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  • Writer's pictureMatt Errington

What Is Music Metadata and Why Should I Care?

Metadata is one of the biggest issues in the music industry today. It’s believed that approximately 25% of all song writing revenue is lost due to incorrect, missing or unmatched metadata – billions left on the table, never reaching those that have earned it, and often, really need it! The problem has existed for decades and with the massive increase in the amount of music that is delivered to streaming services (40,000 tracks a day sent to Spotify!) and the rise of independent distribution, the situation is only getting worse. We discuss metadata best practices, songwriter agreements, music publishing, performance royalties and much more during our immersive and unique course Music Business Fundamentals.

What can be done?

As I see it, there are three ways to address the problem, we need to (1) create a universal standard for how metadata is collected, (2) have a single source for where the data is stored and (3) agree a system of data verification prior to any release.

There are many new start-ups focused on the ‘metadata data crisis’. 'Creator Credits' embeds metadata into the actual files at the production stage and is led by industry heavyweights Max Martin’s MXM Music, Avid Technology, Universal Music Group and DDEX. 'Splits' is a mobile app that makes it easier for artists to create ownership agreements. So there are efforts being made, but the problem is far from over.

Let’s look at the metadata basics:

In music, metadata (amongst other things) is all of the underlying information attached to a song, an EP or album. Let’s look at some of those:

Song name: Sounds obvious, but this should be the clear and full title (not ‘Song title mix 18’). If there is a featured artist on the track, that should be in the title too, for example ‘Song Title (feat. Artist Name)’. And if it’s a cover, that needs to be there too!

Artist: Artist/Band name

Album: Album title. If the song is a single, list the single title here or leave blank.

Composer: List the full names (check these) of all writers, information about their PRO (Performing Rights Organisation), split percentages and CAE number. Make sure the splits have been agreed in one place with everyone in agreement. If these splits conflict with each other later, the money will be withheld.

Grouping: Who owns the master rights and who owns the publishing rights? For example ‘Master (100%) Record Label Name / Publishing (100%) Publishing Company Name’. If you own the song in it’s entirely you can write ‘Artist Name (one-stop)’ or ‘Artist Name (200%)’.

Genre and BPM: Not compulsory but a good idea. Could help it be found in searches by music supervisors for example.

Comments: Include contact information here for licensing. You could also add the mood or a description of the song. If someone is searching for a particular type of song, this could be invaluable. Make it easy for them!


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