Key Players in the Music Industry

Easy to understand definitions of who’s who in the music biz (for your youth participants)

Help your participants understand who the key players are in the Music Industry and the insider lingo. Examples include: What’s the role of a Producer, Artists and Repertoire (A&R), Songwriter, Record Label, and Music Publishing?

Read More

How to… 

Discuss the different roles with your participants or bring in special guest lectures: 


  • A person whose job is to oversee and manage the recording (i.e. “production”) of an artist’s music 
  • A producer has many roles that may include, but are not limited to:
    • Gathering ideas for the project
    • Selecting songs and musicians
    • Coaching the artist and musicians in the studio
    • Managing the recording sessions
    • Supervising the entire process through mixing and mastering
  • Over the latter half of the 20th Century, producers have also taken on a wider entrepreneurial role, often with responsibility for the budget, schedules, and negotiations. 
  • The scope of responsibility may be one or two songs or an artist’s entire album. In that case, the producer will typically develop an overall vision for the album and how the various songs may interrelate. 
  • Today, the recording industry has two kinds of producers with two different roles:   
    • Executive Producer – Oversees a project’s finances
    • Music/Creative Producer – Oversees the creation of the music

Artists and Repertoire (A&R)

  • The division of a record label that is responsible for talent-scouting and overseeing the artistic development of recording artists
  • It also acts as a liaison between artists and the record label.


  • Someone who writes the lyrics or music for songs or compositions. 
    • To further clarify, someone who writes only lyrics may be called a lyricist, while someone who writes only music may be called a composer
  • Songwriters of the past commonly composed, arranged, and played their own songs. More recently, however, the pressure to produce popular hits has distributed responsibility between a number of people. Popular culture songs may be written by group members, but are now often written by staff writers: songwriters directly employed by music publishers. 
  • Some songwriters serve as their own music publishers, while others have outside publishers.

Record Label

  • Usually pays for project, markets/promote, tour support
  • Indie record labels (as opposed to major record labels) may be small, localized, and “independent” (“indie”), or they may be part of large international media groups, or somewhere in between. 
  • The largest 4 record labels are called major labels. A sub-label is a label that is part of a larger record company, but it functions under a different name.

Music Publishing

  • Music publishing is the owning and exploiting of songs in the form of musical copyrights. 
  • “Exploiting a musical copyright” means that the owner of a particular composition (the music and the lyrics) is putting that song to use in a way that generates money in the form of:
    • Mechanical royalties
    • Performance royalties
    • Licenses for synchronization
    • Licenses for sampling
    • Print rights for sheet music

Additional Resources: 

  • Recommended Reading: “Copyright Handbook for Music Educators and Directors” A Practical, Easy-to-Read Guide By Pam Phillips and Andrew Surmani (ISBN 13: 978-1-4706-3598-5) 

To download a full, editable version
To Learn More: