A new version of a song or composition inspired by an original work

A set of administrative and business activities related to the catalogue of works or individual works of the author (i.e., registration of works with PROs, registration of copyrights, issuing of all types of licenses either directly, through a collection company or agent / copyright owner), collection and distribution of fees and royalties and all other responsibilities related to the use of the musical work and / or sound recording.

A partnership deal in which a songwriter contracts with a publishing administrator. In this arrangement, the songwriter keeps 100 percent ownership of the copyright and pays an administrative fee to the publisher/administrator. The administrator usually provides administrative services only and does not offer any creative services. Other such agreements include co-publishing, work-for-hire, and exclusive songwriter agreements.

A music industry professional who is responsible for supervising finances and copyright matters for a song or a catalogue. An administrator’s primary role is to protect song copyrights, collect royalties, issue licenses and ensure that songwriters are paid accordingly. All major publishers and most independent publishers deal with the administration of their catalogues internally. Some smaller publishers and many songwriters who do not want to sell their copyrights sign deals that solely provide administrative services without taking an ownership interest.

In the context of music publishing, an advance is the payment a songwriter receives upon signing a type of publishing contract. Advances are recoupable in the sense that a publisher collects royalties and keeps the income to the amount of the advance that the songwriter received.

An arranger is a composer of an element or elements of a musical composition, ie. string parts, horn, orchestral parts etc. Usually these elements are outside the ability of the songwriter and this is largely a technical role. An arranger must be differentiated from a producer, who determines the overall tone and feel of a musical work.


These are unclaimed royalties for which the writer or publisher cannot be traced by a collection society. Writers that cannot be found who are owed royalties are referred to as “lost” writers, especially when it comes to collecting mechanical royalties internationally.

A blanket license is a type of license that is issued by a performing rights organisation allowing a music user to play or perform all compositions controlled by all publishers represented by this PRO. The user usually pays a yearly fee and that allows them to use all licensed songs. This license is typical for clubs, TV networks and radio stations. The rate is usually negotiated and includes an individual sync licence for each use.


A catalogue is a collection of works, controlled by a songwriter or a publisher.

A CMO is an international organisation alternative to a North American based PRO – performing rights organisation. They register, track and collect royalties that the works of rights owners generate, and they pay out performance royalties on the writer’s share. Terms and conditions vary based on territory, especially regarding the collection of mechanical royalties.

A publishing agreement in which a songwriter assigns a certain percentage of his copyright to a publisher. The subject of this agreement are administrative and creative services. A songwriter is typically paid an advance on their royalties.

A person that work on or contributes to an original work in addition to a songwriter.

Organisations who track, collect and pay out royalties to copyright owners. This is a general term referring to collective management organizations and performing rights organizations.

A composer is a person who creates music and melody.

A composition is the musical content and lyrics that are subject to intellectual property. This term doesn’t refer to the recording of a musical work.

A license which is an exception to the US copyright law that grants permission to anyone wishing to use a songwriter’s work without them granting permission. This license is issued to cable television broadcast on the PBS (public broadcasting system), in jukeboxes, for digital performance of records, as phonorecords and digital recordings.

A license which is an exception to the US copyright law that grants permission to anyone wishing to re-record a song that has been commercially released. The copyright law only defines a statutory rate that the artist would pay to the publisher.

Copyright is a right granted by law to the creator of an original work. A songwriter, an author or artist is entitled to the right to copy, distribute and adapt their work. Most laws consider your copyright to stem from the moment your work is finished and registered in some tangible form, as a demo or as notes.

Copyright registration is a record that states the date of a work and its contents. The copyright owner can produce copies of the work and is protected against infringement or plagiarism.

A cue sheet is a document created by the production company of an audio-visual work (eg. film, TV show), that lists all music used within the program and its accompanying information. Cue sheets are sent to the relevant PROs and the collection and allocation of royalties is then properly ensured.


A derivative work is based on a pre-existing work in the form of a translation, dramatisation, fictionalisation, art reproduction, abridged or condensed version or a similar adaptation of a work. Copyright law determines whether it is the copyright holder who can grant the right for the derivative work to be created.

A DSP, i.e., Amazon or iTunes, is an entity that provides digital services within a networked ecosystem of other service providers and consumers. They principally drive all interactions online and are consumed via devices.


A type of contract in which a songwriter signs off the entire publisher’s share on songs written under such an agreement to the publishing company. In exchange, he is paid regular advances on royalties.

The term “exploit” in the legal sense refers to the right to develop and make use of the work the copyright holder owns and can license and collect royalties on.


Fair use is a term describing an exception or a limitation to otherwise exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder of a creative work, where another party can use the copyrighted material in a limited way without a specific permission from the rightsholder, i.e., a commentary, criticism, news reporting, teaching, library archiving, etc.

