Music Gateway
Login or Join for Free
or sign up with
Spotify icon
Burger menu
Large chevron
close icon

Music Industry Guide

Jargon buster

Welcome to the Music Industry guide to jargon-busting, all those little terms the musos use on a day to day basis and what the hell they need.
Keep in the know with our useful little guide, and use the dropdown to jump straight to a definition.

Go to guys

This is a common term used by Music Supervisors. A trusted source is a person or company that supervisors can turn to when they need music and or a license from someone that they can deliver and trust. Trusted sources are normally long-standing relationships built over many years.


A cue is a term used in pictures by people working in Television and Film. It is a specific scene where a piece of music will be used, a Music Supervisor may refer to the number of cues that are required in a television episode or film.

Gun For Hire

This term is used to describe a freelance worker such as a composer, producer or musician. Someone who is available to hire for session work or to create music such as score for TV and film.

Spotting (session)

This is part of the role of a Music Supervisor working on a TV show or film. Normally the Director, Music Supervisor and Editor will sit together reviewing an early cut of the show/film. They will make notes of the cues, where it would be best placed to put the music and what type of songs or music should be included.

Temp Love (temping)

When a film goes into post-production, the editor will create a rough cut of the film. The editor will normally place music into the rough edit, and this can be anything, and normally well-known songs. The issue is that, whilst a song may sound great or the context of the lyrics matches the scene, its normally un-clearable, due to the budget restrictions for the film (hit songs are normally very expensive to license and clear to picture).

So Temp Love is where the Director falls in love with a scene and the placeholder music. When the Music Supervisor comes to clear the music or replace the temped music, it’s common that the Director is disappointed with the replacement music due to the fact that the Director has seen it several times and it’s now stuck in his head that it works perfectly. It causes major issues for Music Supervisors.

Work For Hire

This is a term used when a client, studio, or music supervisor hires a composer, artist, or musician to record a piece of music. This can be an original composition, a score for a film or TV show or a cover of an original song. The client will buy out the piece of music and therefore own the master recording rights 100 per cent.

There are no royalties for the master records on this basis, so this is totally different from licensing music. A work for hire is a set fee, term and usage rights. If original music is created, the writers will retain the publishing rights, but in some cases, the studio or company may insist on taking a percentage of the publishing as well, for example on a 50 / 50 split basis.


This is where there is an existing piece of music or someone creates a new recording for a client and the client pays one set agreed fee to buy it and own 100 per cent of the master rights, so it’s like a work for hire, but can be an existing piece of music already recorded.

Trusted Source

This is a term used by Music Supervisors where they have built up a long-standing relationship with a person or company that helps service and find music to meet their project and clients needs.

Being a trusted source means you would normally be in regular contact with that music supervisor and ensure that you are professional and understand the sync market very well.

For example, Music Gateway is a trusted source as a sync agent representing music from its members. If you are interested in sync licensing, then you can check out the details on our website.

PD (Public Domain)

This is a tough one, but in a nutshell, it means that a recording is now outside the lifespan of the copyright period set by law. However, the rules and legal time frames for recordings vary from territory to territory, so it’s not as straightforward as you think. Proceed with caution!


In music terms, it means that a piece of music which is copyrighted, hasn’t been cleared correctly, or paperwork was done, but then it comes to light that there was an additional writer or rights holder which wasn’t disclosed at the time of the license.

If a recording contains a sample of another piece of music and not cleared legally for use, then this can also be a third party infringement of copyright.

One Stop (One Stop Shop)

This is a common term used by rights holders and music supervisors, where both the master and publishing rights are under control from one party and therefore, the music supervisor can simply deal with one person or company to process the license and clear the piece of music for sync placement.

All production library companies are all one-stop shops and own both master and publishing rights for example. Music Gateway provides One-Stop music for sync licensing from its members in the Sync Portal. If you are interested in representation then you can check the details on our website page.

Easy Clear

This should be self-explanatory but means that the company pitching specific music that’s noted as easy clear means there is a clear relationship between the rights holders to make a quick and easy clearance on a sync license. Many sync agents will have good long-standing relationships with music publishers and record labels they’re represent.


So a score can mean twenty pounds in English money, but in musical terms, this relates to a composer film or television score. This normally works for hire composer who is hired to create and record an original number of cues for the film or TV show.

If you are looking to secure work as a composer or looking to hire a composer, Music Gateway’s marketplace can help you with your project, both sourcing the right composer matched to your musical needs and budget requirements.

On Spec

This basically means that a person is working on a project speculatively and won’t receive a fee unless the client agrees and is happy to license or buyout the recording. Some clients will pay a demo fee regardless of whether they fully commission the recording or not.

It’s a risk working On Spec as of course, there’s no guarantee of a fee, however, it can help provide an opportunity to up and coming composers and producers and an opportunity to secure specific work.


A sync or synch (referred to in the United States of America) relates to sync licensing placement for music in media. Synchronization of the music to visual media such as a film, TV, game or advert. It also requires a legal clearance process both for the master rights and publishing rights.

Sync Agent

This is a professional company that specialises in licensing music to clients and through Music Supervisors to their clients.

They have the legal right to represent their roster of artists, bands, record labels and music publishers. These terms can be either exclusive or non-exclusive. For example, Music Gateway is a sync agent, you can find out more here.

