Music Business

Why Building More Rights Databases Won’t Solve The Music Industry Metadata Problem

1In this piece Niclas Molinder takes a long look at the music industry's ongoing metadata problem and how the music industry as a whole needs to wake up and shift its focus if they hope to solve the issue effectively.


Guest post by Niclas Molinder of Auddly

We are all aware of the music industry’s metadata problem. Many collecting societies and publishers estimate that about 25 % of music publishing revenue doesn't make it to its rightful owners due to lack of accurate metadata, and the industry is scrambling to find a viable solution.

However, much of these discussions concern existing works data, with a primary weight on development of various rights databases. But in order to find a solution to the metadata problem, we need to shift that focus. Because no matter how many databases we create, it won’t address the real problem. In fact, these databases are proof of the industry’s silo mentality, which is exactly what we need to combat in order to start a more ground-up approach.

Why creating multiple databases won’t solve the metadata issue:

  • 1Cross relations remain complicated In 2016 the average hit song had more than four songwriters and six publishers, and the trend is moving towards even more collaborators in 2017. When several different parties are involved in a song, problems will continue to occur. You may get your data correct in your database, but if you don’t get the others’ 100 % correct too, and if they don’t get yours, no one gets paid.
  • High risk of human errors remains Different people inputting, changing and syncing data from different sources (email, social media, texts, verbal…) will make it extremely difficult to keep data continuously matched between the databases. All it takes is one tiny mistake or misspelling, and no one gets paid.
  • It prevents transparencyTo build one joint database for the entire industry is impossible. However, if we build multiple databases, there will always be people involved in songs who don’t have access to important data, which makes data management difficult.
  • The issue isn’t data, it’s data quality If the quality of the data with which we feed the systems isn’t completely correct, it doesn’t matter how perfectly you manage it in any database. More or fewer databases won’t solve the core problem. 

In order to overcome the primary challenge of big sums of unidentified dollars, we need to focus on how to generate clean metadata from the very beginning. And we need to do it together.

We need high quality metadata that is:

  • Collected from source The people who created the music are the ones who know the truth about what happened in the studio.
  • Collected on time Collecting data closely connected to the creative process and not having to reconstruct it afterwards secures correct information.
  • Complete The three key pieces of data are available: split, title and IPI numbers.
  • Matched The metadata is verified and identical between all rights holders, and any disputing identifiers are discovered immediately.

Solving this problem requires publishers, managers and collecting societies to collaborate in one system for collecting and matching data, instead of focusing on developing their own databases. The solution is having one transparent hub that lets songwriters collect metadata, as well as providing access for all parties who need it for registration, payments and credits.

We can continue to mind our own businesses in all other areas of music, but not metadata collection. It will never work. Agreed and transparent metadata early in the process is the only solution to a sustainable music rights management system. And the only way to get there, is to remove the music industry’s silo mentality and bring in more openness and collaboration.

It’s time to take responsibility and build this great future for music creators together.

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