Music Glossary S

Music Glossary S

Music Glossary S is a collection of music industry terms, words, and phrases, that begin with the letter “S”, from SACD to Synthesizer (Synthesiser).

Music Glossary S

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Music Glossary S Terms


A Sony music disc, a read-only format compatible with CD players introduced in 1999. Higher quality audio is played back on new SACD machines, developed with the intention to supersede CD audio.

Sales Formula

A mathematical formula used in a Recording Contract or Publishing Contract. It states that the Advances for a subsequent album will be calculated as a percentage of Artist Royalties or publishing royalties, as earned by a previous album by the artist.

The Advance will most likely not be less than a specified minimum or more than a specified maximum. The formula is normally limited to sales of the immediately previous album and must be within a defined period after the album was initially released.


The advance for the 3rd Album will be 65% of the royalties credited to the artist’s account relating to top-line sales of the 2nd Album (without Reserves) through Normal Retail Channels in the United States as of 15 months after the initial US release date of the 2nd album, where the advance will not be less than $40,000 or more than $75,000.

Sample Clearance

Sample Clearance is when you get approval to use a sample, taken from a copyrighted audio recording, within a new composition.

Sample Rate

Sample Rate is the rate at which samples of an Analogue signal are taken to create a Digital image of that signal.


A Sampler is a unit capable of recording, storing, and playing back audio samples.


Pre-existing Sound Recordings and songs that are:

(a) Copyright protected

(b) incorporated into a new Sound Recording, of normally a different song

(c) owned by someone other than the artist or Producer creating the new Recording.

To clear a song sample most Publishers will demand to own a portion of the Copyright in the new song. In this context, “clear” means to get a license from the owner of the pre-existing song.

To clear a sample from a recording most Record Labels want an upfront fee and sometimes a royalty from the Record Label releasing the new Sound Recording. In this context, “clear” means to get a license from the owner of the Sound Recording.


Sampling requires Record Label and Publisher clearance. There is no fixed rate for clearance. In the U.K., sometimes, sampling is allowed under a blanket MCPS agreement as an assignment to pay the writer mechanical income. If the work is not assigned to MCPS the sample should also be cleared through the Publisher.


The Serial Copy Management System prevents the copying of controlled digital media on machines that support SCMS. SCMS works by setting a marker on any new recordings. Recordings with the marker cannot be copied again in SCMS supporting machines.

SCMS is part of the Sony/Philips Digital Interface (S/PDIF) format.


This is the sale of records by Distributors at a rock-bottom price. This is also known as dumping or distress sales.

Under recording agreements, schlock does not result in the payment of Artist Royalties.


A Score is the music soundtrack for an audio-visual production such as motion pictures, television programs, and video games.

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Score and Underscore are sometimes used interchangeably.

A Score is usually a collection of compositions including other background and incidental music, any Music Cue, and any Source Music that is part of a soundtrack.


The process of creating a Score.


Scrap is what a Record Label calls the raw materials to be recovered from unsold Physical Records.

Scrap from recycling was common when Records were made from vinyl. Compact discs and Jewel Boxes have also been recycled.

Record Labels sell scrap to recycling companies at a nominal cost.

No Artist Royalties are paid for scrapped Records except in the rarest of cases.


The Secure Digital Music Initiative was an ineffective copy-protection project used in MiniDisc.

Service Mark

A Service Mark is the name identified with a service. (See Trademark.)


A session is a block of time recording at a professional recording studio.

Session Musician

Session musicians are musicians who contribute to either a recording or a live performance. Session Musicians may have an ongoing contract with an artist but they are not full-time band members.

Session musicians are paid a fee for performing at recording sessions. The fee is a single payment, not a royalty. In the U.K. the fee should be at or above the rate stipulated by the Musicians’ Union.

Sheet Music

Music Publishing began with the publication of sheet music such as notation, scores, songbooks, any music, lyric books, etc. Unfortunately, sheet music publishing is much less popular today.

Music Publishers collect royalties for both printed paper and digital versions of sheet music.

Shellac 78

In the 1920s records were manufactured using a number of materials before settling on shellac as the material of choice. Similarly, a variety of disc speeds were used before settling on playback at 78 rpm.

An alcohol-soluble organic resin produced by small beetles, Shellac has a number of uses, including as a wood lacquer. Shellac discs are brittle and prone to severe damage.

In the 1940s shellac was superseded by the much harder wearing vinyl.


This is a type of filter that affects all frequencies above or below a threshold frequency.


An event staged to present a developing act to A&R men (in the hope of getting signed) or to present a signed act to the media for promotion.


Having, containing, or producing the sound of or a sound resembling that of the s or the “sh”, in “sash”.

Side End Distortion

Vinyl records experience significant degradation in audio quality at the end of a side. This is because the record stylus tracks at about half the speed that it does at the side beginning, the first (outer) track. This is called Side End Distortion.


