A

A capella
Unaccompanied vocal performance with one or more vocalists. Literally “In the church style”.

À la carte
A music download site, or cell phone music service, that charges for music downloads or download collections (albums) via pre-payment or subscription.

A&R

Short for Artists and Repertoire. A&R is the person or department responsible for signing new acts to a record label. The name derives from a time when they used to also choose material from publishers for the artists on their label.

A&R used to be responsible for developing new artists, and acting as a main point of contact for existing artists.

The A&R department links the recording artist and the record label. A&R departments often find songwriters and record producers for signed bands, schedule recording sessions and handle any necessary contractural negotiations.

No longer exclusive to record labels, the modern music industry uses A&R titles within booking agencies, music marketing and small indie labels, among others. A&R people source new talent, and then they help to develop the artists, working closely with them throughout their recording projects, together with managers, producers, songwriters and other musicians.

AAC
Advanced Audio Coding, an MPEG standard, is an audio coding standard for compression. MP4, an improvement in quality over MP3, achieves better sound at similar bit rate. AAC also adds DRM to an audio track.

AAB Song Form
Also known as 12 Bar Blues Song Form is the most common blues song form. In 12-Bar song form an AAB pattern is used in both lyrics and melody (this is often set out in a ‘question-question-answer’ format) made up of three 4-bar phrases.

AABA Song Form
Also known as American Popular Song Form and Ballad Form. AABA is a shorthand notation for a common song form where A is the main theme and B is a bridge theme. AABA means that the main theme A is played twice, foloowed by the bridge, B, before a testatement of the original theme A.

Sections are of the same length, often 8 bars each giving 32 bars in total.

Absolute Pitch
Absolute Pitch is simply another name for Perfect Pitch, the 1 in 10,000 people ability to tell the pitch of a note without using a reference note for comparison.

Absorption
1. The damping of a sound wave when it passes through a medium or hits a surface.

2. The ability of a material or object to absorb sound energy.

Absorption Coefficient
A number determined from the amount of sound energy absorbed from an incoming sound wave, at a specified frequency, when it encounters a material or surface under known conditions.

Accelerando
An indication in Music notation to gradually increase the tempo. Often abbreviated to “accel”

Accent
The rythym of a piece of music is clarified by the use of accents. Accent signs in music notation indicate where to emppasise notes, and how they should be emphasised.

Accidental
This an all encompassing term for prefixing a Natural, Double Flat, Flat, Sharp, or Double Sharp to a note. The accidental is primarily used to indicate playing a note outwith the current key. The effect of the use of an accidental applies to all subsequent notes of the same pitch within the same bar, unless overridden by the use of another accidental.

For this reason the sharp, flat and natural symbols are sometimes called accidentals as they are used in notation to indicate the occurance of an accidental.

Accordion
Also called piano-accordian. Invented by Friedrich Buschmann of Berlin in 1822, the accordion is a portable reed organ. Metal reeds are used to produce sound using air supplied by the “squeeze box” (a hand operated bellows).

There are two basic types of accordion.

1. Two sets of press buttons that play either individual notes or chords.

2. 1 set of press buttons, and a small piano keyboard.

Acetate
Another name for a Lacquer disc

Acoustics
1. The science behind sound.

2. The features of a room or hall that shape the sound heard by a listener.

Action
The term ‘Action’ is used to decsribe the height of the strings from the fretboard of a stringed instrument.

Active
A term used to describe a circuit containing transistors, ICs (integrated circuits), tubes and other devices that require power, and are able to amplify.

Active Sensing
Used by some MIDI devices to confirm that a MIDI device is connected and working correctly. This involves the sending device transmitting regular short messages to the receiving device. If active sensing messages stop being received,the receiving device will detect the error and switch off all notes.

Ad Lib
Ad Lib is short-hand for Ad Libitum, which means “at will”. Literally interpretted Ad Lib means “improvised”.

An Ad Lib song section is usually within the coda or outro. In modern pop music the lead vocal is the only instrument that really performs an Ad Lib. Usually this takes the form of backing vocals holding down the main vocal part while the lead voice adds ornamentation in the form of vocal licks on top of that backing. This is done to really crank up the intensity of the piece. It can be used very effectively in conjunction with a collision. In a live situation a singer may choose to mention the location of the current gig, or refer to the crowd or some other customization of the lyrics.

