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MUSIC AGENDA: Terminology: #1

Updated: Feb 9, 2022

What's on today's agenda?

  • Record Label

  • The Big 3

  • Trademark

  • Recording Manufacturer

  • Record Distributor

  • Digital Music Distributor aka Aggregator

To be in the music business, you should know the jargon, understand and speak the language. In addition, knowing the terminology to use when working with other professionals makes you equally as valuable.

Record Label: The company that coordinates the production, manufacturing, distribution, marketing and promotion, and enforcement of copyright protection of sound recordings and music videos. Record labels maintain contracts with recording artists and their managers and manage the brands and trademarks associated with music recordings and videos marketing. A record label can also be referred to as a record company or recording company.

The Big Three record companies are Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, and Universal Music Group. If you haven't heard of these three mega record labels, you must surely have heard of many of the imprints under them. But, oh, what is an imprint label?

Well, we know that Record Labels are brands and trademarks responsible for publishing, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, promotion, and many other things for music recordings and videos. In addition, imprints are under the umbrella of record labels. It is simply a record label division and usually distributes, marketing, and copyrights to the label.

An excellent way to look at the relationship between a record label and its imprint is that the record label is kind of like the manager of the imprints.

Shout out to Joseph Tiller, a writer for the A3C Festival blog, for this great explanation of the relationship and responsibility between a record label and its imprint:

"A responsibility for record labels is talent scouting and developing new artists. A&R's record label work often suggests that new artists join specific imprints. Because imprints have no legal business structure, they don't have to do much legal work. Artists mainly focus on creating the music and any other business endeavors outside of music. The record label that brings them on is in charge of distributing the music to the proper outlets. When artists get in trouble for using samples without clearance, the record label provides the legal counsel to deal with it."

By definition, we see that a label is a brand of commercial recordings usually issued under a trademarked name, a record manufacturer-distributor. Still, what is a trademark, a recording manufacturer, and a recording distributor?


A registered trademark serves as a proven, public record that a musician or songwriter is legally entitled to their lyric or phrase rights. It also gives the trademark owner legal leverage to stop the illicit sale of goods that may appear to be identified as originating from them but actually aren't.

A trademark allows no one else other than you to use or sell for profit any of your lyrics phrases and, in some cases, your NIL (name, image, license) without your permission.

Recording Manufacturer

A music producer, or record producer, assists an artist with their recording project, bringing their vision to fruition and guiding their sound along the way.

Record Distributor

A music distribution company signs deals with record labels or artists, giving them the right to sell their music to shops. A distributor can only sell to ships with an account with the distributor. Put simply, the distributing company act as a middleman between the artist/record label and the store.

Additionally, we should mention what a digital distributor is.

Digital Distributor

Digital distribution is the delivery or distribution of digital media content such as audio, video, e-books, video games, and other software. For example, digital music distributors (aka aggregators) supply music to global stores and online platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Tidal. Songtrust is not a distributor; it's a publishing administrator.

Unlike a full-service distributor that focuses on physical and digital releases, an aggregator enables artists to distribute their music globally through specifically digital services like Apple Music, Spotify, and Tidal.

Songtrust is not an aggregator; an aggregator typically charges artists an upfront fee and/or a percentage of the money earned on master royalties from the streaming or downloading of their music.

You should get yourself familiar with the terms we used today:

  1. You should know what a record label and an imprint label are and have an idea of what their responsibilities are.

  2. You should know the Big Three record companies, Universal, Sony, and Warner.

  3. You should understand what a trademark is and who a record manufacturer is.

  4. You should know what a recording distributor is.

  5. You should know what an aggregator is and whose platform falls under the digital distributor tag.

Test your knowledge. Quiz time!

That's all I have for today, but you should go back and relisten to this episode if you didn't get all of the terms right away. Additionally, in writing, I post this episode on my blog, so check that out by clicking the link in the description.

Shaheim Kellum

F I V E R R Music Services

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