A sideman is a person, hired to perform with an artist, augmenting the regular performers on a recording or at a concert who is not a regular member of the artist lineup.


The band members are not sidemen in the band “The Dave Matthews Band.”

If The Dave Matthews Band (TDMB) bring in someone who is not a member to record with TDMB or to perform with them at some concerts (either as a guest artist or not), they are considered to be a sideman.

Backing vocalists and musicians of any kind are considered to be sidemen provided they are not members of the band.

Sideman Exclusion

Artists who are currently signed to a Record Label are governed by an exclusive Record Contract. Under the terms of that Record Contract, they will not be permitted to record anything for anyone other than their Record Label.

The sideman exclusion is a clause in the governing recording contract that lets the artist perform as a sideman on records that feature other artists, as long as certain specified conditions are met, without breaching the exclusivity of their governing Record Contract.

Signal to Noise Ration (SNR, S/N)

The level of the desired signal is compared with the level of background noise. SNR is the ratio of signal power to noise power. It is commonly expressed as dB.

Sine Wave

Sine is a curved, flowing wave known for its smooth sound.


A Single is an individual song recording (a track) to be featured by a Record Label for radio, television, and digital broadcast and broader related promotion.

As physical vinyl Records, singles were 7” in diameter and played on a record player at 45 RPM. Longer playing versions of singles were sometimes made available as 45 RPM, 12” vinyl.  Singles were also released in other configurations and formats.

Currently, physical Singles are rarely sold, but Digital Singles are typically released.

A Single is commonly defined in a Recording Contract as a Record that contains a maximum of two or three Master Recordings. Apart from a Digital Single, a Single typically pays a lower Artist Royalty rate than an album will.

Single-song agreement

A Single-Song Agreement is a Publishing Contract, between a Publisher and a Songwriter (or Songwriters) explicitly for just one song.

Single-Song Agreements might not see the songwriter being paid anything, or being paid only a small amount, typically to cover demo recording costs.

Single-Song Agreements are often a first step towards becoming a full-time staff writer, contracted to write songs for the Publisher.

Slide Guitar

Using a device other than fingers to press the strings on a traditional guitar, beer bottles, metal or glass cylinders over the finger for example. “Open tuning” is used a lot for this kind of thing. The true description is actually for a “Laptop Steel” guitar. One made for this purpose.


Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.

SMPTE also refers to a common standard for measurement of Intermodulation distortion (IM) and a reference code for the identification of film or video frames.

SMPTE code is often used for the synchronization of two or more audio playback devices. See SMPTE Time Code.


Longitudinal or Linear Time Code refers to SMPTE striped along the tape track and is common for tape machines.


Vertical Interval Time Code, a.k.a “vitsee”, means SMPTE timecode that is placed into the space between video frames. Once “burned in” between frames, it is called BITC or “bitsee”.

SMPTE Time Code

Frame edge lock for audio and video equipment. SMPTE is calculated in:



Performing Rights Societies in the United States and Canada, and to Performing Rights/Mechanical Rights societies in the rest of the world.

Society of European Stage Authors and Composers/SESAC

An American performing rights organization (PRO) that historically represented works published by European companies.

Soft Ticket / Hard Ticket

If you pay for a ticket for a festival, casino, fair, etc. Which is for an event that is larger than the concert alone, with a number of things that are attractions beyond seeing a specific artist, then you have bought a Soft Ticket.

If you pay for a ticket to see a specific artist at a specific physical venue, such as a concert hall, stadium, amphitheater, arena, etc, you have bought a Hard Ticket.

Solo (Mixing Console)

Many mixing consoles provide a feature that allows individual input tracks, groups or a combination of solo signals to be routed to the monitors without other signals AND without altering the main mix signal.

Solo (Song Section)

Solos can be played within a middle eight section, but modern solos can be played using the chords and a basic melody (for melodic based solos) of any of the sections of the song, however, a solo over the bridge or chorus chords is the most common.

A solo is a special song section designed to showcase an instrumentalist, or sometimes more than one instrumentalist. The solo section may use the verse chords, pre-chorus chords, chorus chords or bridge chords, or in blues-derived genres, a solo may be played over a standard backing chord progression.

For some pop songs, the solo performer echoes the same melodies previously sung in other sections of the song, or sometimes a solo instrumentalist will directly echo a phrase sung immediately before in a question-answer format.

In blues-derived or influenced pop songs, the solo performers may improvise a solo.

Song Evaluation

This is feedback or critique from a music industry professional (such as another songwriter). The average cost on the open market is $30 to $200 per song, depending on the level of the evaluator.

Song Form

Song Form is basically the structure of the song. There are a number of standard song forms.

