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Why Do They Call It Getting a Cut?
November 9, 2013

Why Do They Call It “Getting A Cut?”

By Amanda Williams - November 9, 2013 - Published by Hillbilly Culture LLC





         A lot of modern songwriting and music business terminology comes from words that were coined back in the early, formative days of the music industry in the ‘20s and ‘30s.  “Getting a cut” is one of those throw backs.


         In songwriter and music publisher speak, to “get a cut” means that a recording artist performed your song on his or her record.


         Since songwriters get paid royalties when recording artists record their songs, getting a cut is a good thing.


         So why do they call it that?  Getting a cut?  Where did that saying come from?


         Back in the early days of the recording business, they sold vinyl records.  The technical process of getting the sound waves to the album involved literally cutting grooves into a piece of vinyl.


         So that’s why they call it “getting a cut,” because they had to “cut” grooves into a piece of vinyl to make the record.


         Incidentally, the license you need to put a songwriter’s song on your record also comes from this same origin.  The journey from singer’s mouth to turntable required a mechanical process. 


In the music industry, when an artist asks permission to include a songwriter’s song on their record, they have to request a “mechanical license” from the songwriter/publisher.  In exchange for giving their permission, the songwriter/publisher earns 9.1 cents royalty every time a copy is sold in most cases. 


         So now you know why songwriters all want to get their songs “cut.”




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