Are you a songwriter, producer or artist? Here’s a list of every acronym you need to know in the music business.
We often get hit up by our artists, songwriters and producers for help when it comes to decrypting music industry terms. We get it, music industry jargon can be confusing AF.
So we decided to break down the meaning behind some of the most popular acronyms — a word or name formed from the initial components of a longer name or phrase — in the music business.
Music Industry Terminology & Acronyms
ISRC: International Standard Recording Code
An ISRC code (International Standard Recording Code) is a 12-character, alphanumeric code that is assigned to a track set for commercial release. The code (which looks like this: US-S1Z-99-00001 – the first two letters should be the country code of where the ISRC is created) allows the rights holder – whether it’s an independent artist or record label – to identify and track the ‘life’ of the recording. Every track has a unique ISRC encoded into it which acts like a barcode, helping collection societies and streaming platforms know that your song was played.
If you distribute your track through a music distribution service like Distrokid, you’re automatically given an ISRC code when you upload your track for distribution to streaming services. You can choose to generate a new one or use your own (if you’ve already got one through your national ISRC agency).
ISWC: International Standard Musical Work Code
Just like the ISRC, a ISWC exists to help you collect royalties. The ISWC is an 11-character alphanumeric code usually assigned by a collection society, like ASCAP in North America and tracks the song title, songwriter(s), music publisher(s), and corresponding ownership shares.
Each song only gets one ISWC, even if it’s a remix of an original song. But, if the new “version” of the song has different songwriting splits than the original, then it is a different composition and gets a new ISWC.
ISWCs are assigned by most collection societies when your songs are registered, but you can also get one by visiting the International ISWC Agency.
Feeling confused by the difference between ISRC and ISWC? You could say that the ISCR represents the master recording audio file itself, while ISWC represents the composition of the track – the composition and lyrics.
DAW: Digital audio workstation
A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic device or music production software used for recording, editing and producing audio files. If you make music on a computer, you have one of these in your creative arsenal. Some of our favourites are Ableton Live, Logic Pro, FruityLoops and Avid Pro Tools.
1. Digital Service Provider
2. Digital Signal Processing
In addition to Digital Service Provider, DSP can also stand for Digital Signal Processing — the way digital signals are manipulated and changed. DSP effects can be applied to synthesized or recorded sounds, like your voice, and let you shape and enhance the sound of your music.
A&R: The Artist and Repertoire department or manager
Artists and repertoire (A&R) is the name given to the department of a record label or music publishing company that is responsible for scouting new talent and overseeing the artistic development of artists.
For unsigned artists looking to get signed, an A&R is your best friend (think of them like the gatekeeper of the industry). They’re the ones looking for new talent, and will be your point of contact during contract negotiations with a label. They’re also in charge of listening to demos and aligning artists with producers.
CRM: Customer Relationship Management
A Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) is a software product that helps artists take comms with their fans to the next level. A CRM can help you keep all your bookings in one place, target gigs that need follow-up and keep track of contacts. You can also use it to track communications with fans, segmenting your listeners by geographical location and building more personalised comms with them. HubSpot offers a free tier which is a good place to start.
EP: Extended Play records
An extended play (EP) is a musical recording that contains more than one song (usually between 4-6 tracks long), but is unqualified as an album or LP (which usually has 8 or more songs).
LP: Long Play record // Long Play album
A Long Play record (LP) is a musical recording that contains 8 or more tracks. The name originally referred to a “long play vinyl record”, but has since come to refer to a full-length album, with 8 songs or more.
TM: Tour Manager
Tour Manager (TM) is the person in an artist’s team responsible for making sure that tours run smoothly. For a smaller artist or band, the Tour Manager might be the same person as the Manager, while a TM for a bigger artist might be employed with the responsibility to confirm tour bookings, managing tour finances, and dealing with promoters, venue managers and ticket agents.
IP: Intellectual Property
Intellectual Property (IP) is a broad framework of rights in law that protects ‘‘creations of the mind’’. Basically, anything created by humans that is considered an artistic, cultural or scientific creation has value, and is considered Intellectual Property. There are four types of Intellectual Property: patents, trademarks, copyright and registered design. Intellectual Property can get pretty technical and complicated so we recommend that you get the help of an entertainment lawyer when setting up your artist project.
