Metadata Gains Momentum

Collecting and using metadata—information associated with a recording that denotes technical specs, creative information and a list of people involved in a recording’s creation—is an issue that has dogged the industry since consumers began shifting to digital downloads in the early 2000s.
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New York, NY—It’s always smart to give credit where credit is due, but in recent years, the music industry has had problems doing just that. Collecting and using metadata—information associated with a recording that denotes technical specs, creative information and a list of people involved in a recording’s creation—is an issue that has dogged the industry since consumers began shifting to digital downloads in the early 2000s. As the public continues that migration, increasingly opting to stream music rather than own it, the need for accurate, accessible metadata is more crucial than ever to ensure that everyone involved, from musicians to song publishers to recording personnel, gets the credit they deserve.

Tidal Credits graphic - discover the contributors behind the music

Fortunately, music industry professionals at all levels are recognizing the importance of metadata and implementing it into systems. In June, streaming platform Tidal introduced an interactive credits feature that displays individual profile pages for everyone involved in the creation of a track, from musicians to mix engineers, allowing users to discover other music the individuals worked on. In early 2018, Spotify, too, began presenting songwriter and producer credits.

Related: Connecting the Dots with Credits, by Clive Young, Feb. 22, 2019

Spotify Credits, Billie Eilish, bad guy, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Spotify credits for Billie Eilish "bad guy"

Engineers and musicians now have a growing palette of tools at their disposal to help them efficiently and unobtrusively create metadata while a track is being written or recorded.

“Proper crediting, attribution and payment are, of course, critical to our members,” said Maureen Droney, managing director, Producers & Engineers Wing at the Recording Academy. “On a fundamental level, credits are still, in large part, key for musicians, producers and engineers when it comes to getting work. If people don’t know what you’ve done, why would they want to hire you? You also need sufficient credits to become a voting member of the Recording Academy and vote in the Grammy Awards, and you need to be correctly credited to be eligible to win a Grammy Award.”

Even if you’re not likely to win a Grammy any time soon, creating metadata should still be an essential part of your recording routine, as Droney explained: “In the digital world, where getting paid often means receiving micropayments from a vast number of outlets that distribute music all over the world, if credits and other recording metadata are not documented correctly at the beginning of the supply chain, it is almost impossible to collect all of the money you may be owed.”

Jammber interface on MacBook Pro

Jammber Bridge is a web-based project management platform for the music industry.

Marcus Cobb, co-founder and CEO of Jammber, a metadata collection software provider, concurred, noting, “With the explosion of streaming, more music is being created and consumed than ever before. Creators are realizing that if they want to make a living, they have to track their credits and metadata. In a digital world, data equals money. No metadata means no royalties.”

Related: Can Credits Go with the Flow?, by Clive Young, Jan. 11, 2017

While documenting metadata may be a relatively new problem, industry stakeholders have been developing the solution—a metadata standard for digital delivery of session data—for years. In 2006, BMS/Chace (today known as VeVa Sound) was awarded grant money from the Library of Congress to help create an XML format for collecting metadata for recordings. In 2010, the Library of Congress and BMS/Chace donated the result to DDEX (Digital Data Exchange), an international standards organization formed in the mid-2000s to standardize the digital supply chain. Over the years, DDEX has published several music industry-related standards, including ERN (Electronic Release Notification), which provides commercial information for releases, and DSR (Digital Sales Report), which gives digital service providers a standardized way to report sales figures to labels and audio pros.

In October 2016, DDEX released the standard donated by the Library of Congress and BMS/Chace as RIN (Recording Industry Notification), which standardizes recording metadata and contains fields for such information as where the song was recorded; who the musicians, producers and engineers were; and what their ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier) numbers are.

With the groundwork finally laid for collection and use of recording metadata, the onus then shifted to the music industry itself to start using RIN. “Thanks to the work the P&E Wing and others have done, much of the industry now recognizes the importance of collecting recording metadata from the inception of a recording—in the ‘studio,’ which today means anywhere music is being made,” said Droney.

Related: The METAlliance: Where We Are, by Ed Cherney, Feb. 21, 2019

With that in mind, a variety of companies now offer tools that can be used to create metadata on the fly. Some take a plug-in approach, like VeVa Sound’s SCP and Sound Credit’s Tracker, which can be used by engineers to collect information while working in a DAW, among other features.

Elsewhere, Session has garnered a fair amount of attention, in part due to the names behind it: Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA and producer Max Martin. The company offers a smartphone app for collecting metadata, allowing users to collaborate in virtual “song rooms,” where they can store and share files, track song info, handle splits and more.

Sound Credit tracker, music credit, song, album

The Sound Credit Tracker plug‑in allows engineers, producers, artists and musicians to capture complete credits and production details live, during studio sessions.

Meanwhile, Jammber offers an ecosystem of mobile device and desktop applications. “We recognized that there wasn’t an efficient way for creators to capture metadata throughout the creative process, so we made a decision to make sure every tool we build is ‘MetaData Smart.’ If you use our Splits app, it makes sure your identifiers, legal name, publishing information [and so on are] attached to every collaboration. Our nStudio app does the same at the studio level for tracking credits,” said Cobb. “We use Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other tech to allow people to ‘check in’ to a session the moment they walk into the studio. There’s no paperwork—the producer just reviews it and sends it off to get paid. It makes a huge difference.”

Regardless of how one chooses to capture metadata, the time to start gathering it—and benefiting from it both financially and career-wise—is now. “It’s going to get easier,” said Droney. “Our industry now has tools to collect and distribute credits electronically from the studio through to the end users. Those tools just need to be adopted and implemented.”

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Session •

Sound Credit •

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