Working towards a fairer music industry

Industry Jargon
Explained Part  Three

Experts across the fields of journalism, live music, marketing and more talk us through the terms they wish they knew before they started the job. From ‘advances’ to ‘riders’ to ‘above the line’ - Industry Jargon Explained will help to demystify the language of the music industry.

Photo credit Chiara Gambuto


Line Check: As opposed to a normal extensive soundcheck, which is done with plenty of time to play with, normally in the afternoon before a show opens its doors; a line check is just testing each channel/instrument is feeding into the desk. This makes it a million times harder for the sound engineer, as they have to essentially mix the band from scratch as soon as their performance starts. Most normally used in festivals or all-dayers when there's limited time for acts to changeover on the same stage, but also has been used in emergencies when some legends arrive super late, miss the ferry from Calais, lost the bass player in Amsterdam, etc.

Buyout: There's two meanings for this term and you have to check the context and who it's written from to not get it wrong. A catering buyout is when the venue does not have a kitchen, so you just give each member of the touring party some cash (and some local recommendations for brownie points) to go eat out somewhere nearby. However, a ticket buyout is where the management/label reserve a certain number of spaces on a list behind the box office for press and any other industry persons they'd like to attend the show. When I first started promoting I was like “why am I taking 30 people, as well as the band and crew, to dinner?", so keep an eye on that one.

Accomm: You guessed it; accommodation. Used in confirming fees with artists, such as: £1000 + catering + accomm, for example.

Hard / Soft Merch: Again, pretty straightforward, but you'll be surprised. Hard merch is vinyl, soft merch is t-shirts and tote bags, etc. I once met a merch seller who thought the difference was how intensely you should try and sell certain items, not the actual physicality of them. Bless.

SD: This one is an incredibly new term, which I've only found myself using in recent weeks; Socially-Distanced. With the hope of having more live events as soon as this December, and to try to end this godawful year which some level of positivity, we'll be trying to get some seated SD shows under our belt.


Sync: Synchronisation, or a ‘sync’, is when music is synchronised to moving picture. This can be in an advert, TV show, film, computer game, trailer etc.

Master & Publishing Rights: When you license a song for sync, you must clear both the master rights for the recording (with the label) and the publishing rights for the song itself (with the publisher(s)). Sometimes these rights are held by the same person, but often there are multiple rights holders, so it is important to ensure you have all these approvals in place.

One Stop: A rights holder who owns 100% Publishing & Master rights on a track. It just means one clearance party to clear all the rights which makes life easier!

MFN: MFN stands for “Most Favoured Nation” and is a standard clause in sync licences. When agreeing a sync deal, you can ask for MFN with the other rights holders of a song. It basically means that everyone agrees to the same fee, so no one is getting more favourable terms than anyone else. If someone negotiates a better deal, the terms of your deal will be raised to match theirs.

TV Blanket Licence: The UK TV broadcast companies have a deal in place with the collection societies where they can use music “under the blanket” rather than negotiating upfront fees with individual rights holders. Broadcasters pay a large fee to collection societies & then report which music they have used in their programmes. The money they have paid to the collection societies will then be split between the rights holders of the music they have reported.

Production vs. Catalogue vs. Bespoke: Production music is a track written specifically for a music library. The track can then be licensed for a small fee which is dictated by a rate card, available on the MCPS website. Catalogue music is commercially available, and a fee must be negotiated & approved with the rights holders (of which there can be several). Bespoke music is a piece of music created specifically for the project.


Instant Gratification (IG): No, not that lovely warm feeling after your witty tweet gets a like. Instant grats are the singles that are available as part of an album pre-order ahead of the release date. This is best represented in iTunes: the greyed-out tracks will only be available when the album is released but the tracks that are already available for download are the instant grats. When a new single is released ahead of the album’s release, it is turned on as an instant grat. A fan will receive automatic downloads of the available IGs upon pre-ordering the album.

Waterfall singles: A new type of single for the streaming age. This refers to the grouping together of the whole campaign’s singles in order to boost streaming figures on the previous singles. For instance, a product (release) for the fourth single ahead of an album will also feature singles one, two and three. The thinking is that this type of format will boost play counts (the number of streams for a track) as the streaming service will automatically play the remaining tracks for the user, causing a “trickle down” of streams. Like a waterfall, sort of.

Visualiser: Someone who is really good at picturing situations in their head… No, a visualiser is just a type of video that is not classified as an official video (which are what you see on MTV). Sometimes, a visualiser can be composed of computer-generated graphics, like the Windows Media Player waves. Alternatively, they could just feature a static image of the packshot (artwork / release front cover). A visualiser will likely be marked as ‘(Official Audio)’ on YouTube.

Street date: A needlessly extravagant way of saying release date, usually applied to albums. There’s nothing else to it.