Adagio
Medium slow in tempo, approximately 66 – 76 bpm

ADAT Sync
A syncronization format used to allow two ADAT multi-track recorders to play and record in sync.

ADC
Analogue to Digital Converter is an electric circuit that converts an analogue signal into a digital representation of that signal. The ADC will sample the analogue signal at a defined sample rate. Each sample is a binary number that represents the amplitude of the sampled signal. The number of bits used to represent each sample dictate the sample resolution.

Additive Synthesis
Generation of waveforms by the combination of basic waveforms or samples.

Each constituent partial in a sound is represented by an oscillator of appropriate amplitude and frequency. The resulting outputs are then summed in order to achieve the finished sound.

Administration Agreement / Administration Deal / Collection Deal

Increasingly popular with songwriters, this type of Publishing Agreement leaves the songwriter, or other musical copyright owner, retaining the copyrights in their songs. Instead of transferring copyright to the publisher, this kind of agreement grants the Publisher exclusive Administration Rights for specific territories, or the world, for a limited time.

The Publisher is paid a relatively low fee (in the range of 5% to 20% of the collected income). They will pay the songwriter/owner the balance. Advances are not normally paid by a Publisher under an Administration Agreement, or when they are, they are usually relatively low. The only time advances are not low is when the Administration Deal is for a high-earning Catalog.

See publishing administration

Administration Rights

Administrative rights are the right to control who uses/exploits a work, where and when they use/exploit it and ultimately how they use/exploit the work, subject to compulsory licenses (Section 115 of the Copyright Act).

Additionally administrative rights are the right to determine any consideration regarding the use/exploitation of the song, subject to compulsory licenses, and the right to collect any income generated by the use/exploitation of the song.

ADSR
Simple envelope generator with Attack, Sustain, Decay and Release parameters.

ADT
Automatic Double Tracking is the duplication of an audio track which is delayed by a few milliseconds to emphasise the sound or give the impression of more performers.

Advance

In essence, an advance is a loan.

Record labels make an advance to an artist, to be recouped from recording sales. Depending on the record contract, the advance is for one or more albums.

Music publishers make advances to songwriters or the copyright owners. A music publisher’s advance would be recouped from publishing royalties.

On entering a contract with a record label or publishing company, a lump sum is paid to the artist, as a loan, in advance of sales. The loan is given to enable the artist to record an album, tour, buy gear, pay living expenses etc. For some the advance will be significant (North of $500k).

Advances are recouped first, before profit is made and any payment is made to the artist or songwriter. The costs associated with producing an album will easily consume the advance.

Estimates suggest that more than 90% of signed artists will fail to recoup their advance and become financially viable.

As mentioned, advances from record labels and music publishers are recoupable from royalties. Commonly, advances are non-returnable and are not a loan owed by the members of the band or songwriters themselves. This means that if the advance is not recouped from royalties, the artist or songwriter is not liable for the unrecouped balance.

In Merchandising Agreements, a condition of the advance is often that the artist is often required to repay the unrecouped balance.

Aeolian Mode
Commonly called the Natural Minor Scale, Aeolian mode is the sixth mode of the major scale.

The Aeolian mode for the scale of C major is A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A

Affiliate Marketing
Using a partner network to market a company or product such that a reward or compensation is offered to an affiliate for each customer referred to it, or for each sale that is made. Affiliates can include marketers, blogs, online shops, comparison sites, and internet communities.

After Fade Listen (AFL)
Facility that allows a Recording Engineer to monitor one of the channels on a Mixing Desk, at a point in the signal chain after the fader, independently of the main mix.

Aftertouch
Generation of a control signal based on the pressure applied to the keys of a MIDI keyboard. Most instruments do not implement independent pressure sensing for all keys, but instead detect the overall pressure using a common sensing strip running beneath the keys.

Aftertouch can be used to control parameters like vibrato depth or speed, filter thresholds, and more…

Agent / Booking Agent

Agents represent one party to another party, negotiating a relationship between the two. This is done in the interests of their client, based upon their client’s requirements.

