Book Title: Pay for Play: How the Music Industry Works, Where the Money Goes, and Why

Subtitle: How the Music Industry Works, Where the Money Goes, and Why

Author: Larry Wayte

Book Description: The history of music is closely linked to the history of copyright law. This book explores how the law shaped music and the music industry. From church and court patronage in pre-19th Century Europe, to the effects of social media on music, this book explores the abiding influence of the law on music.

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Book Information

Book Description

I have organized this book in four parts, each of which is divided into multiple chapters. The first part concerns the history and structure of the music industry. Understanding the music industry as it exists today requires an understanding of how it developed over time. Today’s music industry would most certainly not be the one anybody would design from scratch. It has many inefficiencies and quirks that reflect the economic pressures and musical concerns of bygone ages.

The second part of the book provides an overview of copyright law and the ways it interacts with music. Nearly every aspect of the music industry is thoroughly infused with the reward structure governed by copyright law. Nearly every dollar that flows from consumer to artist in the music industry is parsed out, divided, and contested in accordance with the system of rights and obligations the flow from copyright protections. One could even make a convincing argument that the very form of popular music (length of songs, cyclical structures, prevalence of cover songs, etc.) is highly influenced by the reward structure imposed by copyright law.

The third and fourth parts of the book deal with the issues surrounding infringement of copyrights. One of the fundamental and least understood aspects of music copyright is that there are two separate music copyrights: one involving the musical work (or “song”) and one that involving a recording of that musical work (often called the “master right”).

There are several aspects of the music industry that are not covered in depth in this book, and that is by design. The breadth and depth of this book is governed primarily by the purpose it is intended to serve — as a textbook for a 10-week undergraduate course. Additional breadth or depth would introduce material that I do not believe could be reasonably included in the course as I currently teach it. In my experience, there simply is not enough time to cover more material in that time than is in this text.


Larry Wayte


History of music


Pay for Play: How the Music Industry Works, Where the Money Goes, and Why
Larry Wayte
Primary Subject
History of music
Additional Subject(s)
Music, Popular music, Music industry
University of Oregon
Publication Date
May 15, 2023