Artists Legal Definition & Terms

What is a Record Label & a Publisher?

What’s a Record Label?

A record label is a brand and/or a trademark associated with the marketing of music recordings and music videos. A RECORD LABEL CAN ALSO BE A PUBLISHING COMPANY that:

  1. Manages such brands and trademarks

  2. Coordinates the production, manufacture, distribution, marketing, promotion,

  3. Enforce copyright for sound recordings and music videos

  4. Conducts talent scouting and development of new artists ("artists and repertoire" or "A&R")

  5. Maintains contracts with recording artists and their managers.


The term "record label" derives from the circular label in the center of a vinyl record which prominently displays the manufacturer's name, along with other information.

What’s a Publisher?

The publisher is the owner of the copyright to a song (The song, not the recording. Just the words and music. Melody, harmony, lyrics, etc.).

  1. If you or a songwriter you know has never signed away their publishing rights to a publishing deal, then the songwriter IS the publisher. Is is recommended that Artists keep control of their work and be Artist+Publisher.

  2. Not to be confused with a sheet music publisher or CD manufacturer, “publisher" means "copyright owner of the song itself".

  3. Do I need a publisher? NO. You can be your own PUBLISHER AND SONGWRITER, get the legal documents in place and register your work.

A music publisher (or publishing company) is responsible for ensuring that:

Songwriters &  composers receive payment when their compositions are used commercially through an agreement called a publishing contract, a songwriter or composer "assigns" the copyright of their composition to a publishing company.

In return the publisher or company:

  1. Licenses compositions

  2. Monitors where compositions are used,

  3. Collects royalties

  4. Distributes them to the composers/writers

  5. Secure commissions for music and promote existing compositions to recording artists, film and television

The term originally referred to publishers of sheet music. In the late 19th century sheet music was the primary commercial use of musical compositions. Today, the two businesses have diverged, and the large companies known as "music publishers" typically are no longer in the business of producing printed music.

The copyrights owned and administered by publishing companies are one of the most important forms of intellectual property in the music industry. The other is the copyright on a master recording which is typically owned by a record company) Publishing companies play a central role in managing this vital asset.

How do I find the publisher?

It's usually listed in the album credits in the original (or cover) version of a song. There can be more than 1 publisher per track or album.

Why do you say ASCAP, BMI, or Harry Fox are not the Publisher?  ASCAP, BMI and SESAC are three companies in America that collect the broadcast ("performing rights") money for songwriters, so they can get paid for their music being used on radio and TV broadcasts.

The contractual agreement between the artist and a recording, publishing company says that you have taken care of all of the paperwork and the legal rights to use or perform or use a cover song and initiated royalty transaction to the other songwriters, publishers - is that right?  If not, and if your song/cover indeed did receive over 1M views on YouTube YOU WILL OWE MONEY to the original artist(s)/publisher - stop faking those numbers it will cost you!.

COVER SONG = YOU NEED permission from the publisher!  Many people do not realize that MUSIC IS BIG BUSINESS - Bangladesh beware success may come at a steep price so do not steal or rip other artist's work - write your own songs and your own material!

Cover Song - Royalties & Copyrights

A cover song; cover version or simply cover, is a new performance or recording  a contemporary or previously recorded, commercially released song, usually by someone other than the original artist.


In other words, What IS a cover song?

A cover song is your recording of a song that you didn't write
... assuming that song had previously been released in the USA, EU and had been registered and published with is author/artists and record labels.
... has the consent of the copyright owner (the songwriter/publisher)


Examples of cover songs: 

1. Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen

2. Amazing Grace by John Newton written in 1772. 

3.  Bheegi Bheegi - James did a cover which was originally written by  Pritam Chakraborty as the original writer/composer -the song took a new life after James did his own version and gained fame outside of Bangladesh, thanks to the big success of the movie "Gangster".  However James must pay the publishing company AND the owner of that song.

4. The same is true  IF  YOU do any of  James Cover songs, you must get la legal agreement in place and pay him!

IF You recorded your own version of a song by Ed Sheeran or a MegaDeth song, or any song that is someone’s else – YOU HAVE TO PAY THE PUBLISHER (copyright owner) to create copies of that cover song.

The Copyright Act of 1909, United States musicians have had the right to record a version of someone else's previously recorded and released tune, whether it's music alone or music with lyrics. This is  applicable worldwide.


1)   A license can be negotiated between representatives of the interpreting artist and the copyright holder


2)  Recording published tunes can fall under a mechanical license whereby the recording artist pays a standard royalty to the original author/copyright holder through an organization, safe under copyright law even if they do not have any permission from the original author.


3)   A composer cannot deny anyone a mechanical license for a new recorded version, the composer has the right to decide who will release the first recording of a song.

4)  Live performances of copyrighted songs are typically arranged through performing rights organizations such as ASCAP or BMI.

Not a Cover Song - YOURS

What is NOT a cover song?

  • A song you wrote

  • A song you co-wrote with someone

  • A song someone gave you permission to record and release but has never been recorded and released before.

  • An old song that is now in public domain (like classical music or songs before 1923)

  • A song you don't have to pay to create copies of

Who is an Entity or an Individual?

  • Songwriters (Lyrics), Songwriters (Music), Songwriters (Play)

  • Composers (score)

  • Writers (songs, books)

  • Producers (music, movies)

  • Publishers (books, music, movies)

  • Bands, Solo Artists

  • Actor

  • Franchise

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