There are various types of agents in the music business. Both artists and writers might use agents for a variety of goals. For example, a booking agent will to talk to promoters and venue managers to get gigs, and other kinds of agents will talk to production companies and independent film makers to secure music deals in film or television and others again will talk to advertising agencies or individual companies to arrange endorsements, sponsorships or other deals in advertising.

Aggregator
A digital aggregator supplies music from major labels, indie labels and individual artists to be downloads with a number of online retailers.

Agile Marketing
Marketers that adapt to the quick changing attitudes and behavior in target markets. Changes can be in environment, technology, competition etc.

AIM
The Association of Independent Music is a UK based trade body representing the interests of independent record labels.

www.musicindie.com

Airplay

In the U.S.A., performance licenses are bought from SoundExchange (for recordings) and ASCAP or BMI or SESAC (for live performance) by broadcasters. The licenses cover the right to play both recorded and live music.

Large commercial stations use BDS or Mediabase airplay monitoring to accurately report all the music they play to SoundExchange and ASCAP or BMI or SESAC. Smaller stations will report their plays manually.

In the U.K., broadcasters buy performance licenses from PPL (for recordings) and PRS (for live performance) for the right to play both recorded and live music. Large stations return lists of all the music they play to PPL and PRS. Otherwise, plays are estimate based.

License money (minus a commission) is shared among the members of the society.

Album Cycle
“Album Cycle” refers to the period of time in between an artist’s albums.

The album cycle is commonly defined as the artist beginning of recording for an album. The later of either the end of the post-album release tour and album related promo, or the start of recording for the artist’s next album, marks the end of the album cycle.

It is common practice to define the length of personal management contracts in numbers of album cycles.

Aliasing
When sampling an analogue signal, the sampling frequency must be at least twice that of the highest frequency component of the analogue signal (Niquist Frequency). If not, the sampling process is inaccurate because there are insufficient points to describe each cycle of the waveform. This results in the addition of enharmonic frequencies to the audible signal.

Alignment
Process of setting up amplifier presets and positioning tape heads for optimum tape performance.

All-in Royalty
Paid by a record label, it is a royalty payment that includes any royalty amount that is due to the producers and mixers from the Artist Royalties.

All-you-can-eat
Informal description of any music streaming service that gives unlimited access to songs on their catalogue.

Allegro
Indication in Music notation to play quickly, and lively at a tempo of between 120 – 168 bpm

Alternate Tuning
An Alternate tuning does not form a major chord when all strings are played open, although the open strings may form a chord.

Alternating Current (AC)
Alternating Current is an electricity supply that periodically reverses its direction of current flow. Mains electricity is an example of an AC electricity supply.

Alto
Highest adult male voice, also known as “Counter-tenor”. Range is 2 octaves from D below middle C to D an octave above.

Ambience
The characteristic background noise and reverberation that is particular to a location.

American Popular Song Form
See AABA Song Form

Ampere (Amp)
The Ampere is the unit of measurement used for electric current.

Amplifier
An amplifier is a device or system that changes the amplitude of a signal. The ratio of the amplified signal to the original source signal is commonly referred to as Gain. There are acoustic amplifiers, such as the body of an acoustic guitar or a loudhailer, and electronic amplifiers. In electronics the term amplifier is used to describe the characteristic behaviour of a specific electronic component type, such as a valve, a transistor or an operational amplifier (Op-amp), or specific circuits such as a Pre-amplifier or a Power Amplifier. In more common usage the term ‘amplifier’ refers to a dedicated piece of electronic equipment that allows the user to control the output volume of an audio signal.

Amplitude
In simple terms, this is the peak voltage, or representation of that voltage, of an electrical signal.

Amplitude Distortion
This is a non-linear gain variation as the signal level changes.

Amplitude Modulation (AM)

Amplitude Modulation is a type of modulation where the amplitude of the carrier wave is controlled.

There are two AM techniques: Classical Amplitude Modulation and Ring Amplitude Modulation (RM).

Classical AM adds the output of one oscillator to the amplitude input of a second oscillator. The amplitude of the first oscillator is determined by the addition of a modulation index to it’s amplitude input. In other words, provided the modulation index is not zero, the first oscillator modulates the amplitude of the second oscillator proportionally to the modulation index.

Ring AM applies the modulation directly to the amplitude of the second oscillator, without being added to an un-modulated carrier. If there is no modulation, there is no sound.

