Music Industry Glossary

Sacramento News & Review
November 14, 2002

Working daily in the music business, as a lawyer, a recording engineer and occasionally as a record producer, we have come to the conclusion that many artists are fairly clueless when it comes to the functions and responsibilities of certain key people in the industry. This brief glossary is intended to be used as a guide to assist the artist with the enormous amount of business decisions that they must face to help advance their career in the music industry. Just to make things interesting, we have also thrown in a dose of reality below a few of the descriptions.

The artist is the person or group performing the song in the studio or live venue. They may or may not write their own material depending on their songwriting skills.

Typically selected by the artist, the producer is responsible for making the record or song “sellable”. This may involve picking out songs, assisting the artist with songwriting or even setting the mood of the session with candles or Christmas tree lights. The producer usually has an ear on the recording to make sure that it is sonically acceptable to the label and for radio. On most occasions, they also retain the burden of keeping the project on, or under budget. A good producer will usually see the project through, from pre production to the final mastering stage.

Reality – The term “producer” is probably the most commonly used and abused title. In some genres of music (most commonly urban music), producer credits are typically given to the author of music or the “beat maker”. I have never really understood this practice, considering a “songwriter” credit usually yields a better paycheck.

On a local level, the artist will sometimes assume the producing responsibilities regardless of experience, or worse yet, they may expect the engineer to produce the record without properly compensating him. It is extremely rare that this works out in the artist’s favor.

Executive Producer
Executive producer is usually a fancy name for the money person or entity. Although rare, I have also seen this title used for the identification of the assistant producer.

Reality – The executive producer usually takes whatever money is left over from record sales, after all expenses, royalties and publishing have been paid out.

The Engineer
The engineer usually takes direction from the producer and is responsible for operating the studio gear. This usually involves doing whatever it takes to transfer the producer’s sonic vision of the record to the final mechanical medium (CD, DVD, etc…). They can also assist the producer in matters such as studio selection. This category can usually be split up into several sub-categories including, tracking engineer, mixing engineer, mastering engineer and most recently, Pro-Tools engineer.

Reality – On a local level, it is not uncommon for the artist to erroneously give producer credits to the engineer, nor is it uncommon for an engineer to assume additional producing responsibilities against the artist’s will.

As an engineer, I always have plenty to do without having to worry about making sure that the vocals aren’t out of tune. I find this concept very similar to a major league quarterback being forced to throw the ball and receive it too. He may have the ability to do it, but it will only get you so far down the field.

Assistant / 2nd Engineer
It is the 2nd engineers job to assist the engineer with tasks like updating track and take sheets, transferring tracks from one format to another, cleaning and aligning tape machines and setting up microphones.

Reality – On a local level it is rare to see an assistant engineer involved in a session. A more likely scenario would be an advanced intern taking up the simpler tasks of keeping up track sheets and session setup.

An intern is usually a student studying to eventually become employed in the music industry. In the recording field, they are usually allowed to sit in, and observe recording sessions for the sake of learning the trade. Their responsibilities include anything that nobody else cares to do, including, but not limited to, making and serving coffee, answering doors and phones, scrubbing toilets and cleaning up barf from a highly toxic lead singer.

Reality – Interns are the people that are never around when you need them and usually in the way when you don’t.

The runner is responsible for fetching guitar strings, food, drum heads, rented equipment or other items that will assist with the comfort of the artist or smooth operation of the studio or session. They may also be asked to deliver items to places like Fed Ex or radio stations.

Reality – At one particular studio, I have had a runner offer to go shopping for a digital video camera for me. He spent all day bargain shopping, and managed to get the camera for about half of what I originally expected to spend.

The A&R (Artists and Repertoire) rep is the eyes and ears of the record label. This is the person that you want to please at the label, because he usually decides who is signed to the label and who is not.

Reality – The A&R person is sometimes involved in producer-like activities such as choosing songs and sequencing of the record.

You can think of a publisher as a grocery store, and the song as the bread. A publisher will exploit your songs, in an effort to place it on a record, soundtrack or any other medium in order to earn you and them money.

This is the person who either contributes words or music to the song. Due to the fact that songs are a hot commodity in the music industry, the songwriter and copyright owner are not always the same person.

Booking Agent
The booking agent is usually responsible for securing and booking gigs for the artist.

Entertainment Attorney
I call these guys “deal makers”, because they are usually the people who shop the artist’s material to the labels in an effort to score a “record deal”. They are also involved in contract negotiations between the artist and other business entities like labels and producers.

Reality – Get one before you sign the bottom line!

Personal Manager
The manager’s job is usually quite diverse. They are mostly responsible for advancing the artist’s career by way of advisement on business matters. They can do anything from choosing attorneys, advertising strategies, selecting booking agents, or even helping the artist evaluate songs.

Reality – It is usually a conflict of interests for a manager and an agent to be one in the same, and there are numerous legal issues involved in this type of relationship.

Road Manager
The road manager is the person who takes care of the day to day business of a touring artist on the road.

Reality – The road manager and “sound guy” are usually the same person for young artists on a budget.

Patrick Olguin is a locally based recording engineer and record producer and his primary palette of colors is Velvet Tone Studios in downtown Sacramento. Scott Hervey is an entertainment attorney with the Sacramento firm of Weintraub Genshlea Chediak.

This article is the copyrighted property of the Sacramento News and Review and they have given Weintraub Genshlea Chediak permission to publish this article in its entirety.