It wasn’t more than five years ago that, if you were in a coffee shop or a clothing boutique and you heard a catchy tune, you might need to ask a barista or — OMG — a stranger for the name of the artist or the album. Then along came mobile apps like Shazam and SoundHound that magically identify the music that is being played. Recently, these two music discovery apps have upped their game by not only identifying the song and displaying the album artwork, but also showing lyrics, videos and bios, as well as any tour dates in your area.
Have you ever stopped to wonder just how these apps gather and display such a wealth of data about a particular artist? On the surface, the answer seems to be excellent fingerprinting technology, lots of APIs delivering content, and a well-designed user experience. But go just one layer below that and the engine that drives it all is good metadata.
Metadata is all that information that describes and identifies your music. In some cases, metadata is text – composer and musicians’ names, dates, genre. In other cases, it’s numeric data such as UPC barcodes and ISRC codes. As the music landscape becomes more digital and global, proper metadata is an increasingly important part of your release workflow.
At the last week’s Future of Music Policy Summit, we organized two lunchtime workshops that focused on Metadata for Musicians. The goal of these workshops was to provide musicians, managers and indie labels with a better understanding of how music and data work together to power discovery, attribution and payment. Panelists from mastering studios, digital aggregators, performance rights organizations, labels and digital retailers discussed the current digital music ecosystem, and described what data is important, how to get it, where and when to embed it, and what musicians need to keep track of.
During the first session, we covered all the activites that happen prior to the music’s release date, including the data artists need to keep track of in the studio, registering repertoire, obtaining ISRC codes and UPC barcodes, and preparing artwork and data for aggregators.
On day 2, we moved into post-release environment and talked about the data that digital service providers use to identify downloads/streams and properly pay rightsholders. We examined how core data, such as credits, lyrics, and artist bios, is disseminated to dozens of platforms. And we heard from video and cue sheet experts about the metadata that is fundamental to new digital ecosystems.
We have posted the slide decks for these two workshops. These slides add to the research and resources that FMC has produced over the years that explain various digital distribution platforms, how musicians can participate, our documentation about musicians’ revenue streams, and how the money flows back to creators.
Addendum: Mike Petillo from Airshow Mastering, who was a panelist at the Metadata for Musicians workshop, wrote up an excellent summary blog post.