Five Questions: Gebre Waddell

The mastering engineer behind the Soundways Sound Credit metadata tool wants music creators to get the credit they deserve
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Gebre Waddell has a long history of striving to improve the working lives of music makers. The mastering engineer who founded Stonebridge Mastering in 2002 is the president of the Memphis chapter of the Recording Academy, and the author of Complete Audio Mastering: Practical Techniques (McGraw-Hill). His plug-in company, Soundways, offers practical tools for identifying mix issues and making better mix decisions. And with Soundways’ new Sound Credit plug-in (released last October as RIN-M), Waddell is giving music makers control over credit reporting with a simple tool for collecting and managing session information as music metadata.

This free plug-in is the first application of the Recording Information Notification (RIN) standard for music credits and metadata created by Digital Data Exchange (DDEX), a consortium of more than 30 media entities including Apple, Amazon, Warner Music, BMI, and Spotify. The RIN standard, which was published in 2016, is the culmination of 10 years of work establishing data standards to be implemented along the music production supply chain.

What was the genesis of this metadata reporting tool?

I had been doing research on a blog post for a mastering studio website, and had reached out to CISAC in France, and ASCAP, and that post ended up really going viral: It had thousands of hits per day from all over the world and led to a lot of mastering work for me in my early days. When I was working on the metadata section of my book, it was a continuation of that.

How did that interest evolve into actually designing a plug-in?

We were preparing a metadata panel for a Grammy studio summit in New Orleans. We were going to talk about RIN and some of the latest advancements in metadata, but I felt like this was going to be yet another year of not being able to give the audience something they could practically adopt.

Also, if the RIN standard wasn’t implemented within a year it would have to go “under review.”

With all of the time that went into the standard over 10 years after the formation of DDEX, I didn’t want to see that effort not receive the traction that it was due. So that was the impetus behind a fast-tracked development of the RIN-M plug-in [reviewed on], which we recently renamed to Sound Credit.

How does your work dovetail with P&E file hierarchy guidelines?

I’ve been part of the P&E Wing for years: I was the Memphis chapter P&E co-chair before I was president of the Memphis chapter of the Recording Academy. With Sound Credit, we want it to implement the RIN standard, but we also wanted to have a minimum metadata set.

No one gets into recording and music so they can become accountants for music metadata. We had to find a way to streamline the process for them, to make it realistic in their workflows. Part of that goal was to go with the minimum recording metadata set that was published by the P&E Wing for the basic version of the plug-in. [An advanced version, Sound Credit Pro, is $49.]

Are we on track to get all industry stakeholders onboard?

As far as readiness for adoption, I think there’s one single thing that tells the story better than anything else. And that’s that within the first two weeks, we had users in more than 50 countries. Today, we have active users in 64 countries. And we get some reporting—we don’t receive the data from the plug-in, but we get basic usage statistics—and we see that people are adopting this into their workflows and they’re using it every day. So it’s verified that people are ready to have this as part of their workflow. And they’re doing that today.

How are you spreading the word? I know, for example, that you have developed tools for educators.

We wanted to make sure that it was easy to implement in academics. That’s going to be a big front door for this movement—that people, right at this point where they’re starting their careers, are integrating this into their workflows. But also, this thing has taken on a mind of its own. People have been waiting for this solution for so long that when we delivered it, people just jumped on it.

A component of that is how practical this implementation is, and how we carefully designed it to fit in workflows in a streamlined way. It’s a deep consideration for the sound engineer and producer and music professionals who will be using this in combination with great implementation, and addressing a pain point that has been existing for decades.