The music industry is made up of various players, including individuals, companies, unions, not-for-profit associations, and rights collectives, and other bodies. Professional musicians, including band leaders, rhythm section members, musical ensembles, singers, conductors, and arrangers, and sound engineers create sound or video recordings of music or create live performances in venues ranging from small clubs to stadiums. Professional musicians negotiate their wages, contractual conditions, and other conditions of work through Musicians’ Unions or other guilds. Composers and songwriters write the music and lyrics to songs and other musical works, which are sold in print form as sheet music or scores by music publishers. Composers and performers get part of their income from writers’ copyright collectives and performance rights organization such as the ASCAP and BMI (or MCPS and PRS respectively for the UK). These societies and collectives ensure that composers and performers are compensated when their works are used on the radio or TV or in films. When musicians and singers make a CD or DVD, the creative process is coordinated by a record producer, whose role in the recording may range from suggesting songs and backing musicians to having a direct hands-on role in the studio, coaching singers, giving advice to session musicians on playing styles, and working with the senior sound engineer to shape the recorded sound through effects and mixing.
Most professional musicians, bands, and singers are signed with record labels, which are companies which finance the recording process in return for part or full share of the rights in the recording. A record company is an entity that manages sound recording-related brands and trademarks which consist of their owned labels; their owned and licensed master recordings; and various related ancillary businesses such as home video and DVDs. Labels may comprise a record group which is, in turn, controlled by a music group. As such, a larger umbrella label may have a number of sub-labels releasing music. Music publishers exist separately (even if sharing the same ultimate holding company or brand name), and they represent the rights in the compositions – i.e. the music as written rather than as recorded.
Record companies and record labels that are not under the control of the “Big Four” music groups and music publishers that are not one of these four groups are generally considered to be independent or “indie” labels, even if they are part of large, well-financed corporations with complex structures. Some music critics prefer to use the term indie label to refer to only those independent labels that adhere to criteria of corporate structure and size, and some consider an indie label to be almost any label that releases non-mainstream music, regardless of its corporate structure. According to US Market Research Firm NPD Group, iTunes recently surpassed Wal-Mart as America’s largest music distributor. A record distributor is a company (often a record label) that works with record labels to promote and distribute their records, either in their home market or overseas.
Once a CD is recorded, record distributor companies organize the shipping of the CDs to music stores and department stores. Record labels have use an “A&R” (Artists and Repertoire) manager to help develop the performing style of bands and singers signed the label. A&R managers may organize shared tours with similar bands or find playing opportunities for the label’s groups which will broaden their musical experience. For example, an A&R manager may decide to send an emerging young singer-songwriter with little live playing experience on a major tour with an established electric folk rock act from the same label, so that this person will gain more confidence.
When CDs sell in stores or on websites such as iTunes, part of the money is returned to the performers in the form of royalties. Most recordings only earn royalties for a short period after they are released, after which the song becomes part of the “back catalogue” or library. A much smaller number of recordings have become “classics”, with longstanding popularity, such as albums by the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. These albums have continued to earn royalties for the surviving band members decades after their original release date.
Successful artists will hire a number of people from other fields to assist them with their career. The band manager oversees all aspects of an artist’s career in exchange for a percentage of the artist’s income. An entertainment lawyer assists them with the details of their contracts with record companies and other deals. A business manager handles financial transactions, taxes and bookkeeping. A booking agency represents the artist to promoters, makes deals and books performances. A travel agent makes travel arrangements. A road crew is a semi-permanent touring organization that travels with the artist. This is headed by a tour manager and includes staff to move equipment on and off-stage, drive tour buses or vans, and do stage lighting, live sound reinforcement and musical instrument tuning and maintenance. The tour manager’s tasks can vary widely depending on the type of tour and where the group is playing. The tour manager’s typical tasks of ensuring that hotel, restaurant and travel arrangements are confirmed may expand into other tasks, if the venue where the band is playing does not have certain equipment. If the venue lacks a grand piano or Hammond organ that the band needs for the show, the tour manager will be responsible for finding a rental instrument for the show and having it moved onstage; as well, if a band member needs an emergency instrument repair, the tour manager and/or the guitar tech will help to find a repair person or replacement instrument. The most high-profile celebrity performers may also have personal assistants, a chef, and bodyguards. Singers may hire a vocal coach to give them suggestions on how to take care of their voice or develop their singing range.