Analog Audio (Analogue Audio)
An Analog audio signal is a signal that represents audio as a continuously changing voltage.

Changes in the analog audio signal ultimately dictate the behaviour of the speaker. A negative change in the voltage moves the speaker cone in one direction, while a positive change in voltage moves the speaker cone in the opposite direction.

The frequency of the audio signal corresponds directly with the frequency of voltage change in the analog signal. In plain terms it is a measure of how often the signal change repeats each second. This is reasonably easy to see if the signal only contains one frequency at any one time.

For Example:

Take a low frequency sine wave signal of 50Hz (Hertz) at a fixed volume with no d.c. offset. The audio signal, and therefor the speaker, will move back and forward between (oscillate) the positive and negative voltages that represent that volume 50 times every second. As you increase the frequency to 500Hz the signal and speaker will oscillate between the signal voltages 500 times every second.

The volume of the audio signal corresponds directly with the amplitude of the signal voltage. More accurately it corresponds with the change in voltage. This is also easy to see if we use a fixed frequency signal.

For Example:

Take a low volume signal at a fixed frequency of 50Hz (Hertz) with no d.c. offset. The audio signal, and therefor the speaker, will move back and forward between (oscillate) the positive and negative voltages that represent that volume 50 times every second. As you increase the volume of the signal the total voltage change of the signal also increases, as does the total movement of the speaker cone, but the time it takes to repeat the movement will stay the same.

Analog or Analogue
This is a continuous electrical signal whose amplitude varies with time Within the audio domain the amplitude of the electrical signal will vary in a way that has a direct relationship with the volume of the original acoustic sound wave it represents.

Analog to Digital Converter (ADC)
This is an electronic device that is used to convert analog audio signals into digital audio signals, or more generally to convert analog signals into digital signals.

Andante
Indicates a medium tempo of between 76 and 108 bpm

Anechoic Chamber
This is a room that is specially designed to produce to no echo. This is due to acoustic design using material that completely absorbs sound energy.

Annual Statement of Account
An annual summary statement is provided to copyright holders. It is the last step in the compulsory mechanical licensing process.

It gives details of any activity relating to a work, or works, when licensed under the terms of compulsory mechanical licensing.

The statement includes distribution of the work, or works, as defined in the compulsory mechanical copyright law. Annual statements are audited and signed by a certified public accountant.

Anti-Aliasing
This is a type of filter used to limit the frequency range of an analogue signal prior to input to an ADC so that the Nyquist Frequency is not compromised and an accurate sample is created.

APRS
The Association of Professional Recording Services is a UK based trade association. APRS members include:

  • recording studios
  • mastering services
  • post-production houses
  • replication and duplication services
  • providers of education and training
  • freelance audio engineers
  • consultants
  • manufacturers
  • suppliers.

Arco
Indicates the use of a bow.

Arpeggiator
A component that allows a MIDI instrument to sequence around any notes currently being played. i.e. Arpeggio.

Arrangement
1)Harmony setting of an existing melody for voices or instruments.

2)Adaptation of a piece of music to make it suitable for a different set of performers than was originally envisioned at the time of writing.

There is no limit to the arrangements that can be made for any individual composition. For example an a capella arrangement of Stand By Me, and a Drum n Bass arrangement of Stand By Me for drums, bass, synthesizers and vocals are quite different yet they represent the same song.

Arrangement covers the key, voicings, rhythms, tempo, song structure, harmonisation, melodic paraphrasing, instrumentation or orchestration.

Arrangement also includes compositional techniques, including the introduction of new thematic elements for introductions, transitions, modulations, endings and adaptions that reflect the specific characteristics of the instruments involved.

Arrangements can be copyrighted separately from the original compositions. Both the Arranger and the Composer will receive royalties relating to use of that arrangement.

According to copyright law, musicians have the exclusive right to arrange their own compositions. As such, arrangers must be granted permission to arrange a copyrighted work, by the composer (or the copyright owner), for the purpose of distribution.

Arranger
A person who arranges a song or piece of music.

Artist
The performer, or group of performers, of a song, or songs, in a studio or live venue.

Artist Agency Rider
On signing with a Talent Agent, the artist is normally asked to sign a number of different boilerplate based agency agreements. The “artist agency rider” is the negotiation of the individual boilerplate agency agreements can be avoided or, at least, minimised.

