Music publishing can be complicated, especially if you're not familiar with the common terms and concepts. This article contains a list of publishing terms and their definitions. Some terms are used industry-wide, and others are specific to the CD Baby Pro Publishing service.
Industry-wide Publishing Terms
- CAE: A CAE (Composer, Auteur, and Editeur) is a unique identification number assigned to songwriters and publishers by their Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). It is usually between 8 and 11 digits, and is not the same as a member ID or account number with your PRO. CAE numbers are oftentimes referred to as IPI (Interested Party Information) numbers. A small number of PROs may assign both an IPI and a CAE, although this is rare.
- Collection Society: A collection society is an organization responsible for the tracking, collection, and payment of earned royalties to copyright owners. This refers to Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs), and Collective Management Organizations (CMOs).
- Collective Management Organization (CMO): CMOs are international organizations responsible for monitoring, licensing, and collecting performance and mechanical rights for their clients. All CMOs are considered PROs and MROs, but not all PROs and MROs are considered CMOs.
- Composition: A composition is the intellectual content of a musical work and consists of words and music: melody, harmony, lyrics. This does not refer to the sound recording of a musical work. Money generated from the use of the composition is owed to songwriters and publishers. Songwriters who write or co-write their own songs can take advantage of CD Baby’s publishing administration service to collect publishing royalties generated by the use of a composition.
- Copyright: Copyright signifies the ownership of intellectual property by a person or group. Music copyright also grants certain exclusive rights to the copyright owner, including the right to earn money from that intellectual property. There are two types of music copyright: the composition (music and lyrics) and the sound recording (a particular recorded version of that music and lyrics).
- Cover Song: A cover song is your recording of a song that you didn't write, and is the reinterpretation of a pre-existing composition. To record and release (specifically for physical or download release) a cover song that doesn't fundamentally change the lyrics or melody of the original composition, you first need to obtain a mechanical license from the owners of that composition.
- Derivative Work: A derivative work is a song that takes a pre-existing composition and uses it to create a new original composition. You cannot distribute a derivative work without the permission of the copyright holder of the pre-existing work. In the musical realm, examples of derivative works include: language translations, samples or replaying (re-recording a segment of the original song), parodies, medleys, and songs arrangements that change lyrics, abridge the music, or make other significant alterations to the original composition.
- Distribution Cycle: A distribution cycle is the schedule on which royalties are distributed by collection societies to songwriters and publishers. Royalties are distributed periodically by collection societies, typically on a quarterly basis.
- IPI: An IPI (Interested Party Information) is a unique identification number assigned to songwriters and publishers by their Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). It is usually between 8 and 11 digits, and is not the same as a member ID or account number with your PRO. IPI numbers are sometimes referred to as CAE (Composer, Auteur, and Editeur) numbers. A small number of PROs may assign both an IPI and a CAE, although this is rare.
- ISRC: An ISRC (International Sound Recording Code) is a unique, permanent, and internationally recognized reference number for the identification of sound recordings. One code is allocated to each version of a sound recording, and only this code is used for that recording. The ISRC is specific to the recording, and does not apply to the underlying composition.
- ISWC: An ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) unique, permanent, and internationally recognized reference number for the identification of musical works. These numbers are generated and assigned when a work is registered with your PRO. There should only be one ISWC for each unique composition that is used by all collection societies where a work is registered.
- Letter of Direction (LOD): A LOD is a formal notice to a collection society that a publisher will be taking administrative control of certain works on a songwriter’s behalf.
- Letter of Relinquishment (LOR): A Letter of Relinquishment is a formal notice showing the effective date of certain assigned rights for specific works being released to another party. An LOR acts as proof of termination from your publisher or publishing administrator so you can inform other parties they no longer control your sounds. Collection societies often ask us to provide an LOR from your old publisher before we can claim your works to avoid potential conflicts.
- Mechanical Rights Organization (MRO): MROs are organizations responsible for the administration of mechanical licenses and, depending on the MRO, the collection and payout of mechanical royalties to publishers. If a territory or country does not have a Collective Management Organization (CMO) responsible for both performance and mechanical royalty collections, they split these responsibilities between a PRO and MRO.
- Mechanical Royalties: Mechanical royalties are earned through the reproduction of copyrighted works in digital and physical formats. Mechanical royalties are generated when someone releases a cover of a song, streams music online, or downloads it outside of the US. Mechanical Royalties are collected by various Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs) and are typically paid directly to publishers.
- Metadata: Metadata is data associated with a song and is used in tracking and reporting. Some common examples of music-related metadata include a song’s artist, title, album, IRSC, copyright information, and songwriter and publisher information.
- Music Publishing: Music publishing is the business and monetization of a song’s composition copyright. Music publishing only relates to the composition, not the sound recording.
- Notice of Intent (NOI): A NOI (Notice of Intent) in the US is a legal document pertaining to Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act. If a songwriter has written a song that has been recorded and distributed commercially, the writer may receive an NOI letter stating that a third party wants to record or distribute the song. US copyright law requires a compulsory mechanical license from a rightsholder in order to distribute their recording, which can be obtained by sending a NOI.
- Original Composition: A composition is considered original if a songwriter wrote every aspect of the song's music and lyrics.
- Performance Rights Organization (PRO): PROs are organizations responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast. Public performances can include play in television, radio, clubs, restaurants, websites, or other broadcasting systems. A PRO is not a publisher, and does not act as a publisher. PROs collect performance royalties which they then pay to their registered songwriters or their publisher.