  • Strophic (chorus form)
  • Thirty-two bar
  • Verse-chorus
  • Twelve Bar Blues
  • Through-composed

Song Plugger

Song pluggers can work in a few areas, but their main area of work is as a song pitcher (song salesman) for a Publisher.

Their primary job is to pitch, or plug, the Publisher’s songs to Artists, Music Producers, Movie/TV/Ad Producers, A&R, etc.

Song Position Pointer (SPP)

Working in conjunction with Midi Clock, the SPP provides information about the current beat and measure used in a song or sequence. This allows the user to rewind, fast forward, etc. a master device while remaining synchronized with a slave device.

Songwriter Agreement

A Songwriter Agreement is a very common type of Publishing Contract.

In a Songwriter Agreement, the songwriter agrees that the copyright of a song, some songs, or all songs they create from the start date, will become the property of the Publisher, subject to the terms stipulated within the Songwriter Agreement. As part of this, the Music Publisher is granted exclusive Administration Rights of the song or songs.

In return, the Publisher pays the songwriter Songwriter Royalties and sometimes an Advances or Advances. The Advance, or Advances, will be recoupable from future Songwriter Royalties. Except for Sheet Music, songwriters are typically entitled to 50% of the Publisher’s receipts as songwriter’s royalties, with the exception of income derived from Sheet Music sales.

Performing Rights Societies pay out income from Blanket Licenses directly to Songwriters and Publishers on a periodic basis. Income paid out is approximately:

  • 50% Songwriters Royalties
  • 50% Publishers Royalties

Typically, Sheet Music royalties were calculated based on a percentage of the wholesale price.

Songwriter’s Share/Writer’s Share

See Songwriter Royalties under the Songwriter Agreement and see Performing Rights Society.

Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format (S/PDIF)

Digital Audio specification a conforming to the AES/EBU consumer standard.

S/PDIF is a Digital Recording format that allows the high-speed transfer of two channels of digital audio. Conforming equipment provides a S/PDIF interface in the form of either a Digital Audio Coaxial RCA connector or an optical connection as either a TosLink or a Mini Optical connector.

Sound Engineer

Generally, the person in charge of making the sound for show work. There can be many different specific roles for a sound engineer.

Sound Recording

Sound recordings are works that result from the fixation of a series of musical, spoken, or other sounds onto a media, without regard for the material objects, in which the recording is embodied.

Media is typically:

  • Disks
  • Tapes
  • Phonorecords
  • Digital Storage

Sounds accompanying a motion picture or other audiovisual work are not included.


SoundExchange is a non-profit Performance Rights Organization (PRO). It collects statutory royalties from:

  • Satellite radio
  • Internet radio
  • Cable TV music channels
  • Streaming platforms

In the USA, the Copyright Royalty Board entrusted SoundExchange as the sole entity in the United States that can collect and distribute digital performance royalties on behalf of:

  • Featured recording Artists
  • Master rights owners (Record Labels etc.)
  • Independent Artists record and own their masters.

Before 1995, the owner of a Copyright in a Sound Recording did not have any performance rights under U.S. Copyright Law. Sound Recordings now have limited performance rights.



SoundScan, Nielsen, is mainly Brick and Mortar Stores and online retailers in the United States. Nielsen SoundScan collates Record sales SoundScan is used by Billboard to create its album charts for album sales in the United States.

Nielsen monitors radio airplay, online streaming, and music consumer behavior. Nielsen tracks what music people are buying in-store and digitally.

They compile data from more retail outlets globally. The sales info helps:

  • Record Labels
  • Publishers
  • Artists
  • Artist Management
  • Performance Rights Organizations

It helps them understand what albums, singles, and music videos people are buying, and where they’re buying them from.

Nielsen collects point-of-sale (POS) data, weekly, in 19 countries across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Nielsen’s collated data is a primary source for the Billboard charts. It is the standard for music industry measurement.

Register a title with SoundScan:


Source Music

Relating to a Score, Source Music is music that is linked to something that is occurring on screen.


When an actor is depicted on screen as singing a song or playing an instrument


Music is depicted on screen as coming out of a radio or some other on-screen source.

Special Market Department

This is a department within a Record Label that deals with the Master Recording licensing.

It also seeks to exploit the Record Label Back Catalog.

Special Packaging Charges

These are additional costs incurred by a Record Label for the packaging of a Physical Record that is more elaborate than the standard record package.

Under the terms of many recording agreements, the Label reserves the right to charge the artist for special packaging costs.

Special Packaging Costs have nothing to do with Packaging Charges.


A small piece of plastic that holds CDs in a card case.


This is the term applied to acoustic interference from unwanted source sounds.


Spotting is the process where the Score Composer and the Movie Director view the final cut of the movie to identify the exact points in the movie where music will be needed.

Staff Writer

A Staff Writer is a Songwriter who is under contract and is advanced money by a publisher to write songs exclusively for that publisher.

