The Music Industry

According to Wikipedia (that well-known and totally reliable source), the music industry is:” the companies and individuals that make money by creating and selling live music performances, sound recordings and music videos of songs and instrumental pieces”. 

That sounds right… in a vague kind of way.


The music industry can be broken down into 4 sections: live performance, recording, music publishing, and artist management.

Within those 4 sections there are various subsections, with new job titles being dreamt up all the time. We’re going to attempt to cover the majority of them.

As usual, if you think anything vital is missing, email us


Here we go…

Live Performance


Technical engineers: The technicians and engineers are the people who have to deal with the technicalities of live performance. They include sound engineers, lighting engineers, riggers, stage managers and instrument technicians, to name but a few.


  • Sound engineer: This is the person who you will have seen sitting behind the sound desk, either at the back or in the middle of the venue. They control both the sound going out to the audience (front of house) and the sound going back to the musicians on stage (via monitors or in-ears).


Booking agent: This is the person or company that books the gig. It’s their job to choose an appropriate venue for the artist, then to liaise with both the artist (or their manager) and the venue (or its promoter) to ensure that all the pieces are in place for a gig to go ahead. Sometimes, particularly with very big acts, the booking agent will book travel and accommodation for the artist and their team between gigs.


Promoter: A promoter is a person or company that actually puts on the gig. This means having access to a venue, promoting the gig (using flyers and posters, for example), selling tickets, and meeting the artists’ rider requirements (technical requirements, plus all the backstage beer).


Tour manager: This is the unlucky person who has to ensure that the artist (and all their crew… and all their equipment) is always in the right place at the right time. They have to communicate with everyone listed here plus hotel staff, venue staff and border control; draw up various budgets and ensure that they are adhered to, write itineraries for tours – often in minute, day-by-day detail -; make sure that all the necessary visas have been acquired in advance of the tour; and attempt to keep everyone sane.




Record label: Broadly speaking, a record label is a company that funds an artist’s recordings. It has various departments, including A&R, marketing and distribution. A record label will usually advance a sum of money to an artist on signing (the artist will not be paid their royalties from the record label until this sum of money has been recouped), and fund and facilitate recordings, music videos and tours.


  • A&R: A&R stands for ‘Artist and Repertoire’; this department is tasked with finding new artists to sign and working with those artists to develop their sound and brand.
  • Manufacturing & Distribution: This task is often outsourced (especially by independent labels); it comprises the manufacturing of products such as CDs and tour merchandise, their distribution, and the uploading of content to digital distribution channels like iTunes and Spotify.
  • Promotion / Marketing: This is the team that is responsible for producing promotional materials and campaigns – informing artists’ existing fans of upcoming events and releases and exposing artists to new potential fans. Music videos are usually this department’s responsibility.
  • TV/Radio Plugger: Part of the promotion team, pluggers promote songs to TV and radio producers in the hope that the songs will be played (or sometimes, in the case of TV, be performed by the artist).


Producer: The record producer is the one who is, in general, in charge in the studio. And we know that’s vague but there a reason for that. It’s because the roles of a record producer are very diverse and vary from job to job. These roles might include: coming up with a sonic concept for a record, contributing lyrics, maintaining the artist’s morale, studio engineering, programming, setting the agenda and keeping the recording process on schedule, contributing compositions and/or arrangements to a record, performing on the record, and organising session musicians to come and play.


Collection society: Collection societies are organisations that track the use of songs (radio, TV, gigs, etc.) and pay out money to their members according to whose songs have been used and how often. Collection societies’ members include songwriters, music publishers, performers and record labels. Collection societies also have the ability to collectively license the exploitation of copyrighted works (owned by their members) by third parties. These third parties are often radio broadcasters, music venues and spaces such as supermarkets, cafes and restaurants, where the legal and administrative cost to rights-holders of licensing directly would be unnecessarily great.




Music publisher (company): Broadly speaking, a music publisher is a company that funds a songwriter’s songwriting. It has various departments, including A&R, synchronisation and licensing. A publisher will usually advance a sum of money to an songwriter on signing (the songwriter will not be paid their royalties from the publisher until this sum of money has been recouped), and fund and facilitate songwriting activities, demo recordings, and songwriting partnerships.


  • A&R: A&R stands for ‘Artist and Repertoire’; this department is tasked with finding new songwriters to sign and working with those artists to develop their sound and brand and, often, to find other songwriters for them to collaborate with.
  • Synchronisation: ‘Synchronisation’ is putting music to moving image. Publishing companies ‘push’ certain songs for sync opportunities but also receive requests from sync agents a song to meet a brief.


Songwriter: Although a songwriter may also be a performer, many songs are not written by the artist that performs them. Therefore, behind most of big hits there is a team of songwriters. A songwriter’s income comes from a split of the royalties paid out (for the use of their song) by collection societies and publishers.


Artist Management


Artist: Another broad term! The artist is the person or people on stage; the face on the album sleeve. The name. Some artists are also songwriters, some are not. They too earn their money through royalty splits (via collection societies and record labels).

Much like the long-suffering tour manager, the artist manager is responsible for a whole host of things. Their duties include (but are not limited to): trying to get their artist a record and/or publishing deal and then negotiating the contracts, contributing artistic ideas, doing an awful lot of admin, drawing up long and short term career plans for their artist, contributing to their artist’s ‘brand’, and advising on subjects such as sponsorship, brand partnerships, merchandise, and touring.

There are lawyers who specialise in entertainment and music law. It is very important that all contract parties seek legal advice while negotiating contracts.