Will Computers Soon Control The Music Industry?
With music becoming more and more data driven, are humans getting in the way of streamlining profits?This article originally appeared on Forbes
Today’s hot topics in the music industry are more about data and payments than sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. As previously discussed, payments to musicians, songwriters, and the companies that represent them are unfairly low. Aside from the rates, the other problem with getting paid fairly relies on the accuracy of the data relating to music.
Digital uses of music require various types of data embedded in and tied to digital music files – called metadata. Metadata includes data like the copyright owners of the compositions and master recordings, ISRC codes (unique identifying codes for master recordings), ISWC codes (unique identifying codes for compositions), performance rights organization affiliations, and other information. One large problem with current metadata within the industry is a problem of matching. Music publishers and record labels often need to match data so certain sound recordings are matched to the composition embodied within them, or that certain uses can be matched to the exact sound recording and composition used. However, there is not yet a good system in place for totally accurate matching, which means a lot of extra work for rights’ holders to identify uses of their works in order to collect the payments associated with those uses.
The other problem is the lack of correct metadata. Oftentimes, identifying correct metadata is like identifying the correct message in a game of telephone. Between the publishers, labels, distributors, and other involved entities, metadata that may have been correct at the beginning of the chain is often incorrect by the time it reaches a stage of usage, resulting in incorrectly identified (or unidentified) owners who don’t receive payments because it is unclear who to pay.
Metadata is often incorrect for several reasons: (1) human error of employees incorrectly inputting data, and (2) lack of communication stemming from either rights’ owners not being clear on their shares of ownership or co-owners not sharing ownership information, (3) companies that have been sold or gone out of business with no clear successor, and (4) people who claim ownership of shares to which they do not actually have rights. In addition, many rights owners (often songwriters) do not want their ownership shares made public because they feel the ease of third parties figuring out what they earn will decrease their bargaining power.