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Music Glossary

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A. F. of M. (American Federation of Musicians - also known as the Musicians Union) - In the United States, this is the national Musicians Union. They have contract agreements with film and television production companies which cover the performance of their musician, orchestrator, and copyist members on recording sessions for film and television scores. The A. F. of M. also oversees contracts for musicians working in live performances, album recording, demo recording, and radio and television jingles and commercials.

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Arranger - Works with existing musical material and creates a custom version for a specific kind or size of musical group. For example: an arranger might be asked to take a piece of film music originally written for a large orchestra and create a version for a smaller musical group. Arrangers can also create versions of music in different styles, like arranging traditional music for a contemporary music group such as a big band or rock group.

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Assumption Agreement - (U.S.) An agreement that a production company must sign with the A. F. of M. in order to use the services of union members on a film or television music recording session. The agreement covers various issues including who is responsible for paying potential future payments to the musicians based on any new uses of the music. The agreement also specifies any special payments to the musicians that may be required in the future based on the success of the film.

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Blanket License - A license issued by a performing rights organization that authorizes the public performance of all the songs in the society's catalog.

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Buy-out - Used to describe a deal or arrangement where no future royalties or income will be paid to the person being hired. This term is sometimes used when a musician is hired for a non-union recording session and will not be paid any royalties or future payments.

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Compulsory Mechanical License - An exception to the copyright holder's exclusive rights of reproduction and distribution that allows anyone to record and distribute any commercially-released, non-dramatic song as long as the mechanical license rates established by copyright law are paid to the copyright owner of the song.

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Contractor - A contractor works with the composer for a film or television project to hire the musicians who will play on the recording sessions. The contractor also interfaces with the A. F. of M. when appropriate to ensure that the proper paperwork and forms are completed and filed for union recording sessions. A good contractor also knows how to hire skilled, professional musicians, how to work with the musicians to ensure that the composer's needs are met, and knows how to hire musicians who work well together. The contractor is usually hired or designated by the composer. In England, a contractor is known as a "fixer."

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Copyright - A bundle of exclusive rights granted by law to the creator of an original literary, artistic, or other intellectual work - including songs and sound recordings.

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Derivative Work - New work based on or derived from one or more pre-existing works.

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Exclusive Rights - For purposes of copyright law, the privileges that only a copyright owner has with respect to the copyrighted work.

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Fixed in a Tangible Medium of Expression - A term coined by the Copyright Act meaning that an original literary, artistic or intellectual work has a valid copyright as soon as it is written down or recorded in a manner sufficiently permanent or stable to permit it to be perceived, reproduced or communicated for a period of more than transitory duration.

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Intellectual Property - The ownership of ideas and control over the tangible or representation of those ideas. Use of another person's intellectual property may or may not involve royalty payments or permission, but should always include proper credit to the source.

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Mechanical License - Authorization from a music publisher or song writer to record and distribute a song. Compare to compulsory mechanical license.

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Most Favored Nations - Refers to a specific phrase which can be included as language in a contract or sync license. It essentially means: "This is my price and terms unless you give another company in my position a better deal. If you do, you agree to automatically revise my price and terms to be equal to the better price and terms." This language is often requested by publishers or recording companies when you are negotiating with more than one company or publisher on a project. Each company wants to make sure they get as favorable prices and terms as are being given to others for the project.

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Music Cue Sheet (or Performing Rights Cue Sheet) - The document prepared after a film or television project is completed that specifies information about each cue and how it was used. Payment of performing rights royalties is only possible if a cue sheet is filed for a production. The cue sheet indicates the composer, publishing company, performing rights affiliations of composer(s) and publisher(s), title, length as actually used, and usage for each cue. This document is filed with the performing rights organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) that the composer(s) and publisher(s) are affiliated with, and is the basis for payment of performing rights royalties. The Cue Sheet is usually prepared by the Music Editor.

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Music Editor - Works with the composer and production company to organize, document, and time the music cues for a project. The Music Editor works very closely with the composer during the early phases of a production to document the decisions of the director and composer about the placement, timing, length, and type of music to be used throughout a project. The Music Editor is usually present during the recording sessions to document each cue as it is recorded. The Music Editor is also present at the dubbing sessions where the recorded music is inserted into the film at the correct time code locations.

