Music Glossary D

Music Glossary D

Music Glossary D is a collection of music industry terms, words, and phrases, that begin with the letter “D”, from DAC to Dynamics.

Music Glossary D

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Music Glossary D Terms


See Digital to Analog Converter.


See Digital Audio Tape.


See Digital Audio Workstation.


An audio signal processing device that is used to remove excessive sibilance (The hissy ‘s’ sound heard on some vocal or speech recordings). Often this is a special form of compressor that uses an Equaliser as part of the detection circuit.

deciBel (dB)

This is the ratio of two signal levels where the relationship is governed by the equation:

dB = 20Log10(v1/v2)

dBu means that the ratio is measured relative to 0.775V RMS.

dBm means that the ratio is a measure of power. 0 dBm equals 1 milliwatt or 0.775V across a 600 Ohm impedance.

dBV means that the ratio is a measure of voltage. 0 dBV equals 1 volt.

dB SPL means that the ratio is a measure of Sound Pressure Level. 0 dB SPL equals 0.0002 dynes/ square centimeter, or 20 micro-Pascals.


Deductions, or discounts, are reductions in the effective royalty rate. The contracted royalty rate can be reduced due to music formats, other territories, etc. Deductions extend recoupment, and will push back the date when the label begins to pay the artist money.


“Delivery” isn’t just the artist delivering the master recordings to their Record Label. What constitutes ‘delivery’ varies from contract to contract. Terms commonly include:

  • Format and standards to be used on the masters, and any manufacturing details
  • Conditional flexibility of Record contract terms relating to “delivery”
  • Paperwork, consents, approvals, permissions and licenses to be delivered together with the masters
  • That each master is subject to approval. Each must satisfy in technical and commercial terms
  • The location of delivery
  • Restrictions requiring written permission, such as:
    • instrumentals
    • joint recordings / collaborations
    • live recordings
    • themed recordings
    • multiple disc album (double albums, triple albums


This is a trial recording of a song or album. Such recordings are done as promotional recording to obtain work or a Music contract.

Demo Deal

Where the Record Label advances funds to an Artist to cover the costs of a number of demo recordings.

In return, the Record Label gets the right to negotiate an exclusive recording agreement with the artist before anyone else. This right is time-limited, it is not indefinite.

Even when the Record Label has exercised these rights, if they fail to reach an agreement, then the artist can begin negotiating a record deal with another Record Label.

The demo deal usually includes a “Matching Right”. This means that if the artist signs a Record Deal with another Record Label, then the artist will normally have to pay back the demo cost.

Derivative Work

A new work based on or derived from, one or more pre-existing works.


CD packaging, in a paper/card sleeve similar to a book, instead of a plastic CD case. The outside paper/card cover holds the CD inside in an attached plastic tray.

Digital Audio Tape (DAT)

This is a cassette-tape storage medium capable of storing digital audio information.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

An electronic device or software program used for music production. Capable of recording, editing, and arranging multiple input audio tracks with the purpose of applying effects and audio processing, mixing, and producing, to create a combined audio output file.

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Software DAWs commonly incorporate MIDI recording and sequencing.

Digital Distribution

Distribution of music online, i.e. music downloads.

Digital Phonorecord Delivery/DPD

Specifically, the “Digital Transmission” of a Phonorecord.

Digital Signal Processing (DSP)

Using a computer, or another electronic platform, to perform signal processing tasks. Data processed is a string of numbers that are digital representations, or samples, of contiguous continually changing signals, such as analog audio.

Digital Signal Processor (DSP)

A microprocessor optimized for floating-point calculations, commonly used for audio and graphics manipulation and communications technology, to carry out Digital Signal Processing tasks.

Digital To Analog Converter (DAC)

This is an electronic device that is used to convert digital audio signals into analog audio signals, or more generally to convert digital signals into analog signals.

Digital Transmission

Currently, this includes downloads and “streaming”. Recording agreements use deliberately broad definitions, allowing for any advances in technology or otherwise non-envisioned methods of transmission, formats and networks (known and unknown) to still be covered by contracts without amendment.


