscription to a client to use anything they want. Different publishers have different systems for how they distribute blanket incomes to writers (including none) so it can be worth asking what method they use.
Broadcast Territory In a licensing deal between your publisher and a client, this clause specifies where the video using your music can be broadcast. It is usually "The World" or even "The Universe" for publishers worried about satellites or the internet not really being in The World.
CAE/IPI number a unique international identifying code assigned to a writer or publisher upon affiliating with a PRO. The acronym stands for Composer Author Publisher (CAE) and Interested Parties Information (IPI). The code is assigned by the CISAC international database and is recognized by all international societies. The CAE/IPI number is often confused with the society (or PRO) account number which (unlike the CAE/IPI) is specific to the society in each territory. After affiliation with a PRO is complete, it takes about a week for the CAE/IPI to be issued.
Catalogue Acquisition Large publishers often buy up smaller publishers due to the enduring stable royalty-earning value of their library music catalogues. When this happens to your publisher you could lose your main point of contact (if they don’t join the buyer as an employee), and your music could become buried in the sea of their millions of tracks. Alternatively your music could get a new lease of life thanks to their bigger clients. Either way, an acquisition can change your fortunes if all your work is for one company.
Clearance One of the worst nightmares for any brand, film studio, trailer house, TV producer or network is for them to broadcast music in a production which wasn’t legally cleared (it has no license or the license doesn’t grant the permission they needed) and then becomes subject to takedown notices or penalty fees. Therefore, production company staff in music decision roles need to be knowledgeable about ‘clearance’ - what permission is needed from whom and the terms of the license agreement to enable the usage they require. Major film studios employ independent clearance specialists who do nothing but send out carefully worded quote requests and licenses all day.
Composition/Song words and melody – in licensing, can be referred to as the publishing side. This copyright is registered as a PA (Work of the Performing Arts) with the Library of Congress.
Consent Form If you have a performer on your library music track, make sure you tell your library publisher and send them a signed consent form, where the performer hands over the copyright in their performance in return for a fee. Without this you and your publisher are exposed to copyright infringement claims from the performer.
ContentID ContentID is the system YouTube uses to automatically detect an infringing use of music in videos, place advertising in the videos and then distribute revenue to the rights holder (your library music publisher). Many publishers go through an intermediary (ContentID partner) like AdRev or EMVN who handle the admin in return for a share of the income.
Copyright Claimant Individual or company with copyright ownership
Cue Sheet a document created by the production company which lists all music used within a television program, special or movie. It includes song title, writer and publisher information, song duration and use type. It is the production company’s responsibility to file cue sheets, but the rights holder should ensure that the appropriate PRO(s) receives all cue sheets containing his works so that they are properly and timely registered.
Cut Downs Also known as ‘edits’ - library publishers and their clients often expect very accurately timed short versions of the main version of your tracks at 15s, 30s and 60s.
CWR Common Works Registration – a standardized format and protocol developed by CISAC to manage the registration of works between rights holders and rights societies worldwide.
Distribution Platform A library music distribution platform is a software or cloud based system for organizing the audio, cover art and metadata and sharing it all with agents and clients around the world. The biggest platforms in library music are Harvest Media, SourceAudio and Soundminer.
End Riser In trailer music the end riser is the final overpowering crescendo of a trailer, typically stopping suddenly with no resolution to give a sense of a tense cliffhanger which can only be resolved by going to watch the movie.
Exclusive Publishers Traditional library publishers who ask for exclusive ownership of the music in return for their greater marketing pull are often referred to by composers as ‘exclusive publishers’. Note, this doesn’t mean that you are tied to only work for one publisher as is often the case for nonlibrary music publishers - deals are done on an album-by-album basis.
Fingerprinting a method of audio recognition by which a computer program identifies an audio track by matching its profile against an existing database. Fingerprinting enables users to track a piece of music without embedding data into the original audio file prior to delivery. Any piece of music, no matter how old or new, can be fingerprinted from a copy of the original master (as long as source-file integrity has been maintained) and tracked on a going forward basis.
In Perpetuity “In perpetuity" ownership of your music is expected by large traditional music libraries and means ownership for the life of copyright (until 70 years after your death when the music becomes public domain).
Infringement Copyright infringement is going on everywhere. You might be accidentally using someone else’s tunes or re-using your own. Someone might be giving away your music on a torrent site. A scammer could be claiming your music as theirs. A production company in a far off land might be using your music everywhere and getting away with it. Solutions include tune detection software to catch people, ContentID partners to make money out of it, and Professional Indemnity Insurance to bail you out if you a case goes against you.
International Standard Audiovisual Number (ISAN) a unique identifier for audiovisual works and related versions, similar to ISBN for books. The ISAN is recommended or required as the audiovisual identifier of choice for producers, studios, broadcasters, Internet media providers and video games publishers who need to encode, track, and distribute video in a variety of formats.
It provides a unique, internationally recognized and permanent reference number for each audiovisual work and related versions registered in the ISAN system. ISAN identifies works throughout their entire life cycle and can be incorporated in digital and physical media, such as theatrical release prints, DVDs, publications, advertising, marketing materials and packaging, as well as licensing contracts to uniquely identify works. An ISAN is a centrally registered and permanently assigned reference number. This metadata applies to all types of audiovisual works, including their related versions of trailers, excerpts, videos and broadcasts.