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Music Publishing - The commercial exploitation of songs through the issuance of mechanical licenses, synchronization licenses, performing rights licenses, print licenses as well as other licenses authorizing various uses of the songs.

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Music Supervisor - An executive who manages the licensing of music for a film or television production. The Music Supervisor handles music clearance and rights licensing of existing music, and also may be involved with supervising the score composer. Choosing appropriate music, especially Source Cues and Songs is usually the responsibility of the Music Supervisor.

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Performing Rights License - Authorization for the public performance of a song frequently granted by a performing rights organization through a blanket license.

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Performing Rights Organization - The associations or companies that issue performing rights licenses, track public performances, collect performing license revenues and distribute those revenues to song writers and music publishers. The performing rights organizations in the United States are ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

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Performing Rights Royalties - (U.S.) Royalties that are charged for the public performance of music, including music used in television programs, bars and restaurants, and non-U.S. theaters. These royalties are collected by performing rights organizations and are paid to the songwriter, composer, and publisher members of these organizations based on various factors including how often the music is played and the historical popularity of the music.

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Print License - Authorization from a music publisher or song writer to reproduce and distribute a song in printed form.

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Public Domain - The status of a recording or composition that is free of copyright protection or that is no longer owned by a Publishing company, and available for unrestricted use by anyone. The U.S. copyright statute gives an author control over a copyrighted work for a certain period of time (see "Term of Copyright"). After that time is up, the work is considered public domain. For example, a piece by Beethoven would be considered Public Domain; however, in order to be used in a film or television project a sound recording of the music must be licensed. In this case, the appropriate license would be a Master Use License. Existing recordings of public domain music generally may not be used without the permission of the owner of the recording.

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Recording Engineer (or Scoring Mixer) - The person who records, mixes (adjusts levels, effects, and tone), and has overall responsibility for microphone placement and recording the musicians at a recording session. Also known as a Scoring Engineer.

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Score Supervisor - A person who assists the composer at recording sessions by watching the printed score and listening to the performances of the musicians to aid the composer. The Score Supervisor often communicates with the composer or orchestra conductor through a private headphone mix that only the composer/conductor can hear. The composer/conductor then makes comments to the musicians as he/she deems necessary. The Score Supervisor may occasionally make comments to the Scoring Engineer about the volume levels of different instruments and other technical aspects of the recording process.

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Signatory - A signatory is a business or individual who is authorized by the American Federation of Musicians to act as an employer of musicians. In certain A. F. of M. contracts and agreements such as the Assumption Agreement, the signatory becomes legally responsible for possible future payments to the musicians.

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SMPTE (or Time Code) - stands for The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and usually refers to time code, for which this organization developed various standards. The terms SMPTE and time code are often used interchangeably. SMPTE is recorded as an audio signal, and is also usually shown in a window on the screen for reference purposes. An example of a time code location might be 02:00:44:22, which refers to a time code location of "Two Hours, zero minutes, forty- four seconds, and twenty-two frames." SMPTE is used to refer to specific locations in a piece of video or audio product, and comes in several types including Drop Frame and Non- Drop Time Code.

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Sub-Publisher - A foreign agent retained by the original music publisher of a song to exploit the song in the foreign agent's geographic territory.

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Synchronization License - Authorization granted by a music publisher, or song writer to use a song with visual images (as in a motion picture or television program or commercial).

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Term of Copyright - The amount of time for which a copyright is in effect. For songs created after December 31, 1977, the term lasts from the moment a song is written until the death of the songwriter, plus 50 years. If more than one person is involved in writing a song, the copyright on that song will last until 50 years after the death of the last living songwriter. If a song is written as work-for-hire, anonymously, or under a fictitious name, the copyright will last 100 years from the date the song was written, or 75 years after the date it is first published, whichever is shorter. Copyright owners also have the right to assign their copyrights to their heirs or any other person or business, and it is the right and responsibility of those persons to arrange ways to exploit the song, should previous publishing contracts or licensing agreements expire.

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Work For Hire - A form of copyright that removes ownership from the actual author of a work. According to the Copyright Act, in the case of work-for-hire, the work belongs to the employer of the actual author, since the work was done within the scope of his/her job. Copyright cannot be legally assigned to the employer without a signed, written contract stating that the author relinquishes the copyright; verbal agreements will not hold up in court.

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