Direct sales to fans, cutting out any middlemen. Products include CDs or T-shirts and other merch sold at a gig, to mail order CDs sold by the band.

Direct Current (DC)

This is an electrical signal whose polarity is fixed and whose amplitude remains constant with respect to time.

Direct Injection (DI) Box

This is a box that allows the direct connection of an electrical Musical instrument to the input of a Mixing Desk, as opposed to amplifying the instrument and recording the output with a Microphone.

Direct Output

This is a post-fade output from a Mixing Desk input channel. Direct Outs are commonly used for sending the signal to individual tape tracks during recording.


The list of recordings released by a particular band or artist. The Discography includes other relevant information:

  • The title of the recording
  • The artists involved in the recording
  • The playing time
  • The date of recording
  • The place of recording
  • The dates of release
  • Chart positions
  • The name of the Record Label it was released by
  • Sales figures

Discounted Records

Physical Records are sold by a Distributor as part of a sales incentive program. Such Records are priced below the normal published wholesale price.


Often an unwanted change in an audio signal that results in the presence of frequencies in the output signal that was not present in the original signal. There are several types of distortion, including:

    • Electronic Distortion
      • Amplitude Distortion
      • Harmonic Distortion
      • Frequency Response Distortion
      • Phase Distortion
      • Group Delay Distortion
    • Audio Distortion
      • Any kind of deformation of a waveform. This includes:
      • clipping
      • harmonic distortion
      • intermodulation distortion, a mixing issue caused by electronic components behaving in a non-linear way, and limitations of the power supplies. Such non-linear audio distortion includes:
        • crossover to intentional effect. This is especially true with electric guitars, deliberately distorting the sound of the guitar using a distortion pedal or an overdrive pedal, or when using distortion synthesis on a keyboard. It is a very popular effect in blues-rock, heavy rock, metal and punk genres.

      Other forms of audio distortion that may be referred to as types of distortion:

      • frequency response
      • compression
      • modulation
      • aliasing
      • quantization noise
      • wow
      • flutter
    • The human ear cannot detect phase distortion, apart from when it affects stereo imaging.
    • Outside of electronics, distortion can occur due to acoustic coupling with speaker enclosures or other connected structures, or acoustic coupling between any sound source and the environment around the sound source.

Digital Distribution

Digital distribution means transferring electronic files. Normally this is the online version of traditional music or video distribution using downloads or streams instead of the physical product. See also, aggregator.

Physical Distribution

Shipping CDs, or other physical recordings, from record labels to retailers. In addition to transporting boxes of CDs, Distributors also promote their catalog to retailers.


In the realm of royalty collection, “distribution” is the regular payments made to writers, artists and other society members. Distribution is commonly once every three or six months.

Distribution Agreement/Distribution Deal

A distribution agreement is normally an agreement with a Distributor. The artist (or Licensor) is responsible for all manufacturing and distribution costs. Sometimes the Distributor will cover the costs as a loan.

Distributors are entitled to a fee in return for distribution. This is normally between 15% and 20% of the wholesale receipts for the artist/licensor’s Records. The Licensor retains ownership of the Records.

If, in addition to distributing the product, the Distributor is expected to manufacture Physical Records, then the agreement is referred to as a “Pressing and Distribution Agreement” or a “P&D Agreement”. Distributors are often granted the right for distribution by Digital Transmission, but not always.

Distribution Agreements are usually limited by time and territory. For example, “within the United States and Canada for four to five years”.

Some recording agreements will sometimes be called a “distribution agreement.” With a proper recording agreement, artists aren’t usually responsible for any manufacturing or distribution costs. Similarly, Artists are not normally responsible for either the payment of Mechanical Royalties or union payments based on Record sales / Net Receipts. Such costs cannot be recouped from Artist Royalties.

Artists are paid a royalty based on the SRLP or PPD of their Records.

Example, imagine the wholesale price of an album is $10.00.

