What is a Musical Work?

Also available as a video

A musical work is a composition, often with lyrics. It can be performed and recorded. But it always precedes any performance or recording of music.

We’ll be focusing on metadata. A work has an original title and, sometimes, alternative titles. It can be an original work or a modification of another musical work.

A work can have one or multiple authors (writers), each creating composition and/or lyrics. In original works, they are simply called composers and lyricists. When it comes to modified works, we also have arrangers, adaptors, translators etc.

In music metadata, these terms have very specific meanings. The same terms may be used differently in everyday talk.

This series is called Music Metadata Basics, so we will not go any deeper. Let’s have a look at a very simple case instead.


We have a title, conspicuously called Minimal Example, there is one author, with role composer and lyricist. Before publishing, Toony Toonsen owns 100% of all rights.

Music metadata about a musical work often contains data about recordings based on it, as well as performers of the work.


These examples were made in DMP, free software for managing music metadata, work registration and royalty processing.