- Performance Royalties: Performance royalties are owed to songwriters and publishers when their songs are used in TV/film, played on the radio, streamed online, performed live (i.e. at a live show), or performed publicly (e.g. background music in a store, played at a bar, etc.). These are collected at the source by Performance Rights Organizations (PROs). Performance royalties are split into two equal shares. The PROs pay 50% directly to the songwriter(s), and 50% directly to the publisher(s).
- Pseudonym: A pseudonym is a songwriter affiliation connected to the writer’s main affiliation, but that is registered under a separate name and IPI. If a songwriter is already affiliated with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO), their PRO may provide the songwriter an option to register a pseudonym, which can be an alias or stage name that differs from their full legal name.
- Public Domain: The public domain consists of works to which no exclusive intellectual property rights apply. When the copyright of a song expires, the works are considered in the public domain. These works do not require a license or fee to use. In music, public domain status allows the user access to use a composition, but restrictions differ by territory. If a work falls within the public domain, only that exact version is not protected under copyright law. Other people may have created arrangements of that work that are still under copyright.
- Publisher: A publisher is the owner of the copyright of the composition of the song. If the songwriter has never signed away their publishing rights to a publishing deal, then the songwriter is the publisher. A publisher may empower a publishing administrator to manage their copyrights and account for the income they earn. This differs from a sheet music publisher or CD manufacturer.
- Publishing Administrator: A publishing administrator collects publishing royalties and registers works with collection societies. Publishing administrators do not obtain any ownership or creative control over the songs they administer. The copyright holder retains ownership and creative control, while the administrator collects royalties and licensing fees on their behalf and charges a small commission fee for their services.
- Publishing Royalties: Publishing royalties are royalties generated by the use of the composition and are payable to songwriters and publishers.
- Royalty Free: Royalty Free refers to a type of music licensing that allows whoever purchases the music to pay for the music license only, after which they are then able to use the music for as long as they desire without having to pay any additional royalties to the copyright owner. Typically, this does not transfer ownership of the copyright to the licensee.
- Setlist: A setlist is a list of songs played by an artist during a live performance. By registering a setlist with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO), songwriters and their publishers can earn performance royalties when their compositions are played live.
- Songwriter: A songwriter contributes to the intellectual content of a musical work by writing lyrics or creating musical compositions for songs. Songwriters can be "collecting" or "non-collecting" in our system.
- Songwriter Affiliation: A songwriter affiliation refers to a songwriter’s membership with a Performance Rights Organization, including the songwriter’s name and IPI number as it is registered with their PRO. A songwriter member of PRO is considered affiliated once their IPI has been assigned.
- Songwriter Splits: Songwriter splits indicate the percentage of ownership each contributing songwriter has of a composition. Songwriter splits must always equal 100%.
- Sound Recording: A sound recording is the intellectual content created in the process of recording a musical work (composition). Money generated from the use of the sound recording is owed to artists and labels.
- Split Sheets: A split sheet is a legal document that outlines songwriter and publisher information for a composition. Split sheets typically include the song name, songwriter names, songwriter splits, publishers and Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) representing each songwriter, and the address and contact information for each songwriter. Split sheets should be signed by all contributing songwriters.
- Work/Works Registration: A work in the publishing realm refers to the underlying composition of a song or track. A works registration refers to a composition that has been registered (or should be registered) with a collection society, on behalf of the songwriters who composed the work, and their respective publishers.
CD Baby Pro Publishing Terms (for legacy Pro releases)
- Collecting Songwriter: If you add a collecting songwriter to a track, that means you are asking CD Baby to collect that songwriter’s share of publishing royalties for that specific track. Once added to your Songwriter Bank, collecting songwriters will be shown with a “$” next to their name. This will allow us to register their songs with their PRO and administer the publishing. Their publishing royalties will come into your account, then you will be responsible for paying them that share. To do this, they will need to affiliate with a PRO or enter their current PRO affiliation information through our site. The first collecting songwriter you add to your account is free. You will be charged a $10 one-time fee for any additional collecting songwriters added to your account.
- Downgrade: A downgrade is the process of changing a Pro Publishing release to a Standard release. A downgrade may be requested if the account holder started a Pro Publishing release, but wants to remove the publishing administration service prior to submitting their songwriter affiliation information. If affiliation information for all collecting songwriters on a release has been entered in the Pro Publishing Admin section of your account, then your release is finalized Pro Publishing and cannot be downgraded to Standard. If a Pro Publishing release has been finalized for at least 12 months, you may request to cancel Pro Publishing for the release and keep your distribution intact.
Non-Collecting Songwriter: A non-collecting songwriter for Legacy Pro releases means CD Baby will not collect that songwriter’s share of publishing royalties for that specific track. Currently, all non-Legacy Pro songwriters are labeled as "Non-Collecting Songwriters."
- Non-collecting songwriters can still opt-in to the collection of mechanical and digital performance royalties through CDB Boost's suite of services, separately from Pro Publishing's collection of publishing royalties from P.R.O.s.
- Songwriter Bank: The songwriter bank contains every songwriter name that has been used on any submission in the CD Baby account. The writers in the songwriter bank are not automatically assigned, and must be manually applied to each track on each submission. Songwriters who have been assigned to the track will show below the Songwriter Bank, and will be indicated with a designation of "Added Below" in the Songwriter Bank. The songwriter bank can include both collecting and non-collecting songwriters.
*The CD Baby Pro Publishing service was discontinued as of August 8th, 2023. Any paid release which was signed up for CD Baby Pro Publishing prior to August 8th, 2023 is considered a legacy Pro release and will continue to receive Pro Publishing services. CD Baby now offers a new expanded suite of revenue amplifiers called “CDB Boost” instead.