Inside the Music Industry- much more complicated than you think.

Lesson plan #1

What’s behind the artist and songs they create?

Some people may think that a music artist has their music all in their control . Well, reality is that it’s completely the opposite. Let’s take a tour into what goes behind the scenes and a brief overview of what really happens in the music industry.

Record Label

To start off with basics, the music industry consists of multiple record labels that look out for talented unsigned artists to sign under their music label. The purpose of the label is to invest in the artist and provide them with everything they need, such as studio time, mixing and mastering, producers, music videos, etc. The artist is given an advance until the project sells and royalties come in.

Artist’s Pay

Mechanical royalties are paid to the artist depending on how many units are sold. The more you sell, the larger the amount of pay you will receive. If there is more than one artist on a track, then there is a split on the royalty depending on how much each contributed with.


Publishing consists of sharing the music with the public. Publishing income can be received from multiple sources, including TV, radio, film soundtrack, when it’s covered by another artist, when it’s performed live, etc. There are two main publishing companies in the U.S. which are ASCAP and BMI.

Paid to Play

In the music business, not everything is created by the artist. That’s when they hire someone to perform the track for them. The person who does the perforrmance gets his share of delivering the track even though they didn’t write or create it.


Distribution deals are important in the music industry. The artist needs to get as many albums out into stores, or onto sites and made avalaible to the public. It’s not only about physical distribution anymore, but also includes digital distribution. This means getting tracks onto iTunes, Amazon, Beatport, and others. The record label is respnsible for making a distribution deal and agreeing to pay a fee for this to happen.

These are some of the basics that are important to understand in the music industry. When we take a look at everything that happens behind the artist, there’s a lot more than simply creating a song and performing it. There are many contributors when producing tracks and delivering them, and everyone wants their fare share.

Assignment: Watch this video on how the music industry operates:

List 3 major key ideas you learned, and tweet how knowing this changes your thoughts and perspective on music.

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