Pitching: The digital team at a record label will send regular pitches (sometimes emails, sometimes Google Sheets grids) to DSPs (Digital Service Providers, see Part 2) in order to highlight upcoming releases and tracks. The aim is to receive support from the DSPs in the form of playlist inclusions, homepage features and all that good stuff.

UGC: User-Generated Content (UGC) is any content (videos, images etc) that is created by users (fans). In the context of a record label, this is most applicable to the videos that fans upload to sites like YouTube, Facebook and TikTok that contain audio that is owned by the label. On some services, the label has the choice whether to monetise (make money by adding advertisements) or block (make the video unavailable) videos that use their audio.

UPC: The Universal Product Code (UPC) is a unique 12-digit identifier for a release (album, EP, single). Having a unique identifier makes it easier for accounting and reporting purposes. On physical products, like LPs and CDs, you can see this 12-digit number on the barcode sticker. All digital products are also assigned a UPC.

ISRC: The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) is a unique identifier for a sound recording (track). Every single track in the history of recorded music has been assigned an ISRC (or should have been), which makes it easier for the finance teams at a label and helps the digital teams with their reporting. An ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) does the same job but for compositions (i.e. the songwriting as opposed to the actual recording).


Withholding tax: When playing abroad, some countries have laws which mean earnings, in this case artist fees, are subject to taxes within that country before they are paid to the artist. Each country has its own tax system and there are sometimes forms you can apply for to reduce or eliminate the tax altogether. Without the right documents though a band can get really stung this way, and end up losing a lot if not most of their fee, which is a bad place to be if you’re in the middle of Europe with no money. The forms can sometimes take months to sort out so best to ask very early on what would be needed and how much tax is likely to be deducted.

Exclusivity: A promoter might ask for certain exclusivities on a performance as part of a performance agreement, in order to make sure the maximum number of people buy tickets to their show. This can range from making sure the band plays no other shows within 5 miles, 2 weeks either side of a show, to making sure the band plays no other shows in that country for a whole year. This can be an integral part of the contract so If exclusivity is agreed on and then broken, the band will be very open to lots of bad scenarios including being blacklisted, not receiving their fee or even legal action. It usually applies to higher level shows and festivals but not always. Even without an explicit exclusivity agreement it’s good practice to avoid booking in shows that will have a big impact on the sales of another show, especially without prior discussion from everyone involved.

Booking agent: I still have to explain to my family what it is I do all day plus it validates me to actually write it down! An agent basically works on behalf of a band (client), booking shows, events and festivals for them. They will work closely between bands, management and promoters to work on live strategies that make sure they’re not just playing events but they’re playing the *right* events with the right promoters, in order to help the bands grow and allow them to focus on playing great music. Usually an agent's fee will be a cut of the bands performance fee (commission), which is usually about 10% - be very wary of any agents who say their fees are a set amount. As well as the commission percentage, they will also agree which territories (countries) they represent you in and will insist that they are the only ones booking you in those territories, and that all live shows in those agreed territories go through them. Most agents won’t have any formal contract with their artists, so the relationship is very trust based. There’s also lots and lots of spreadsheets!

GBOR / NBOR: Acronym for Gross Box Office Receipts and Net Box Office Receipts. Usually terms found on a settlement after a show, GBOR is the total amount of ticket money the promoter receives, before VAT has been taken off.  i.e. 100 tickets at £5 each would give GBOR of £500. However if the promoter is VAT (standing for Value Added Tax) registered then they have to pay VAT on those ticket sales to the government. This means the final money from ticket sales that the promoter can actually use to pay band fees, venue hire, rider and all other costs will be less than £500. In the UK the quick calculation to work out the final amount is GBOR divided by 1.2, which in this case gives £416.67. This is referred to as Net Box Office Receipts (NBOR). As the NBOR is effectively the promoters true income, most versus or percentage deals will be based on NBOR, not GBOR.


Advancing / Advance: In order for a show to run smoothly, there needs to be an effective line of communication between the artist's team, the promoter and the festival/venue production team (sound & lighting engineers, stage manager etc) prior to the show date. This communication is called the 'advancing' or the 'advance'.

The artist will usually send their technical info (or 'tech rider') - documents such as their stage plot, channel list, equipment (or 'backline') they will be bringing & what they will need provided, plus their hospitality rider - which is the food & drink they will expect to be provided upon arrival. Other items that will be discussed include the schedule for the day, arrival & parking info and guest list requests. It sounds easy, but when you are dealing with a touring party of 30 people traveling by tour bus, headaches can soon arise that are best resolved well before the event.

When I first applied for my current role about 5 years ago, I had little to no advancing experience (tbh I wasn't even really sure what it meant!), so I went away & pretty much only did exactly that for a few years. It's so easy to be deterred from applying for a job because you don't have some of the relevant skill(s), but in my case I used that as a catalyst to spur me on.