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Music Metadata: Why You Need To Get It Right

1Metadata (aka data about data) has become a huge part of achieving musical success in the digital age. So huge, in fact, that to ignore it, or to have incorrect metadata, can ruin your chances of keeping your head above water in the streaming era.

By Chris Robley of CD Baby from the DIY Musician blog.

What is music metadata?

Metadata is “data about data” — information about information.

In the digital music world, it’s the data that accompanies your songs and albums.

Today there are (at least) two GIANT reasons why you need to have COMPLETE and CORRECT metadata for all your music online.

First, metadata helps build a digital bridge between your music and listeners.

For nearly twenty years, there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of metadata in determining how searchable your music is in an endlessly rising sea of songs. I’m talking about “discoverability.”

Yes, that meant the obvious: Spell your song titles and artist name correctly! But those basic measures are only going to help people that already know what they want to find.

For listeners, music supervisors, or content creators with less specific needs — or perhaps with specific needs, but no set song or artist in mind to meet those needs — your metadata could connect them to your music.

This metadata includes:

  • Genre and sub-genre
  • Other music descriptors (text that describes your sound, instrumentation, etc.)
  • Similar artists
  • And more

Second, accurate metadata is now what allows you to keep your music available on digital platforms.

3Digital music services like Apple Music and Spotify are becoming more vigilant about the quality of metadata they receive from artists, labels, and distributors. Not only does robust, accurate metadata improve their platforms from a user standpoint, it also helps those services minimize music licensing litigation down the road.

Increasingly, DSPs are going to require that every track be delivered with verified composition copyright information, as well as the usual sound-recording descriptors listed above.

In other words, get the publishing squared away — or else!

This points to the growing importance and value of professionalizing your publishing rights as a songwriter.

And if you don’t release original music, you absolutely MUST license your cover songs the right way. (That was always the case from a legal standpoint, but it’s now become an absolute reality in practice as well).

If you don’t want your recordings rejected or pulled down from streaming services, the quality of your metadata is crucial.

That shouldn’t sound intimidating though. CD Baby makes this all super easy. We ask for ALL this stuff and more when you sign up a new release. And if you don’t have certain things (like a UPC or ISRCs) we can provide them.

The power of good metadata management

Since the launch of iTunes (and before) CD Baby has been collecting robust metadata from the artists we distribute. That has helped us ensure the music we deliver to our partners has a low “rejection rate” due to copyright issues, publishing discrepancies, or missing info. This is also why we’re one of only two distributors to have preferred-partner status with both Apple Music AND Spotify.

CD Baby is proactive about gathering info that’s not YET the industry standard. When it comes to metadata, we make an effort to keep ahead of the curve, and we’re ready to deliver whenever a digital platform decides to provide more information about the songs in their catalog.

Recently this was the case with “artist roles” (such as remixer, producer, primary artist, featured artist, etc.) and platform-specific artist IDs.

Making sure our clients’ data is complete and correct has been a huge focus for us because it:

  1. limits the risk to our streaming and download partners
  2. helps assure that you are paid properly and promptly
  3. provides music services and databases with key information about your music that can increase searchability and discovery
  4. could help you and your collaborators get more work in the future because of proper credits

Dry as it might sound, when you provide detailed, accurate metadata, it can open up new opportunities for your music. That’s why it’s exciting. That’s why you can’t get it wrong. That’s why CD Baby helps make it easy.

Deliver your music (and metadata) to all the most important music services today!

is the Editor of CD Baby's DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songsthat've been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.

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