How the Music Industry Works

The music industry is complicated with a lot of fingers in a very big pie.  From artists themselves to the various music distribution channels and record labels all looking to get paid it can make the setup fairly hard to understand.  Add into that how the music industry has changed so much since the internet has had such an impact on how music is sold and distributed, it can be a complicated mess to try and untangle.  Let’s take at how the music industry works.

The Artists

The whole industry is driven by the artists who create and perform music.  You have the songwriters who actually write the lyrics and music and you have the performers who are singing or playing the instruments you hear in a song.  Often they may be the same person but in modern pop music that is rarely the case.  Artists put in years honing their craft and often they are the faces of the music industry.

Music Publisher

The publisher is there to represent the work of the songwriter, the work of the songwriter is called the composition.  Some music publishers deal with artists and their entire catalogues or they can just represent some selected works.   The publisher will help the songwriter by connecting them with revenue streams, they will help them get airplay, connecting with other artist and licensing of their music for advertising.  Here is a closer look at everything a music publisher does.

The Publishing Agent

Most of the publishing agent work under the umbrella of record labels.  That is a significant fact, you need to understand that more than 70% of the Billboard top 100 songs are represented by 4 publishing agencies.  Publishing agencies have enormous client bases and they will sign talent in the hopes that someday they will make it big.  A small minority of their clients provide most of their income and the rest are largely ignored.

Tying it All Together

Music publishers will sign an artist to a contract for three years and represent all of their work, if the relationship works the contract is generally extended one year at a time.   When an artist is signed there can be an advance on future royalties, this sound good in theory but in practice it is a way to get an artist under a contract with a publisher.  The publisher will withhold any earnings until that advance has been paid.  If has not been renewed within the length of the contract then the contract will automatically be renewed.  As an artist you should be very wary of any deal you sign.

What Does a Music Producer Do?

The title of music producer is confusing, there is more than one type of role that a music producer fills. Let’s have a look at three different types of music producers and what they do in the music industry or in the recording studio.  First you need to understand that a music producer doesn’t actually make their own music.  Producers work with other recording professionals and industry executives.  Let’s look at the different types of producers you will find in the music industry.

Music Producer

The music producer spends most of their time creating and arranging music.  While not necessarily musicians themselves they tend to have degrees or backgrounds in music theory or music composition.  Most will come from high profile schools like Juilliard or Berklee College of Music.  One of their jobs is to make sure that the music recorded is the best quality possible.  It’s not just the equipment they are concerned with but they make sure that musicians give the best performance possible.  Often music producers are the go between for the musicians and the executives at the record label.  They can have one of the most difficult jobs in the music industry.  Here is a closer look at their job.

Engineering Producer

The engineering producer generally deals with the technical aspects that are needed in the studio.  They deal with the sound board and set up the microphones and make sure the software is running properly.  They are the guys and gals that keep the project organized and functioning properly.  They tend to be more technical as opposed to creative when determining what makes a great sound recording.

Executive Producer

The executive producer is generally the money guy, he is the one who funds the recording project or the making of an album.  They are generally the contact that the other types of producers along with the musicians have with the record label.  They sign the bands and oversee the completion of the recording.  They are the ones responsible for the project turning a profit.

The role of the “producer” in the music business can be confusing and often they wear many hats.  They are the technical guy, the guy who makes sure musicians make the best music and the money guy.  Sometimes the producer is forced to be all of that at the same time.  However they have a valuable role and they are the guys behind the scenes who bring us some great music.