State of Play
As the music industry continues to evolve, a major component of
the consumer experience has been left behind: listeners’ awareness
of the people, skills, and intention that went into creating it.
Those album covers, sleeves, and booklets we used to pore over—
the credits, liner notes, lyrics, artwork, etc.—haven’t really made
the leap from physical to electronic distribution.
It used to be common for music buyers to scour the back cover
to learn who the players were, who wrote the songs, who produced
them, where and by whom they were recorded, and to read
the liner notes. From lyrics to “special thanks,” this information
gave listeners a personal relationship with the artist. It informed
them about the intent and the process of creating the recording.
Today, due to technological advances welcomed by creators
and fans alike, we can use our smart phones to identify a particular
song or album. But almost all music services—whether purchase
or subscription based—only show consumers the name of
the song, the artist, and perhaps, a copy of the CD cover. Technology
has left credits, and a wealth of other information, behind.
However, proper crediting and documentation—a.k.a. metadata—
actually plays a much more important role for artists in
the digital age. Artists, labels, and other royalty stakeholders
now have compelling business and financial reasons to ensure
that accurate metadata is collected and linked to their creative
If you’re a music creator and you’re reading this, you’re probably
wondering, “But how am I supposed to do this?” That’s a
reasonable question, because, currently, it’s not readily apparent
which metadata should be collected in what form, or where it’s
supposed to go.
But the landscape of metadata collection and distribution is
changing—in a positive way. Much of this work has been under
the radar, as the creation of metadata standards doesn’t make
for sensational headlines. But without these standards, creative
stakeholders aren’t going to be properly credited. Even more
important, in a number of scenarios where their music is played
or downloaded, those stakeholders also might not get paid. Given
the fact that many such payments are fractions of a cent, it is more
critical than ever that we have a unified, well-structured standard
for those payments to be credited appropriately.
A number of U.S. and global organizations have been working
to create this structure. One of the leaders in the e-commerce
standardization process is DDEX (ddex.net), an entity working
with labels, aggregators, and e-commerce providers to create
standardized XML (Extensible Markup Language) messaging
suites for electronic releases and digital sales reporting. CISAC
(cisac.org) has created the International Standard Naming Identifier
or ISNI (isni.org), an International Standards Organization
(ISO) specification for unique personal identifiers that assigns
to performers and creative participants a unique numeric code
without releasing any private information such as social security
numbers. Additionally, The Recording Academy® and its Producers
& Engineers Wing® (grammy.org) are deeply involved with the
standards process in several ways, from the newly launched “Give
Fans the Credit” advocacy campaign (givefansthecredit.com),
to working with media- and data-management company BMS/Chace and the Library of Congress in creating standards for the
collection of technical, descriptive, and performer information
during the recording process (CCCdata.com).
All of these initiatives will play significant roles in the continued
development of the standards process, which ultimately will
enable content creators to collect metadata in a variety of ways.
Whether via dedicated app, web portal, or DAW integration,
creators will be able to provide XML output containing rich, standardized
metadata. This will help everyone, from content creators
to resellers, to provide accurate documentation, and facilitate
proper crediting and payment.
So what can we do while the standards are still being created?
• Producers, take ownership of the documentation process; work
with the artist to collect and document accurate information
and assign credits. If you’re not personally collecting the appropriate
metadata, assign the task to a trusted assistant.
• Deliver as much metadata as possible to the label along with the
final recorded masters.
• If you are self-producing your project or are an independent artist,
make sure you keep as much documentation as possible.
• Visit givefansthecredit.com and sign the petition. Help us show
how much credits matter—both within our industry and to music
The bottom line is that all participants in the music industry—
from artist to producer to label to digital music provider—have a
role to play if we want our credits back.
Maureen Droney is Senior Executive Director of The Recording
Academy Producers & Engineers Wing producersandengineers.com). John Spencer is President and co-founder of BMS/Chace