The hardest-working words in the music business in 2023

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MBW Views is a series of exclusive op/eds from eminent music industry people… with something to say.  The following comes from Eamonn Forde (pictured inset), a long-time music industry journalist, and the author of The Final Days of EMI: Selling the Pig. UK-based Forde’s new book, Leaving The Building: The Lucrative Afterlife of Music Estates, is out now via Omnibus Press. 

The music business is, at the very least, 50% smoke and mirrors. It is where grand ideas meet grand illusion.

Increasingly, however, this is moving beyond just prizing the artifice as much as the art; it is now not just defining but regularly redefining the weasel words and the purple prose that the industry uses to talk about (and talk up) itself. 

When wild hyperbole is afoot, our final and greatest defence is to rigorously question the politics of these linguistic choices.

Words are now less about clarification and more about obfuscation. Increasingly we are seeing the dictionary being replaced by misdirection. 

This is far from a complete list, but here are some of the hardest-working words in the music industry in 2023.

They outline what the industry pretends they mean (1) and what they really mean (2). (With apologies to

transparency [trans-pairuhn-see]


  1. the quality or state of being transparent; something transparent, especially a picture, design, or the like on glass or some translucent substance, made visible by light shining through from behind.
  2. the apotheosis of lip service where the disparity between what is promised and what is delivered is now broader than the distance from Earth to Neptune. NDAs, bad data and worse practices combine to form ideological cataracts, meaning that what you see (fuzzy, cloudy, nebulous) is very intentionally not what you get. A synonym for “transparent” is “invisible”. 

engagement [en-geyj-muhnt]


  1. the act of engaging or the state of being engaged; involvement; an appointment or arrangement.
  2. a mass delusion where data is treated as being the same as enjoyment. Driving a click, a play or a watch of anything is prized as the greatest of end goals, but rarely dissecting or questioning what that click, play or watch actually means. A wild presumption that encountering something is, in and of itself, all that matters. An acceptance of the starting point becoming the destination.

recommendation [rek-uh-men-dey-shuhn] recommender [rek-uhmend-er]


  1. an act of recommending; a letter or the like recommending a person or thing.
  2. the belief that shouting is synonymous with persuasion or explanation; where the power of an individual is presumed more than it is actualised; an individual whose access to endless reserves of snake oil means they become loudly applauded simply for existing rather than for doing. 

discovery [dih-skuhvuh-ree]


  1. the act or process of seeing, finding, or gaining knowledge of something previously unknown, or an instance of this; something found, found out, noticed or realised. 
  2. the presentation of orchestration and manipulation as serendipity and happenstance. A slippery sister word to “organic”, where the coldly calculated and the shamelessly synthetic try to throw a veil over all the clanking moving parts that enable them to happen, persuading the person “doing” the discovering that they achieved it all by themselves and are therefore powerfully prescient. 

experience [ik-speer-ee-uhns]


  1. a particular instance of personally encountering or undergoing something; the process or fact of personally observing, encountering, or undergoing something.
  2. the conflation of being in proximity to something with actually being deep inside it. Often the only “experience” happening here is the experience of handing over money to be endlessly underwhelmed. Regularly presented as the apex of fandom, it is merely a retread of those tawdry Christmas grottos that charge £100 to be told a dog in plastic antlers is a reindeer.

viral [vahy-ruhl]


  1. of, relating to, or caused by a virus; pertaining to or involving the spreading of information and opinions about a product or service from person to person, especially on the internet or in emails.
  2. a lie masquerading as truth. An oxymoron (i.e. “We will make this go viral”) cosplaying as an axiom. Perhaps the most abused and misunderstood word in the music business, writing cheques it can never hope to (or even intend to) cash. A word that, in being named as such, automatically gelds itself. A contronym like no other. 

exclusive [ik-skloo-siv, -ziv]


  1. admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group.


  1. an exclusive right or privilege
  2. silt being proffered as gold (e.g. “An exclusive track”). The extraneous. Shameless padding. The desperately inferior being pushed on stage in gaudy robes to detract from its creative anaemia. An unequal exchange leading to political subjugation (e.g. “It is a platform exclusive”). A strong-arm tactic used by the powerful to make the weak believe they are a valued equal. 

audience [aw-dee-uhns]


  1. the group of spectators at a public event; listeners or viewers collectively, as in attendance at a theatre or concert.
  2. walking wallets. An ATM with endless reserves of cash to be constantly leaned on regardless of the quality of what is being sold. Serfs who are continually tricked into believing themselves to be royalty. Individuals who are viewed and treated as part of a homogenised mass. Ironically never actually listened to. 

centric (as in audience-centric/fan-centric) [sen-trik]


  1. pertaining to or situated at the center; central.
  2. a dismissive treatment of the centre as the periphery while simultaneously gaslighting it that it really is the centre. A word betrayed through sleight of hand. A protracted process of convincing the moon that it is the sun. 

amicably [am-i-kuh-blee]


  1. with goodwill; in a friendly or peaceable way:

(e.g. The artist parted amicably with their band members; the record label and the group parted ways amicably; the executive left their high-power and high-paid position at the music company on amicable terms.) 

  1. a concealment deriving from the threat of lawsuits or the intonation of the leaking of cubic gallons of scandal unless total compliance and surrender is assured; where legally dubious and ironclad NDAs are imposed in exchange for hush money; a bogus projection of love to paper over the cracked walls of hatred.

Music Business Worldwide

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