Artist’s Guide To Fixing Broken Music Metadata
In the current music economy, getting your metadata right is essential for bands and artists. Broken metadata can cut you off from royalties, allow credit to be stolen from you, and more. So what can you do to help fix broken or missing metadata?
Guest post by Randi Zimmerman of the Symphonic Blog
Metadata is one of the most important aspects of this business for musicians to get right. Improper metadata causes a lot of damage in this industry. It cuts off rightfully owed revenues, steals credit from hardworking songwriters, and so much more. So, what can you do to help fix this major dilemma? No matter how small, here’s how you can do your part…
What Can You Do To Help Fix Broken Music Metadata?
Before we dive in, let’s backtrack a little.
When digital music streaming first started to replace the physical, everyone in the industry was thrown into a large pot of chaotic data exchanges and storage. There were, and still are, many flaws in the system.
- There was no universal standardization of data across the industry. When everything started, every section of the industry did their own thing with their own makeshift databases.
- One song may have a thousand different versions. (i.e. covers, remixes, radio edits, etc.) — All these versions get their own separate metadata entries… As you can imagine, that’s a lot of entries for seemingly the same song. That makes things overwhelmingly complicated.
- Humans make mistakes. We misspell things, overlook details, miscommunicate, the works.
- Every time an error is encountered, we don’t have a universal way to fix it. We have ISRC codes, but those only account for one layer of a composition. We have public music databases that try their best to rectify these conflicts when they arise, but there are too many moving parts to be consistently beneficial all the time.
All in all, a lot of consequences come from these mistakes. When this data doesn’t match up, algorithms aren’t able to match genres and provide meaningful recommendations. That hard working artist doing the subtle vocals in the back of a track isn’t recognized and loses credit. Artist names are misspelled in various databases, making it almost impossible for fans to find them across platforms. And those are just a few examples.
But nowadays, we’re aware of all this. We stress as much as we can about how important accurate and meaningful metadata is. We have processes in place to make sure we limit these instances as much as we can. Proper metadata literally decides the fate of many, for better or for worse.
But let’s face it… we’re only human.
With all our knowledge of how important metadata is, people in all parts of this industry still mess it up. But we, collectively, can adapt. We have processes in place to limit these inaccuracies as much as possible. There are steps you can take to make sure you’re doing your part to help fix the problem of broken music metadata.
Here’s what you can do…
Keep track of your metadata from start to finish.
Do yourself, and the industry, a favor. Don’t play catch-up later. Keep up with everything you need from start to finish. As soon as anyone other than yourself is involved in the making of a track, keep track of those credits. That means being vocal with everyone involved, talking about what will be owed to who at the end of the process, and signing any paperwork that needs to be signed before anyone even picks up a guitar.
Make sure split sheets and agreements are defined BEFORE any work ever leaves the studio.
Once a deadline is set, the pressure is on. Musicians tend to forget about legalities while the creative juices are flowing and magic is being made. However, I assure you that if someone gets accidentally left out of credits, the magic will disappear just as fast as it came.
In comes the iconic split sheet. — A split sheet is an agreement that identifies who wrote what percentage of the song such as the producer(s) and songwriter(s). Each creator has to agree about how the percentages are defined. Some artists will divide it evenly based on who is in the room writing and producing the song, some will base the percentages on the person’s specific contribution lyrics, hook, melody, and beats.
Just be sure to understand everyone’s position on the splits beforehand. That way, there are no disagreements after the song is completed and all the details can be logged and accounted for.
Double or triple check your metadata before you submit it.
Everybody has been personally victimized by their computer or phone’s autocorrect at least once. Don’t let autocorrect ruin your chances of being properly paid for your work. Even the smallest type can have a huge impact.
Once the song is already out in the world, making changes will be very difficult. Before you submit anything, get a second set of eyes on it. Whether that be your publisher or entertainment attorney, just make sure everything is accurate and ready to go.
Follow all metadata guidelines to a “T”.
Every small error, whether it be a capitalized letter or a misplaced parenthesis, will travel throughout the industry. If your artist name is misspelled, you won’t be getting your royalties in the mail. That mistake could be the difference between an artist being able to pay rent that month or not.
Luckily, there are guidelines available online to help guide you through it as seamlessly and accurately as possible. // Music Business Association has published a great set of general guidelines here.
Tell your friends!
Knowledge is power. Now that your brain has all this juicy information, it’s your turn to share it along. To really make an impact, everyone needs to do their part. Little by little, metadata will start to improve and the problems we currently face will fade significantly.
Although the current system is cracked, it can be fixed. Hopefully this post shed some light on the importance of metadata, all its quirks, and how we can work towards a better future for generations to come.