Ongoing Initiative Works To Unlock The Value Of Music Metadata
By Robby Towns of digitalmusic.org and NestaMusic.
Since the inaugural Music Industry Metadata Summit held at Music Biz 2013, there have been several areas that are worth revisiting given new developments in the market, coupled with the current initiatives of NARM/digitalmusic.org.
Digital Liner Notes & Release Delivery
A little over a year ago, digitalmusic.org released the “MetaMillions” whitepaper detailing several areas where the music industry could benefit from standardization around contextual metadata. One target-rich area for providing this enriched metadata is digital liner notes (album credits). During Music Biz 2013, Rhapsody announced the implementation of digital liner notes in partnership with the Recording Academy’s “Give Fans the Credit” campaign, championed by Maureen Droney (Producers & Engineers Wing). The implementation of this initiative by Rhapsody is set for later this year. One factor of consideration for any entity planning to leverage more robust studio (recording) metadata is the upcoming DDEX specifications focused on this area. DDEX has planned workshops scheduled throughout September in London, New York, and Los Angeles that are primarily focused on ‘Open Release Delivery Implementation.’ A key theme throughout these workshops will be finding the balance between flexibility and conformance for release deliveries.
“How can we ensure that all implementations are the same? Experience has shown, that DDEX implementations, specifically for Release deliveries, do vary between companies. DDEX is working on tightening its standards to eliminate, if possible, any opportunity for such variation. The Open Release Delivery Implementation Alignment Workshops are intended to identify variations that exist in current implementations, discuss possible approaches to removing them, and ultimately, document these within DDEX to avoid such variations appearing in the future.” – DDEX website
DDEX has established a working group focused on studio metadata, chaired by BMS/Chace president John Spencer, but the timing for implementation of the specifications is still to be determined.
At this stage, it is becoming increasingly easy to point out value-add opportunities for collecting contextual metadata during the recording process. Examples like the Blue Note sandbox and apps have exemplified the type of enriched experiences that can be presented to fans. In attempting to distribute this type of data to the development community via sandbox, API, etc., the key limitation and opportunity is in the underlying metadata. Nashville is home to some of the most amazing session players to ever darken a studio door. These musicians are anonymized for the general public simply because most digital tracks are not presented in a way that allows for exploring that level of recording detail. Imagine a history of music as told through session players and studios for Nashville or any other music town. Turn the world of Sound City Studios into a sandbox or API and see what comes back in return.
The music industry desperately needs a set of processes and standards to allow for the entire gamut of musicians (garage to stadium) to understand the how, what, when, and where of collecting and distributing this data. A “baby band” could start by collecting much of this info through a basic MS Excel or Google spreadsheet. However, there is no standard on how to set up that spreadsheet or what to do with the data once it is complete. There are some initiatives around this area being offered by companies like BMS/Chace. Their schema for multi-track metadata is currently being incorporated by DDEX into their overall standards. BMS/Chace has also started to explore education initiatives that would incorporate metadata collection and implementation into the curriculum of schools with recording programs. The curriculum will be modeled after real-world scenarios based on the company’s experience with major label projects and will offer an online platform for collecting metadata throughout the recording process. Although college curricula cannot incentivize the entire music industry, it is an excellent place to start educating the artists, producers, and engineers of the future.
One area that has been part of an ongoing dialogue for NARM/digitalmusic.org is the future of unique identifiers and disambiguation of recorded music. The relatively new International Standard Name Identifier (INSI) has assigned more than 6.5 million names with assigned codes (www.isni.org). Approximately 133,000 Wikipedia articles now show the ISNI of the subject, including many performing artists.
The U.S. Copyright Office has run a consultation on upgrading its registration processes and has received numerous submissions, including one from digitalmusic.org working group co-chair Paul Jessop of County Analytics. One recurring theme throughout many of these responses was the adoption of standard identifiers with each registration. ISNI’s response to this notice of inquiry positions the identifier as a potential building block of the copyright registration and recordation process through the following:
“Aid the Copyright Office in managing its data by allowing records where the rights owner is the same to be grouped and records where the rights owners are different to be distinguished,
Aid those searching the records to find wanted information more quickly and without noise,
Aid those having located the appropriate record to contact the owner of the relevant rights more effectively, thereby reducing the number of works “orphaned” because the owners of the relevant rights cannot be found.”
To achieve these objectives, ISNI recommends the copyright system implement the allowance of ISNI entry for any instance where a party (person or entity) is associated with ownership or management of copyrights. The identifier should then be checked against the ISNI registry for proper validation. Lastly, the provision of an ISNI should become mandatory when future adoption of ISNI has reached critical mass and the relevant stakeholders have been properly notified and consulted.
There are obvious integration challenges for fully adopting another standard identifier in the music industry. However, the critical point at this stage is that a fully adopted creator ID is desperately needed to alleviate challenges with areas like artist disambiguation. Digitalmusic.org plans to continue researching the possibility of becoming an ISNI registrar or at the very least serving to support making more agencies available. No identifier, process, or initiative can entirely remediate the challenges surrounding these areas. However, utilizing ISRC (recording), ISWC (composition), and ISNI (creator) can make an immense improvement in core processes of the digital supply chain for recorded music.
NARM/digitalmusic.org (Metadata & Digital Supply Chain Initiatives)
The Product Platforms Database is currently undergoing fine-tuning for ISRC ingestion for all member companies. Additionally, there are several utilities (e.g. Gold/Platinum certification) in queue for the next rounds of development.
The Music Industry Style Guide released during Music Biz 2013 has received feedback from several key member companies and other industry stakeholders. Plans for a v2.0 release are set for Q1 2014. Some areas being discussed as additions for the next release are classical content, genre definitions, and dance music nuances (e.g. continuous mixes).
Our Digital Asset Management work group has begun outlining a best practices document for digital photos, set for release in Q4 2013. Additionally, this work group maintains ongoing involvement with forwarding current and future initiatives related to digital liner notes and studio metadata.
Digitalmusic.org is available as a resource for many key digital initiatives and challenges presented in the music industry. To learn more about the organization and how you can be involved, visit http://digitalmusic.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ongoing Initiative Works To Unlock The Value Of Music Metadata (djduece.wordpress.com)
- Ongoing Initiative Works To Unlock The Value Of Music Metadata (hypebot.com)
- Why Modern Musicians Should Care About Metadata (hypebot.com)
- Metadata: Bowker Reports More than 6.5 Million ISNI (Intl. Standard Name Identifier) Assignments Made (infodocket.com)
- NARM Launches Digitalmusic.org (hypebot.com)