Mechanical royalties have a fixed rate in the U.S., however in foreign territories they are usually paid as a percentage of the wholesale price (6-12%). Foreign mechanicals are paid to the publisher for the sale of copyrighted songs in foreign territories. They are collected by local societies, such as GEMA (Germany) or SDRM (France) and if they are not collected by a U.S. songwriter within a set period of time, they are distributed to local publishers as part of the black box income.


Publishing companies that are independent from major recorded music businesses.

Infringement is an unlicensed use of a work which is subject to copyright and thus a violation of a rights holder’s exclusive rights. In music publishing this means the violation of the right to reproduce, derivate, display, perform publicly, distribute and digitally transmit.

Intellectual Property is a legal term defining a conceptual product that has commercial value and includes creative expression and knowledge. It can be protected through copyright, patents, trademarks, and through trade secret laws. More information on the World Intellectual Property Organisation website.

An interactive stream is defined as a stream that doesn’t require a listener to download the file to listen to the recording. It allows a listener to listen at their request and thus generates mechanical royalties. Interactive streaming platforms pay both performance and mechanical royalties (i.e., Spotify), non-interactive platforms pay only performance royalties (i.e., Pandora).

An IPI is a nine digit number which is used to uniquely identify a songwriter or a publisher. In 2001, the IPI database replaced the CAE database, but the two numbers are still used interchangeably. A rights holder is assigned an IPI number when they are granted membership to a PRO. An IPI number is not the same as a member ID or an account number.

An ISRC is a 12 digit code composed of letters and numbers used to identify a unique sound recording. One song can have many ISRC codes for each remix, edit, or specific recording. Publishers, collection societies and music services use ISRC codes to match a master recording and its underlying composition. ISRC is usually assigned by a label or a distributor.

An ISWC is an 11 digit code composed of letters and numbers used to identify a unique musical work. A song has only one ISWC, whereas arrangements, adaptations or translations receive their own unique ISWC. They are issued by collection societies when works are registered with them.


A joint work is a music work which has more than one writer. It’s co-authorship.


A letter of direction is a formal notice to a collection society that informs them that a publisher will take over the administrative control of a songwriter’s catalogue.

A license refers to an agreement to use a music work or an audiovisual project. A synchronization license grants the use of a music composition in an audiovisual work and a master use license grants the use of a music recording (master) in an audiovisual work.


A master recording is a complete recording, an original recording from which all subsequent recordings are made. Typically, master recordings are controlled by a label, while underlying compositions are controlled by a publisher. A master recording’s copyright is represented by the Ⓟ symbol, meaning “phonogram”.

A master use license is a license to make reproductions of master recordings.

A mechanical is a license that a rights holder to the underlying music work grants to another person or party to cover, reproduce, or sample.

The Music Modernization Act in 2018 in the United States overhauled the rates at which songwriters were paid mechanical royalties and the MLC became the governing body responsible for setting U.S. statutory royalty rates. It replaces the CRB, 3 U.S. judges representing the Copyright Royalty Board. The MLC is also empowered to provide blanket licences for streaming services. It improves the structure of the correct royalty collection and pays out to rights holders.

Mechanical rights are rights obtained from a mechanical license to reproduce and distribute copyrighted musical compositions (songs) on CDs, records, tapes, ringtones, permanent digital downloads, interactive streams, and other digital configurations.

Mechanical royalties are earned through the reproduction of copyrighted works in digital and physical formats. The calculation of mechanical royalties is regulated by the MLC (Mechanical Licensing Collective) in the U.S. and a songwriter is paid per song sold, downloaded, or played on certain digital formats.

Micro-sync royalties refer to the royalty generated from the synchronization of music to a visual content or user-generated content. Such use can generate both performance and mechanical royalties depending on where the use occurs. A YouTube video for instance, when monetized, generates both, but a television broadcast generates only performance royalties.

The Music Modernization Act is a piece of U.S. legislation intended to address financial issues for artists, songwriters and publishers through updates of regulations of the royalties generated from online streaming services and other outlets.

Music Publishing is the business that protects and promotes song copyrights and collects the royalties generated by those copyrights. It ensures that composers receive fair compensation when third parties use their intellectual property. 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. Thus, the publishing house manages and pays royalties only to the song’s authors, not to the performers.

A music supervisor is the person responsible for selecting music used in an audiovisual production – a film or TV show. Music supervisors are often also responsible for obtaining the necessary licenses for the music that is selected.

A musical work is a song or musical composition.


Neighbouring rights are the public performance rights associated with the copyrights of a master recording. They are similar to the public performance rights associated with the composition. Neighbouring rights are paid to labels or performers (as opposing to songwriters or publishers). They are generated from satellite or digital radio, not from interactive digital streaming. The recognition of these rights on a broader spectrum varies in different countries. Nations that have signed the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organizations of 1961 recognise them even on terrestrial radio, whereas the U.S doesn’t.


Orphan Works are works under copyright where an owner cannot be identified or located.


Passive Sync, also known as inbound sync, is when a songwriter can close a deal themselves, keeping 100% of the revenue.