Distribution Agreement

15% distribution fee $1.50

The Licensor would be entitled to $8.50 per album sold minus distribution-related deductions:

  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Retail / Co-op advertising
  • Others
    Third-party costs:


    • Artist Royalties (if the artist is not the Licensor)
    • Producers Royalty
    • Mixer Royalty
    • Mechanical Royalties
    • Net Receipts (see Union Payments).
    • Independent Promotion
    • Marketing
    • Tour Support
    • Video costs
    • Net earnings by the Licensor could be 50% of the monies initially paid by the Distributor to the Licensor ($4.25 in above example).

Recording Agreement

Artist Royalty – 16% of the PPD.

i.e. Artist Royalty of $1.60 per album (i.e., 16% of $10.00)

Recoupment of costs to the Record Label incurred on behalf of the artist, including:

  • Recording
  • Mastering
  • Artist Development
  • Photography
  • Artwork
  • All Or Part Of Tour Support
  • Independent Promotion
  • Independent Marketing
  • Video Costs


Distributors are both Branch Distributors run by EMI, Sony Music, Universal, or Warner Bros. and Independent Distributors. See Distribution (Physical) and Distribution (Digital).


Within the context of the business of music, Do It Yourself refers to creating, distributing and selling your own recordings, and sometimes publishing your own music too, without involving a 3rd party as a record label or music publisher.


DMCA is an abbreviation for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Public performance rights in digital audio transmissions were first granted by the US Congress in 1995. Before that sound recordings had no public performance rights.

The DMCA amended these public performance rights in 1998, to cover compulsory licensing for digital audio transmissions using non-interactive websites. For example Internet Radio and Music Streaming services. (See both Mechanical Royalties and SoundExchange.)

Door Split

A live performance payment agreement between a band and gig promoter agrees to split the advance ticket sales and paid admissions on the night taking account of any deductions, such as any event costs, such as advertising, staffing, and venue hire.

Double Commission

Relates to a contract clause that stops the collection of more than one commission for the same income.

An example would be where an artist has multiple contracts with an agent. A Double Commission clause would stop the agent from collecting a commission relating to every agreement they had with the artist, for individual payment.


A download is the Digital Transmission of a recording where a permanent copy of the recording is created, where the copy can be played by the listener at a later time.

Tethered Download

A Tethered Download is a download that can only be played on a limited number of playback devices.

Limited Download

A Limited Download is a download that becomes inaccessible by the listener after either a specified period of time or a specified number of plays.


The audience numbers an act can get to attend a performance.


Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a type of copy-protection, implemented in either hardware or software. DRM ensures users comply with conditions set by the copyright owners.

Drum Head

The material used to cover the shell of a drum. If struck with a stick or mallet this material will create a tone. Can be made from a number of natural or synthetic fibrous materials.

Drum Key

A drum key is a tool used for drum tuning. The key is commonly a “T” shape and fits over the top of a lug that runs through the top or bottom rim of a drum shell. By tightening the lug on a drum head the pitch can be raised or lowered.

Drum Stick

Object used to strike a drum. Usually made of wood or synthetic material. Most will have a wooden or nylon tip.


(1) See Digital Signal Processing

(2) See Digital Signal Processor

Dub Plate

An acetate disc often cut from a tape master, is intended to be metal-plated and used in the manufacture of vinyl records. Dub plates can be played on a record player as a demo but this is not what they are intended for if only because they are not very durable. They are very easily damaged and they won’t last very long.

Dubbing License

A master copy License for a recording or phonographic purpose, rather than a mechanical copy license as used in music publishing.


Standard CDs are replicated/pressed. Some CD manufacturers duplicate discs by burning audio data to CD-Rs. These copies are cheaper than replicated CDs, and much less reliable.

Dynamic Microphone

This kind of Microphone converts acoustic energy to electrical energy by using a moving coil and a permanent magnet. This kind of microphone does not require any external power to be applied.

Dynamic Range

The volume range between the loudest and softest:

  • Notes of a performance
  • Sounds on a recording
  • That a sound system can reproduce


The dynamics of a piece of music is the variation in the loudness of notes and phrases.

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