The Importance Of Metadata In The Music Industry

02 June 2017
By Sergey Bludov, SVP Media & Entertainment


Without metadata, the music industry would come to a standstill. This vital information is required in order to manage music files, allowing data to be properly created, stored, sorted and used in a wide range of applications. Truly, metadata is a centerpiece of the industry, uniting music creation, copyright, royalties, music discovery and technology.

The importance of effective metadata management cannot be overstated, bringing many prominent experts together at the recent Metadata Summit in Nashville to exchange knowledge about a spectrum of related topics. Highlights included a discussion about programmatic techniques for predictive metadata with Entertainment Intelligence’s Greg Delaney, Songspace’s John Getter, PledgeMusic/dotBlockchain Music’s Benji Rogers and others; a talk about the importance of effectively implementing standards across the music industry with VeVa Sound’s Deborah DeLoach, ProMusicDB’s Christy Crowl and other experts; and a fascinating look at the first-ever online platform for direct licensing of public performance rights with Lee Greer, CEO/President of The National Performing Rights Exchange (NPREX).

Spotify’s recent acquisition of Paris-based machine learning startup Niland is indicative of the increased industry focus on using AI and ML to develop sophisticated music recommendation technology. Spotify and many other platforms currently use collaborative filtering, which analyzes public sources of information, such as blogs, to determine when multiple artists, albums or songs are referenced in the same context. On the other hand, Niland works by pulling important information from raw music content and subsequently forming those connections with other artists in order to provide meaningful music recommendations to users.

One thing that becomes clear when discussing the current state of affairs is that the digital era has made it easier to attach metadata to other data. At the same time, this information must be saved in a system that provides an overview of all related data. Labels and publishers must have corresponding software, while international standards must be implemented in every component of the whole in order to ensure that the entire system works effectively and accurately.

Blockchain technology may prove to be at least part of the solution. Currently, North American publishers use various proprietary and non-proprietary data standards, while Common Works Registration (CWR) is a commonly-adopted music publishing data standard. Although CWR is able to capture most of the important music rights data points, it remains an imperfect standard with many problems, including a level of complexity that makes it challenging to validate data, sometimes resulting in rights holders not being fully aware of all required fields and information that must be entered. Additionally, data about ownership transfers and other transactions that occur during the life of a song copyright need to come in a separate format, and are not consistently disseminated by rights owners.

By providing a standard for information systems that can remain operational even in the face of missing links of data, blockchain technology carries the potential to offer a smarter approach to metadata management in the music industry. Although migrating the existing data systems of all rights societies and publishers will be a massive undertaking, developing a sustainable metadata management infrastructure is incredibly important for the music industry on many levels, from the evolution of AI and ML innovations to increased data accuracy in order to ensure that rights owners receive all royalties that are owed to them for the use of their music.

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