Skip to main content
A man in glasses is sitting in a room. A man in glasses is sitting in a room.

Recording basics

2 min read

What is a recording?

A recording is a physical or digital representation of a performance of a musical work.

Before we begin, a quick note about the word . It is commonly used to describe what music creators create, but it's important to understand that song can mean either a or a . So, whenever we speak of a song, we always mean both the musical work and the sound recording together.

In order for you, as a music creator, to receive your and fair compensation for your contribution, it is of the utmost importance to understand which part of the song you contributed to. So, for clarity, we will only use the correct legal terms musical work and sound recording from here on.

What is a sound recording?

In simple terms, sound recordings capture the of a musical work, which can then be reproduced, distributed, and played to wider audiences.

Sound recordings have been around for a long time, first as physical products, like vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, and now predominantly made available to listeners through streaming services on digital formats like WAV, MP3, and FLAC.

Under , sound recordings are referred to and protected as , defined as a of sounds exclusively. But a sound recording can comprise any sort of sound, not just music, for example, podcasts or audiobooks.

As a , you can be involved in both the songwriting that creates the musical work and the recording that creates a sound recording. Under certain conditions, both the musical work and sound recording are automatically protected by law. Each has separate .

Understanding these rights is the first step to getting you properly credited and paid. For a deep dive into rights, explore our Music Creators’ Rights, Rights Transfer and Licensing, and Scope of Protection topics.

Continue to Recording Roles to learn more about the recording process and the associated roles.


Test your recording knowledge

Video Credit: Amin Santosh, Parapix