Performance royalties are generated by the public performance or broadcast of a musical work. It can mean playing a song on the radio, on television, in bars and nightclubs, at venues, and so on. These royalties are collected by performing rights organizations and by collective management organizations internationally.

A performing rights organization is an entity collecting fees and royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers. PROs collect fees from publicly-broadcast music whether it is on television, on websites, in clubs and restaurants, on radio etc. Then they pay their registered songwriters.

Printed music royalties are generated by the sale of printed sheet music, musical notation or lyrics. These royalties are paid directly to the publisher. They vary, depending on the form of print, i.e., digital or physical print.

A producer is a person who is responsible for bringing a product, such as a song or an album, into completion. Producers and record producers take care of all the administrative and creative aspects of the process.

There are certain works that are not subject to intellectual property protection. These are works in the public domain and anyone can use them for any purpose without paying fees to a composer. This can occur when the copyright has expired, when it is government work or for other reasons.

A public performance is defined as a performance of music at a place open to the public or any place where there is a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of family and acquaintances, or a performance of the work in the form of transmission or other form of communication to the public by the means of a device, whether or not they receive it at the time of performance or at different times.

A publishing contract grants a share of revenues to the music publisher, and depending on the type of publishing agreement, it can mean acquiring an ownership share in the copyrights for a period of time, even perpetuity as in the traditional agreement, or a specified agreement on the ownership share and the collection share as in a co-publishing agreement.

A composer or a copyright owner can enter into an agreement with a third party publisher to control all licensing and the collecting of publishing revenue streams on their behalf.

A publishing agreement is a contract between a publisher and a composer, songwriter, author or lyricist.


Rate Per Song is a mechanical royalty rate generated by the distribution or download of a song and is owed per copy to the publisher. The general tendency is towards a fair and equitable distribution of royalties and has moved from the set statutory rate to a more negotiated rate. In the U.S. this is set by the Mechanical License Collective.

There are unallocated royalties waiting to be paid out to copyright owners. When a song isn’t registered correctly or the contact information isn’t available, the royalties sit at the collection society for a period of time until they enter the black box. We refer to them as Retroactive Royalties.

An agency that collects and distributes mechanical royalties and is responsible for the tracking and collection of those.

A royalty is a payment made on a per-use basis. It is a term used in music publishing to refer to the income earned through a use of a song, including album sales, digital downloads, streams, radio plays, and so on.


Record sales are the number of physical and/or digital recordings sold.

Sampling is an act of taking material from an existing sound recording and incorporating it into a new sound recording. It is necessary to have a license to use the sound recording, often also to use the underlying composition. This technique grew popular through its use in hip hop music in the 1970s, later spreading to electronic music.

The six rights a copyright owner has is to reproduce, make derivative works, distribute, perform a copyrighted work, display and perform a sound recording.
The right to reproduce means make copies or phonorecords of the copyrighted work in physical or digital format.
The right to prepare derivative works means, for example, to make a work based on the original copyrighted work.
The right to distribute means to make the copyrighted work available to the public by sale, rental, lease or lending or other transfer of ownership.
The right to perform the copyrighted work means to perform the musical, literary, dramatic, choreographic works, pantomime or motion pictures publicly.
The right to display means to display the aforementioned copyrighted work publicly, including individual images etc.
The right to perform also covers the performance of a sound recording publicly by means of digital audio transmission.

A songwriter is a professional writer of lyrics and composer of musical compositions of songs.

A split represents the percentage of ownership each co-writer gets in a co-writing or joint work situation on a specific song.

A Split sheet is a document that outlines who writes what percentage of a work. It’s an important document to create for each of the songs you write before you publish it in any way commercially.

A sub-publisher is assigned the right to administer songs outside of a publisher’s territory.

Sync royalty is usually a one time sum, paid to the publisher – songwriter or music publisher – for the permission to use a song in sync with visual images on screen. In addition to a sync licensing fee, the airing of such a program generates performance royalties, which the songwriter or publisher benefits from.

The overall use of music in audiovisual projects. More specifically, sync refers to the use of a song in television, movies, commercials or video/computer games.

The sync right is the right to authorize the recording of a musical work onto the soundtrack of an audiovisual work (film, television program, music video, video game, commercial). Sync licence allows songwriters and publishers to receive royalties for sync rights.


Royalties earned that cannot be matched to a copyright owner by the collection society. This occurs largely when the songs aren’t registered correctly or the contact information is missing.

UGC is a term used to describe any form of content such as video, blogs, discussion posts, digital images, audio files or any other form of media that is created by a user and made available to a community in public.


This is a type of contractual situation where a songwriter composes musical work and does not retain any copyright or publishing ownership rights over the work. Work-for-hire situations are common in film, TV or advertising in which production companies often hire composers to write specifically for a project. The composer is paid a fee and the production company retains ownership of the copyright.

This is a share of ownership in a work, calculated in the form of percentage that is attributable to an author or composer of a work.