Statutory Rate / Compulsory Rate

This applies in the USA, not the UK. The statutory rate is not normally paid in full.

In the United States, it means the compulsory Mechanical Royalty rates as set by the Copyright Royalty Board.

See harryfox.com


A Sting is a short piece of pre-recorded audio or music that is used during a broadcast as a sound effect or marker.


Internet broadcasting of digital audio or video. Typically the audio and video are pre-recorded.

Live broadcast of audio or video is called Live Streaming.


A strophe is a basic block, made up of multiple phrases. In pop music, it is a primary focus within AABA-form and strophic-form songs. 


Strophic is a large song structure, where the same strophe is repeated throughout the song . For this reason Strophic form is also known as AAA form or One-part form. Strophic form is common in 1950s–1960s in blues and rock and roll songs and even early hip hop. It is less common from the 1970s onwards where verse chorus (AB) took over as the dominant song form in pop genres.

Many strophic songs include a refrain within each strophe.

Strophic songs can also include auxilliary song sections like an intro, outro or coda.


A Sub-publisher is a Publisher in a foreign country who administers rights and collects fees and royalties in one or more territories. This arrangement is governed by a Sub-publishing Agreement.

Sub-publishing Agreement

A type of Publishing Agreement where Administration Rights are granted to a foreign Sub-publisher. Typically this is in exchange for the payment of royalties and sometimes Advances by the Sub-publisher.

Subtractive Synthesis

This type of synthesis takes a broadband signal, sometimes in conjunction with some form of periodic signal, and subtracts frequencies in order to leave the desired output signal.

Suggested Retail Price/SRLP 

This is the retail price suggested by a Distributor for their customers to use when re-selling the Distributor’s Records to the end customer.

Record Labels used to use the SRLP when working out the Royalty Base Price.

Currently, most Record Labels use the wholesale price (PPD) when working out Artist Royalties, in lieu of the SRLP.

Sunset Clause

After a set period of time, an individual’s commission or another percentage of income, royalty, or other payment can be reduced or eliminated.

Super Fan

A person who has a very strong, extreme, or obsessive admiration for an artist.

While there are super fans that stalk artists, most simply support their chosen artist in every way that they can find, from purchasing every product they can find (even multiple purchases of the same product), providing financial support through donations and other mechanisms, to becoming Street Team or Virtual Street Team member, or acting as a sort of social media champion.

While there can be Super Fans in many different industries, Music does forge particularly devoted fans. Music Marketers encourage and cultivate the development of Fans into Super Fans. It inspires them towards high levels of engagement.

Super Fans don’t just buy an album or a T-shirt. They search out rare albums, limited editions, signed merchandise, special t-shirts, and close contact including behind-the-scenes insights. True superfans want to be seen to be Super Fans, and they are often keen to share their experiences with people who may not be Super Fans but who will really appreciate them.

Super Fans run volunteer news sites about their favorite artist. They arrange streams and playlists of popular songs to try to help their chosen artist to outshine other artists. They are often involved in getting the word out about amazing bands that no one has ever heard of. Super Fans are the central hub of social media music marketing. They often do a better job than the music promotion professionals because they are highly motivated, determined, very knowledgable, deeply interested, and highly engaged.


South By South-West is an annual music fair in Austin, Texas. Recently, SXSW has become widely known for breaking live acts via the numerous local gigs and showcases in and around the festival.

Sync License 

A Sync License, short for Synchronization License, is a license agreement between a Publisher and the producer of an audio visual work, such as a motion picture, television program, television commercial, and video game.

The Sync License grants the producer the right to use a song in the soundtrack of the particular project, governed by a number of conditions and limitations. Rights granted are normally non-exclusive. This includes stipulating distribution in any and all media (such as theaters, video devices, and video on demand), the performance of the resulting audio visual work, including the song, and limitations to the territories that the license applies to, and limitations and conditions governing advertisements, clips, and trailers that the producer has the right to use the song in.

The rights to a composition or the “song”, which is different from the studio sound recording, are most often administered by the publishing company that represents the writer/producer. The value in the copyright of a recording is divided into two pieces:

  • The “master” sound recording, is the studio recording of a performance of the song. Commonly owned by the Record Label.
  • The composition is the lyrics and melody written by the songwriter(s) and administered by the music publisher.

There is no fixed fee for sync licenses. Fees are set or negotiated by the song Publishers.

Sync Rights/Synchronization Rights

Sync Rights are the rights that permit songs or other compositions to be recorded for use as in a soundtrack or used as background music in TV or film. The term synchronization relates to screen visuals normally being synchronized with the song or composition.

Sync Rights are granted by the owners of the copyright.

Synthesizer (Synthesiser)

A synthesizer is an electronic music device that allows the control of the pitch, timing, and tone in the generation of one or more source audio signals. Source audio signals can be those produced by a tone or waveform generator or based upon an audio sample.

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