International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) a 16-digit identifier to identify public identities of contributors to media content such as books, TV programs, and newspaper articles. ISNI can be used to disambiguate names that might otherwise be confused, and links the data about names that are collected and used in all sectors of the media industries. ISNI allows a single identity (such as an author’s pseudonym or the imprint used by a publisher) to be identified using a unique number. An example of the use of such a number is the identification of a musical performer who is also a writer both of music and of poems. Where he or she might currently be identified in many different databases using numerous private and public identification systems, under the ISNI system, he or she would have a single linked ISNI record. Enables more precise searching for information online and in databases, and can aid management of rights across national borders and in the digital environment.
ISRC International Standard Recording Code is a unique identifying code assigned to sound recordings (and music video recordings) by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the U.S. ISRCs are 12 characters long beginning with letters. Although it is associated with the master recording, it is referenced by publishers in mechanical licensing, streaming and royalty reporting.
ISWC International Standard Work Code – this code is assigned to compositions by the ISWC agency as part of a standardization initiative by CISAC. It is unique for each composition, and remains the same across all societies internationally. An ISWC is a 9-digit number beginning with the letter T. After a work is registered with a PRO, the ISWC will be automatically assigned. ISWCs (if assigned) can be found on the song level in your PRO online account.
Master/Sound Recording audio recording of a specific performance (of a composition) – often controlled by a record label. This copyright is registered as SR (Sound Recording) with the Library of Congress.
Mechanical income Mechanical (often shortened to ‘mech’) income is from licenses granted for the use of music traditionally as part of a manufacture e.g. in trailers, menus and extras included on Blu Ray discs. This income stream is collected by your publisher alongside synchronisation (sync) income and shared with you as per the terms of your Writer Agreement. Mechanical royalties also now come from streaming video services like Netflix even though there’s nothing mechanical happening.
Moral Rights Unlike traditional music publishing contracts, library music contracts will always expect you to ‘waive your moral rights’ meaning that you have no right to object to any possible use of your music. This is necessary for the benefit of making the catalogue widely available for instant licensing by clients but does open the risk to your music becoming launch party music for a new fighter jet, or a diabolical politician’s chosen rally anthem.
Needledrop License Harking back to vinyl days, a ‘needledrop license’ is a common US term for a ‘synchronisation license’.
Non-Exclusive Publishing Rights A non-exclusive agreement means that the two parties agree as to the provision of goods or services, but can also contract with other parties as to those same goods or services.
Non-Interactive Streaming Internet radio – generates performance royalties paid to PROs only.
PRO Performing Rights Organization – a society representing songwriters and publishers which licenses performing rights and collects royalties from radio stations, TV networks, venues and streaming services. ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are PROs in the United States.
Published Work with respect to music copyright – a work that has been commercially released to the public, whether by a label or online distribution service. A published work is registered as a SR or PA with the Library of Congress.
Publisher owner of the copyright of a composition. Songwriters own and control this right automatically unless they have transferred it via a publishing or administration deal, respectively.
Publisher’s Share In royalty splits, the Publisher’s Share is their split of synchronisation (sync), mechanical (mech) and performance royalties after you’ve had your Writer’s Share.
Publishing entity / publisher designee the publishing company name chosen by a songwriter or music publisher.
Reversion Clause In publishing and recording contracts a ‘reversion clause’ states that the ownership will return to the Writer after a specified term, or under certain conditions. No traditional library music publishers offer such a clause - they want your music in perpetuity so that they can build up long term value in a fixed set of recordings which clients can depend on to stay pre-cleared and and available - not randomly taken out of the catalogue without them realising.
Rights Holder A right holder refers to a legal entity or person with exclusive rights to a protected copyright, trademark or patent, and the related rights of producers, performers, producers and broadcasters. A right holder may license a portion or all of a protected work through international legal and licensing provisions.
Sting A sting is a short bit of sound such as a stab or chord which has the character of your main track but the editor can use it alone as an ending or to sync to an edit or transition.
Sub-publisher administrator that represents a publisher or administrator in another territory. A sub-publisher can have many functions, from registering the client’s compositions with the societies in that territory, to exploiting and licensing the compositions in that territory.
Tag or tagging (also Metadata) refers to a keyword or term assigned to – and/or embedded in – a piece of information (such a digital image, Web site, music or computer file). This kind of metadata helps describe an item and enables it to be found again by browsing or searching.
Term In contract law the ‘Term’ is the length of time that the contract lasts for - often forever (‘in perpetuity’).
Unpublished Work a work that has been fixed in some medium, such as in writing or an audio recording, but has not yet been released to the public. An unpublished work is registered as SRu or Pau with the Library of Congress.
Watermarking enables users to embed specific information about a piece of music, or even about the end user of that music. This provides tremendous benefits for discerning entitlement changes on different uses of the same piece of music (i.e., in lieu of re-titling), or for forensically tracing the source of unauthorized file sharing.
Work Number/Work ID Number assigned by a performing or mechanical rights society to each composition. It is specific to the society where the composition is being registered, such as ASCAP Work ID or HFA Song Code.
Writer creator of the composition – can be Composer (creator of music), Author (creator of lyrics) or both.
Writer’s Share In both performance income (from PROs) and sync/mech income (from library publishers) the "Writer’s Share" is the split of royalties going to the writer (composer) of the music.