At Eagle Rock Music Studio, many of our instructors have worked or currently work in the music industry and are always keen on imparting as much of their wisdom to their students as possible. The music industry is a complicated beast, and many who aspire to be a part of the industry — as an artist or a professional — remain in the dark about its inner workings and major players. Below is a guide to the roles people and organizations play.
Though the music industry has undergone a lot of change in recent years and revenue from recorded music has dropped, artists still seek recording contracts — their promotional power just can’t be beat. Commercial radio stations also don’t play songs by unsigned artists — there is no sense in wasting airtime on a song that doesn’t have significant promotional power behind it. After all, stations are in the business of playing songs people want to hear.
The major labels are owned by Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment; indie labels bypass terrestrial radio with their promotional campaigns, for the most part, and very few songs appear on commercial radio (particularly pop stations) that aren’t by artists on the labels owned by the three major record companies.
The role of the music producer is incredibly hard to define for those not familiar with the record-making process. But to use the analogy of filmmaking, record producers are similar to movie directors, and recording artists are akin to actors. The producer is the manager of the recording process and is responsible for ensuring the project stays within the allotted budget.
Often, they assist with the songwriting process as well, particularly helping out with arrangements. But most importantly, producers are in charge of how the music sounds, and are hired to fulfill the artist’s vision from a sonic standpoint and to deliver to the record label something they can work with.
The promoter is another role that most outside the industry would likely have trouble properly defining. For one, many would likely think a promoter is someone at a label who provides some kind of promotion for the artists. Although those people certainly exist, in the industry “promoter” refers specifically to a concert promoter.
Every time a concert is held, a promoter rents out the venue for the night and hires an artist to perform for the guests; the promoter is essentially hosting a party. The best part: artists perform, and then they get paid right away. Well before the night of the concert, the promoter and the artist’s booking agent negotiate an appearance fee; if the concert fails to sell out, it’s the promoter who takes the hit, not the artist. The biggest national promoters of music tours are Live Nation and AEG Live.
In order to make money from the songs you have written, you are going to need a deal with a publisher. Publishing companies possess the worldwide infrastructure necessary to collect money from your music when it is played in numerous settings — on the radio, on TV shows, in movies, etc. Also, in order for another artist to cover your song either on record or in concert, royalties must be paid out to the original songwriter(s), as well — this is where having a publishing deal comes in handy, since they scour the world on your behalf ensuring that every royalty is collected.
Publishers also collect what are called “mechanical royalties” for you: in order for a record label to include a song on a CD, for example, the label must first pay the songwriter’s publisher a fee of around 10 cents per song. Unfortunately, since physical record sales have dropped in recent years, this is a becoming a less lucrative income source. Publishers also collect royalties for you from any sheet music sold as well, but this has never been a particularly lucrative income source.