MAPL: Music, artist, production, lyrics
MAPL is an acronym for Music, Artist, Performance and Lyrics, a system used to determine whether a piece of music qualifies as Canadian Content. The system was designed to boost exposure of Canadian artists and must fulfill at least two of these conditions:
- M (music): the music is composed entirely by a Canadian
- A (artist): the music is, or the lyrics are, performed principally by a Canadian
- P (performance): the musical selection consists of a live performance that is
- recorded wholly in Canada, or
- performed wholly in Canada and broadcast live in Canada
- L (lyrics): the lyrics are written entirely by a Canadian
PPD: Published Price to Dealer
The Published Price to Dealer (PPD) is the wholesale unit price of a recorded work. It’s often used in a major label’s contract with an artist as a basic figure for defining the artist’s royalty shares. An artist’s royalty is a percentage of the PPD, with new artists usually receiving 10-15% of the PPD, mid-level artists getting 16-18% of PPD, and superstar artists receiving 19-20% of PPD.
Are you an independent artist? You can find out more about our free music distribution service here.
A/D: Analogue to Digital Converter
An analog-to-digital converter (known as ADC, A/D, or A-to-D) is a system that converts an analog signal from a microphone or line level source into digital signals so they can be stored to any number of storage media like hard drives, processed in a sampler, digital signal processor or digital recording device.
AIFF: Audio Interchange File Format
Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) is an audio file format. Created soon after WAV, an AIFF works in exactly the same way: it provides studio-grade audio recording and playback. It also stores data in uncompressed, lossless format, meaning you get no quality loss, just pure sonic vibes.
WAV: Waveform Audio File Format
Like its friend AIFF, a Waveform Audio File (WAV) is an audio file format. A WAV does not compress your track meaning you won’t lose any quality of the recording.
MP3: Another audio format
Another audio format, the MP3 (“MPEG Audio Layer-3”) is a compressed audio file format that was designed to require significantly less disk space. Try to avoid saving your music files as mp3 as they can sound flat and one-dimensional.
FLAC: Free Lossless Audio Codec
FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec, an audio format similar to MP3, but lossless, meaning that audio is compressed in FLAC without any loss in quality.
BPM: Beats Per Minute
Beats per minute (or BPM) is a term that helps measure the tempo of a piece of music. DJs rely on the BPM of a track to help them move around the tempo ranges while DJing. Slow tracks can start at 40-60 BPM, while fast music will have 120-200+ BPM. To find out your music’s BPM, you can use a metronome, tap your foot and count, or use a BPM counting software like Logic Pro’s built-in BPM Counter.
CBR: Short for ‘Constant Bit Rate’
CBR stands for ‘constant bitrate’ and is an encoding method that keeps the bitrate (the amount of data being transferred into audio) the same. A higher bitrate generally means better audio quality. Distributing your tracks with Alewa House? The bit rate you should aim to upload with is 16bit.
EQ is the abbreviation for the word Equalization. EQing is a process used in mixing to help reduce the effect of masking so that each instrument can be heard clearly in the track. It’s important to have a firm grasp on the tool before you use it, otherwise you can easily do more harm than good.
Artists can provide a track ID when they don’t want to reveal themselves as the artist an/or the track name. An ID can be used when an artist wants to share the track and get feedback before it’s release, or if they’ve organised an exclusive premiere (eg. with a radio show) and it cannot be shared otherwise.
ID3 Tags are the tags on an MP3 or similar audio file that determine the artist’s name, song title, album name and genre. A regular MP3 file only contains the audio data itself, not all the information that you as an artist would want in the MP3s you export. Adding an ID3 Tag to your track in your DAW (like Logic Pro) is an important step and shouldn’t be left out.
OTB: Out of The Box
OTB is the acronym for ‘Out of The Box’ – any production work that is done on gear outside of a computer, like on an analogue mixer, or using hardware FX units.
UPC: Universal Product Code
A Universal Production Code (UPC) is a specific type of code widely used for tracking products in stores. It’s most common form, the UPC-A, consists of 13 numerical digits, which are uniquely assigned to each release. If an ISRC represents a single track, a UPC represents the single/EP/Album release product. UPC codes are used only in the US and Canada.
EAN: European Article Number
The European Article Number (EAN) is a code that helps identify every single, EP or album, consisting of 13 numbers (it looks like this: 400111122226). The EAN is the European version of a UPC.
PRO: Performing Rights Organization
A Performing Rights Organization (or “PRO”) is a local organisation that helps artists collect royalties for songs played in public venues like restaurants, radio stations, music festivals, stores and clubs. Each territory worldwide has one or more PROs, responsible for collecting performance royalties for that specific country or area.
Ready to unleash your music to the world? Sign up to Alewa House here.