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Understanding Roles In The Music Industry

Updated: Mar 12

If you are a new artist, the music industry can often feel a little overwhelming. Here is our simple guide to the key roles and stakeholders in the music industry and an explanation of when you might need each of them.

Understanding Roles In The Music Industry - A guide from Major Labl
Understanding Roles In The Music Industry
Here is our guide to understanding roles in the music industry:

Artist Manager:

Most artists want and believe they need a manager. But for a new artist attracting a manager is difficult that’s because managers typically get paid between 15-20% of your income, but if you aren’t even making enough money to support yourself 15-20% of nothing doesn’t look very attractive. At the start of your career, your best bet is to encourage a friend, family member or partner to get involved and play the role of manager. Failing all that set up a new email address called management@yourbandname and do it yourself.


Typically a manager will represent you, overseeing business and financial negotiation and deals, and sourcing and securing opportunities for your music. They could source gigs, arrange press, book rehearsal spaces and help with social media promotion. As your career progresses they could liaise with record labels, pr teams, publishers, booking agents and tour managers. The aim is to free up your time, so you can focus on making the music.


Booking Agent:

Most new artists also want and think their need a booking agent, but once again they are hard to attract and retain. Booking agents get paid from your live shows so unless you are regularly filling and selling our music venues it’s unlikely they will be interested in booking a band that plays to the same six mates in the Dog & Duck. But let’s assume you have started to build a loyal live following, what do they do?


A booking agent handles all live bookings for a band, which could include gigs, festivals and tours. They have established contacts which allow them to secure shows at larger, better venues. They can also get you support slots with more established artists. We recommend you regularly network with other bands, as often the support slots are chosen or rubber-stamped by the headliner, so if that band you played with two years ago turns out to be the next big thing, stay in contact and who knows you might end up on their tour. Getting to play festivals without a booking agent is especially difficult, so having a booking agent can really open doors.


Producer:

Working with a producer can add a professional finish to your home-recorded demo. Even if you can’t afford to work with a producer, a simple trick to improve the quality of your music is to hire a studio to master your record. Even famous studios like Abbey Road offer this service. Most producers are paid a flat fee or an advance, but some also receive points (a percentage of the dealer price of a record, and/or a share of the profits made from the recordings).


Here are some other benefits of working with a professional producer


  • Creative Input and Direction: Producers bring a fresh perspective to your music. They can help refine your ideas, suggest new arrangements, and guide you in making the best artistic decisions for your songs. Their experience and knowledge of different genres and styles can be invaluable in shaping your sound.

  • Access to a Network: Producers often have connections within the music industry, including session musicians, engineers, and other professionals. This network can be beneficial for an unsigned musician, as it opens up opportunities for collaboration and exposure to a wider audience.

  • Increased Credibility: Working with a reputable producer adds credibility to your music. Industry professionals and potential fans take notice when they see that your tracks were produced by someone with a strong track record. Make sure you add the producer's name to your next press release.

  • Learning Opportunity: Collaborating with a producer can be a valuable learning experience. You can gain insights into the technical aspects of music production, song arrangement, and the overall music-making process, which can help you become a better musician in the long run.

Collection Society:

Collection societies collect royalties on behalf of artists and songwriters. There are 3 collection societies in the UK - PRS For Music, MCPS and PPL; each collecting a different type of royalty.


PRS For Music collect royalties generated from songs when they are performed, played in public, broadcast or used online. The membership of this society is made up of songwriters and composers, as well as music publishers. If you are under 25 you can now join PRS for £30 to start earning royalties from your music and protect your rights. We recommend every artist joins the PRS before starting to release music, this way you don’t miss out on any money you are owed.


MCPS also administers copyright in songs and, again, its members are publishers and songwriters. However, rather than dealing with the public performance of songs, this society issues licences for the mechanical reproduction of musical works. Although this type of use is most readily associated with record companies making physical records and CDs, it also applies to broadcasters and online services.


PPL’s primary function is to administer the producers’ and performers’ rights in sound recordings and in many respects its function is similar to PRS for Music. Whenever recorded music is performed in public or broadcast on radio or TV, PPL issues a licence to the venue or broadcaster and collects royalties on behalf of producers and performers. However, unlike PRS and MCPS, PPL has no current role in administering sound recording rights online.


Distributor:

A distributor enables you to get your music onto the likes of Spotify, iTunes, Amazon and even TikTok and/or to record shops (physical distribution). Their role covers licensing your music to retailers, creating and ensuring Metadata is correct (the info used to describe your release such as artist/band name, release name, barcode, ISRC and any territory restrictions), and gathering royalties for your release. We have written a separate guide to help you choose the best distribution company for you, which you can read here.


Music PR:

A PR company works to promote your releases to blogs, press, radio and other media; securing coverage, and reviews in magazines and online, or interviews and sessions on radio and TV. When you first start out there are lots of ways to secure press and blog coverage without hiring a PR company. We recommend you start by using blog aggregators like Right Chord Music’s RCM Indie Collection, submit for free for your chance to be featured on a variety of Blogs, Podcasts and Playlists. You could also try Musosoup or Submit Hub. Read more about how to attract the attention of a music blog here.


Radio Pluggers:

A plugger helps you secure one-off spot plays and playlist features on national, regional or community/student radio stations. Most campaigns run for 8-10 weeks and you typically pay upfront. Just like PR there are no guarantees that you will get any support, but you will still have to pay. So we always advise that you start with free radio opportunities including BBC Introducing, and Amazing Radio. We typically tell independent artists to stay clear of radio pluggers as you can waste a lot of money. Remember 90% of radio playlists are filled with major label-signed artists, so the chances of sustained playlist support is rare. Read more about why you should avoid radio pluggers here.

A&R:

An abbreviation of the term ‘Artists & Repertoire’, this is basically the role of someone seeking out new talent. An A&R rep or manager may work for a record label, management company or music publishing company, as each has an A&R Department that will always be on the lookout for exciting, emerging talent to sign.

The A&R contact for a music company is the person you need to be directing your tracks to. They spend their time discovering and listening to new music, going to gigs to check out artists they’ve heard a buzz about, and meeting with bands, artists or their managers if they are interested in signing them. Once they sign an artist, they will then work alongside them to help develop their sound and image to create a marketable finished ‘product’.

Music Publisher:

A music publisher or music publishing company is responsible for ensuring songwriters and composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially. Remember, this differs from the ‘recording’ of a song, music publishers are only concerned with the actual song composition.

If you sign a music publishing deal, the publisher will take over the rights to your songs and will work to promote the songs for use in advertising and brand partnerships, films, TV or for another artist to record. Their role also involves issuing licenses for the use of a song, collecting the royalties, accounting, and so on. There are 3 main areas where income can be generated; Performance, Mechanical and Synchronisation.


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