Can Metadata Save the Radio Star?

As the music industry grows more complex with the proliferation of free and paid streaming services the need for accurate and consistent metadata to properly track the usage of recordings and to tally and collect royalties is growing acute.

“Right now the industry has a garbage in/garbage out problem,”  Bill Wilson, VP of digital strategy and business development at the Music Business Association said at the Future of Music Policy Summit in Washington, DC, this week. “You have multiple entities entering different data in slightly different formats, and every retailer has to throw bodies at dealing with the garbage.”

In an effort to bring some order to the chaos. Musicbiz, formerly the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), has published a Metadata Style Guide, but there is as yet no broadly accepted standard in the industry.

The problem isn’t just academic. With the popularity of DJ mixes and remixes in Electronic Dance Music and other genres, the lack of standardized metadata means potentially monetizable uses of original recordings in derivative works are going unrecorded and uncollected.

“Metadata is a huge part of what we do,” said Stephen White, CEO of Dubset Media, which has built what it claims is the world’s largest database of registered and fingerprinted mix and remix content, called MixBANK. “The goal is to create a new system that can identify content and follow it through the whole lifecycle. We want to make sure all uses can be monetized.”

Dubset maintains a running tally on its website of potential new royalties being created for labels, artists and publishers since the beginning of 2014, which is currently over $2 billion.

“YouTube is the only place today where there is legal distribution of derivative content, and that’s mostly through blanket licenses, “White lamented.

What’s ultimately needed, Paul Jessop of County Analytics said, is machine-readable associated with every recording and every composition. “Assigning metadata at the pipeline level is not enough,” he said. “You need the deep infrastructure, the deep trenches. You need that bottom layer. Computers want a number because that’s how they work, so you need to focus on numbers.”

The closest thing the industry has at this point is the International Sound Recording Code (ISRC) for recordings, and the International Songwriter Code (ISWC) for compositions. But the codes are inconsistently applied and there is as yet no global index of either.

The good news is that efforts are getting under way in the industry to incorporate metadata collection into the recording process.

On Oct. 31, Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), a consortium of media companies, music licensing organisations, digital service providers and technology vendors, will be unveiling a new initiative at the Audio Engineering Society (AES) convention in New York aimed at capturing data in the recording studio that will follow the recording throughout its lifecycle.

“We’re talking about putting data capture tools into the instruments, into the recording equipment,” Jessop said. “The goal is to capture it as far upstream as possible.”