Artist Royalties
The part of royalties paid to the artist from the sale of records that feature the artist (not the same as Mechanical Royalties). Typically 12% – 18% of wholesale price paid by the retailer, occasionally as high as 20% for top artists.

ASCAP
The American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers is the oldest PRO in the USA. Owned and run by it’s members, it specialises in collecting performance royalties, and providing advocacy and other services for music creators.

www.ascap.com

Aspect Ratio
This is the proportion of height to width.

Assignment
Copyright can be assigned to a publisher, record label, a royalty collection society or another 3rd party. Assignees can then act on behalf the copyright owner to issue licenses and collect royalties according to the terms of assignment. Certain rights may also be assigned to PROs like PRS, MCPS, ASCAP or BMI.

At Receipts Publishing Agreement
“At Receipts” is a term typically used in Publishing Agreements. It means that the percentage of income retained by the Publisher controlling the Administration Rights does not include the percentage of income retained by their sub-publishers. This is the opposite of an At Source Publishing Agreement.

For example, If

the Publisher is entitled to retain 20% of the income from the exploitation of song, and
the Publisher’s Sub-publisher is entitled to retain 10% of the income from the exploitation of song in the Sub-publisher’s local territory.

Then…

Under an At Receipts Publishing Agreement, from monies collected by the Sub-publisher, the Sub-publisher would be entitled to 10% of the income, the Publisher would be entitled to 18% (20% of 90%) of the income, leaving the songwriter / co-publisher 72% of the income (80% of 90%).

At Source Publishing Agreement
“At Source” is a term typically used in Publishing Agreements. It means that the percentage of income retained by the Publisher controlling the Administration Rights also includes the percentage of income retained by their sub-publishers. This is the opposite of an At Receipts Publishing Agreement.

For example, if

the Publisher is entitled to retain 20% of the income from the exploitation of song, and
the Publisher’s Sub-publisher is entitled to retain 10% of the income from the exploitation of song in the Sub-publisher’s local territory.

Then…

Under an At Source Publishing Agreement, the Publisher would be entitled to 10% of income collected by the Sub-publisher, the Sub-publisher would be entitled to 10% of the income collected by the Sub-publisher, and the songwriter / co-publisher’s royalty or share of income will be equal to 80% of the income collected by the Sub-publisher.

ATA Carnet
An ATA Carnet is a document that permits the temporary import of gear, avoiding the need to pay any customs duty.

This is critical for international touring bands. Without an ATA Carnet the band would be liable for thousands in import tax every time they crossed a border.

Atmosphere Microphone
This is a microphone that is situated some distance from the performers in order to capture the ambience of the recording location. Typically overhead.

Atonality
Strictly a description of music that rejects traditional tonality, but it is commonly used to describe music using unfamiliar harmony.

Attack Time
The attack time means slightly different things in different circumstances. When applied to compressors and limiters it is the time from when the input sound crosses the threshold until the compression begins to be applied. With effects or synthesis it is the time from when an treatment begins to be applied until the a envelop reaches its peak.

Attenuation
Attenuation is the reduction of signal strength, either intentionally or unintentionally. This can be achieved in the electronic domain by using a volume or loudness control. Attenuation can also be applied acoustically by using materials that have absorption properties.

Attribution
Acknowledging that something was created or authored by someone.

Audio Engineer
See Sound Engineer

Audio Frequency
This is the frequency range that corresponds to the frequencies audible to the human ear, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

Audit Rights
This is the right to review the books and accounts of another party with the aim of verifying that the reported royalties (as reported to the party granted the audit rights) are being reported accurately, identifying the correct level of royalty payment.

Although termed an “audit,” it is not strictly an “audit” as the general accounting industry would understand the term.

Auto-locate
This is the ability provided by audio recorders to quickly get to a chosen point, known as a locate point, within a recording or recording tape.

Auxiliary Send
A Mixing Desk output made up of a mix of channel signals or group signals that is independent of the main mix outputs. Auxiliary outputs are often used for sending to effects units.

Azimuth
This is the angle between the gap in a tape head and the longitudinal axis of a tape. The angle should be 90 degrees.

He has Van Gogh's ear for music.”
Billy Wilder