Rights Holder

This refers to a person or company that owns some or all the rights to specific music and songs. If you recorded the song and wrote the song, you are the sole owner of both the master rights and the publishing rights. If a writer is signed to a Music Publisher for a publishing deal, then normally all their songs during a period of the agreement are controlled and owned by the Music Publisher.

The same can be said of a record label, who is normally the company that pays for the recordings process for an artist or band. Record labels traditionally release music on behalf of the artist. Whoever pays for the recording will normally own the master rights for those recordings.

Cut (getting a)

This refers to a scenario where a songwriter gets a percentage cut of the writers share (publishing only) on someone else’s release. Normally it is the music publisher’s role to help secure these cuts and pitch songs to artists, record labels and through the artist management, with an aim to getting their songs placed with established and well-known pop artists.

If you write songs and are looking to secure cuts or a music publisher with songs looking for placements, then our creative concierge and A&R teamwork with A&R professionals around the world helping place songs with clients and secure cuts. Simply register here to get involved in our marketplace.

ID3 Tags

An ID3 tag is a data container within an MP3 audio file stored in a prescribed format. This data commonly contains the Artist name, Song title, Year and Genre of the current audio file.

We have developed tools to help our members manage their ID3 Tag data. You can save time by globally updating this data on your files stored within your account, within the cloud.


Metadata can mean many things, but in music terms it refers to the metadata contained within the ID3 Tags of the mp3 file. Metadata can be additional data about the music or song and can include rights holder information, who are the writers and their percentage share of the publishing splits.

Metadata can also be specific search criteria and information like moods, lyrics, beats per minute, era and release date for example. At Music Gateway we provide built-in tools within your account and the browser to globally update your ID3 tags (metadata) so do check it out here.

Pre-Cleared (music)

This refers to music that a company or individual professional, has pre-cleared for sync license and can solely sign off on a sync license on behalf of the rights holders. For example, Music Gateway is a sync agent and represents music from its members, most of which is pre-cleared, one-stop music ready to licence at the drop of a hat.

Re-Title (Re-titling)

This refers to a process whereby a company (normally a third party company such as a sync agent) or a non-exclusive production library company will represent music on behalf of indie artists, bands and composers and upon them licensing music into a show, film for sync, they will register the song again to the performing rights organisation (PRO) and give it a new title, even though the song is already registered and it’s the same piece of music.

They do this as a proceed to normally take a cut of the publishing royalty (also known as the backend.) We highly recommend that you do not work with companies that re-title recordings and it is commonly understood that this is bad industry practice and not recommended.


This is a term that is used to describe Music Supervisors when it comes to sync licensing, as they act as the middle people working with the clients and putting forward music creativity for placement. Some rightsholders refer to Music Supervisors as the Gatekeepers for sync.


This stands for Performing Rights Organisation (society). These are normally non-profit companies that collect broadcast royalties on behalf of songwriters and music publishers. There’s a great list of performing rights organisations in our Music Industry resources page, which you can find in our footer below.

Pitch (Pitching)

In sync terms, this is where an individual or company sends and presents music to a client or Music Supervisor, this is normally a playlist that is streamed online so that the person receiving the music can listen directly without having to download the files.

Pitching for sync is normally done via personal email communication and a link to the playlist. Within our platform, you can pitch on daily project opportunities, where companies are looking for songs, talent, artists, productions, music for TV, Film, Games and Adverts – to access our marketplace simply start a free trial account here.

Cue Sheet

Cue sheets are the primary means by which performing rights organizations track the use of music in films and TV. Without cue sheets, it would be nearly impossible for such composers and publishers to be compensated for their work. An accurately filled out cue sheet is a log of all the music used in a TV or Film production.

Cover (version)

A cover version is a recording of an existing song (other than the original) that’s normally recorded by an artist and or someone other than the original person that recorded the song. The publishing rights will remain the ownership of the original writers, but a new recording will be owned (master rights) by the person who creates the new recording. Covers are normally of famous well-known songs by major pop artists, writers and hit records.


This is simply short for independent and normally refers to indie artists and indie labels, not to be confused with the indie genre, which related to mainly indie rock bands.


This is short for quality control.


This is simply short for Music Supervisor.

Master Rights

Master rights refer to the master recording rights for a record. Whoever recorded and paid for the recording owns the master rights to that recording. For example, a record label who signs a band may pay for the recording of an album, they would normally own 100% of the recording rights.

If you are an individual unsigned artist and you recorded a song yourself or hired a studio, you would, in most cases by default be the master rights owner. It’s important that people working in the industry understand this, as when it comes to licensing any music for sync placement, you are required to clear 100% of the master rights and the 100% of the publishing rights as well.

Publishing Rights

The publishing rights belong to the songwriters / composers of the song and or composition. Most songs have multiple writers, especially pop music, but can be just one writer. If a writer is unpublished, e.g they aren’t signed to a music publisher, then they are deemed as the publisher and therefore own their percentage of the publishing rights.

If they wrote the song on their own, this will be 100% and if it was a collaboration the percentage split will be whatever has been agreed between the writers who wrote the song. It is also common to have multiple music publishers that represent the different writer’s percentage, meaning there are multiple people to contact in respect of a sync licensing clearance.

When licensing music for sync placements, like the master rights, you must ensure that 100% of the publishing rights are cleared, unless the use is under the blanket license (for example in the UK for television).

Music Gateway Company Logo

Get started today

Join for Free