The Metadata Race: A Contest That Record Labels Can Win
It's no industry secret that metadata, or more importantly a lack thereof, can negatively impact revenue when information gets lost in music's journey from creator to consumer. Here we look at some things rightsholders can do to prevent such an unnecessary loss.
The music industry’s supply chain is a relay race that passes information from stakeholder to stakeholder, with the goal of getting musical product from creator to fan while also assuring appropriate parties have been compensated. Exchanging the baton into the right hands efficiently is key.
Relays are won in the exchange zone, where the hand-off is crucial. The same applies to metadata in the music industry. Even with metadata-driven companies/consortiums a universally accepted standard does not exist to reign-in human inconsistency when dealing with metadata. Unlike a race where the baton is exchanged with efficiency, the industry has quite a few fumbles that could be avoided by taking some more precautions. This blog will show you how to mitigate the impact of these inconsistencies on your performance rights revenue so you can start finishing your races like a seasoned Olympian.
First, Some Background
Performance Rights Organizations (PROs) like SoundExchange and PPL rely on the metadata you provide, simultaneously matching it to data as provided by broadcasters. Broadcasters have content challenges of their own and for various reasons, may not supply the exact same metadata as you, which can result in inconsistencies when it comes time to report broadcasted plays. Think about it: What guarantee do you have that the songs that you have placed were reported with the same data that you report to PROs?
Problematic examples appear at every leg of the race preventing accurate accounting to rights-holders and The Orchard’s performance rights team has seen it all: Artist names get inverted/misspelled or joined with other artists, remixed tracks include additional info outside of the version field, creating inconsistency in record keeping, matching, and more. Beyonce becomes “Beyonce & Shakira”, “Knowles, Beyonce” or “Beyonce Knowles-Carter,” Prince becomes “The Artist FKA” and we’ve even heard of broadcasters reporting Madonna’s birth name (10 points if you know it). This is killer on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) but even worse, it presents a challenge for PROs to get revenue into the correct hands. (Try it yourself! How many artist versions of the great Charlie Parker appear on iTunes or on PPL’s website?) On top of this, PROs are trying to capture more data typically not recorded in detail by labels and creators.
How can we mitigate data-spurred revenue impact as a rightsholder? By being diligent about the things we can control:
1. Don’t let “Country of Recording” and “Country of 1st Record Label” be the reason you don’t get paid.
PPL (United Kingdom), SCPP (France), IFPI (Sweden), and CONNECT (Canada) all require data like country of recording, country of original record label, or both. Make sure you stay on top of every release you upload and ensure that these data points are in.
2. Standardize your artist names
Everyone on the team should be on the same page about the artist names on your roster. When communicating with promo teams, is everyone using the birthname or stage name, or both? It is best to pick one and stick with it.
3. Make sure your marketing folks are in the loop
Marketing peeps are great at what they do but metadata isn’t always top of mind. Metadata and how it’s being communicated should be treated just like SEO (Search Engine Optimization), in ways that ensure monetization and allow for increased discovery of your music. Examples include getting the artist name(s) right (see Tip 2) and making sure the label name is consistent (is it the imprint or parent label?) when pitching content to radio. Some PROs and broadcasters only use label names in their broadcast matching, so getting the label name right becomes incredibly important at this stage.
4. Be ruthless about your track versions
Being as specific as possible with track versions is key to ensuring proper monetization. Be sure to include version (Remix, Re-record, Re-master) in the version field only. The Performance Rights teams often see this in the track-title field, which is a big no-no if you’re hoping to monetize! Any new text introduced to the “track-title” field creates an entirely new record in PROs databases making it more difficult to find a match when comparing to broadcast data.
If you’ve got a huge catalog with lots of compilations, be sure that the master recording appears on a non-compiled album at least once. PROs assume that the tracks listed are not the original recording. To avoid this headache, all masters you own should be listed on their original release.
6. Classical Music
Classical Music is probably the most underserved genre when it comes to music metadata at digital stores. Do yourself a favor, make sure the orchestra that performed “Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major, K. 216” is listed as the artist, not Mozart himself.
Use valid ISRCs only – with a standard 2-letter country code and valid 3 letter registrant number. This goes without saying, but there are lots of bad ISRCs floating around and therefore cannot be registered with PROs. If you end up inheriting bad ISRCs, it’s best to get one that was approved by a National ISRC Agency, than to continue circulating bad information.
8. Looking to the future…
In summary, be sure to populate Country of Recording and Country of 1st Record Label with the PROs via The Orchard Workstation. Help yourself monetize more efficiently by getting your artist, track and label names clarified while making sure your marketing/promo teams are on board with your messaging.
If you need any other incentive to focus on your label’s metadata exchange zone, move from the field to the library. Librarians have understood the importance of standardized information systems for decades. Studies have shown that increasing standardized metadata correlates with increased discovery and circulation, supported by the ability to freely explore interconnected information linked together by agreed upon standards. (Cool right?) What interlinking stories will you be able to tell? Will your relay team be ready?