Music Business - What Does It Mean?

Music Business - What Does It Mean?

Music Business - What Does It Mean?


So, what is the music business?

Well, to put it in one sentence, it’s an umbrella term for a vast network of companies and individuals that create and sell music products.

There is a lot more to it than that though, and in this blog, I’ll cover the different areas that make the music industry tick

I’m going to split it up into six sections which are: Record Companies/Labels, Compositions, Performance, Recordings and Production, Released Music, Live Events and Other Noteworthy Industry Professionals.

So, let's find out how it all works!

Record Companies/Labels:

It used to be that you would need to be signed to a record label to really get anywhere as an artist. Before the days of music making being accessible to all, and social media being there for promotion, you would have needed the record label to fund your studio time and market your music.

Record companies are still a huge part of the industry and work with a lot of big artists. However, they are not as essential as they once were and could almost be seen as old fashioned now.

There are two types of record labels. Major and independent.

The ‘Big 3’ major record labels are Sony, Universal and Warner.

There are lots of smaller independent labels as well, often specialising in certain genres.

Record companies will often have an A&R department. A&R stands for artists and repertoire. These departments will find and develop artists, often shaping them into something that they know will sell. This is where record companies can take away some or all the artist's creative license.

The good thing about these companies is that they have a vast reach and will get your music a lot of attention and potential revenue. The standard split between artists and major labels is about 20% to the artist and about 80% to the label, so most of the money your music makes will go to the label.

Record companies will also pay for the making, release, and marketing of the music as well as often giving the artist an advance.


In this second section, we’re going to cover another part of the music business which is making money from compositions and song writing.

Lots of the artists out there don’t actually write their own songs, so songwriters will get paid to do this for them.

Songwriters can often be signed to music publishing companies, who promote the songs and make sure that the songwriters get paid when their music is used commercially. Music publishers will also look for licensing opportunities too.

Song writing and composition royalties can also be collected for the songwriters or composers by royalty collection agencies such as PRS in the UK.

Performance, Recordings and Production:

Apart from the creative roles in the music business, there are also people who have a more technical job. These technical roles often merge with the creative side as well.

In this section we’re going to talk about these creative and technical jobs in the industry.

Artists and Musicians:

These creative roles are often the first to be thought of when talking about the music business.

We wouldn’t have music without singers or musicians. A more financially lucrative job is being a session singer or musician, unless you can become a chart-topping artist. Of course, this is possible, but is realistically a lot harder to achieve.

Session musicians get paid to perform on different songs or music projects and will also get a cut of the performance royalties when they are signed up to a performance royalty collection agency, such as PPL in the UK.

Engineers and Producers:

Studio engineers and producers are also very important in making recorded music.

Their technical, creative and communication skills are employed to record, mix and master songs, as well as to communicate with artists and encourage them to give their best performance.

These days, producing music has become a lot more accessible and inexpensive to everyone, so more and more artists are able to produce their own music without having to pay for expensive studio time or be signed to a record company.

The evolution of the artist/producer has completely changed the music business and enabled so many people to self-release their music, using social media as the main marketing tool.

Released Music:

Once music has been recorded, it will get released. Currently most of the music is released digitally for consumption through streaming and digital platforms.

If the artist is signed to a record company, they will deal with all of this, but self-releasing artists will go through a digital distributor, who will release the music to all the required platforms, such as Spotify and iTunes.

Another way for the artist's music to get heard is through radio plays. This will give the artist more exposure as well.

Royalties can also be collected from plays of the released music.

Live Events:

Another huge part of the industry is of course live events. One of the best ways to see your favourite band or artist perform.

Also, a great way for artists to earn more money and promote themselves and their music, through performance and selling merchandise.

Performers can also get performance royalties from playing at live events.

Let’s not forget, that these live shows wouldn’t happen without sound engineers and lighting engineers!

Live engineers play a crucial role in how the show sounds and looks. If the sound is bad, that may make the crowd think that the act isn’t very good.

Sound engineers have the responsibility of creating the best possible sound and mix, whilst often having to quickly troubleshoot potential problems for the show to go smoothly and safely.

Promoters also play an important role in the live events industry, as they must make sure that the right people actually know about the show for a good turnout.

Other Noteworthy Industry Professionals:

Other professions are involved with the music business as well, and often specialise their trade in music.

For example, music lawyers specialise and deal with legal matters in the music industry, such as sample clearances and copyright infringement.

Managers for artists is another job role in the industry. They work to get jobs and the best deals for their artists. They will often make their money from taking a percentage of their artist’s income.

So, that should answer the question of what does music business mean. The music industry is always changing and evolving, but these are the main points about how it all works.

David Griffiths.

For those of you that want to take your music career further, we run a foundation degree course in Creative Music Production & Business where we combine the key aspects of producing music as well as exploring the music industry.

Check out some of our other blog posts:

What Is A Music Producer & What Does A Music Producer Do?

How Long Does It Take To Become A Music Teacher?

How To Balance Making Music With A Full-Time Job

A Career Teaching Music

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