Getting A Handle On Song Metadata, And Why It's Important

The music industry has been struggling for over a decade to create uniform databases that can correctly identify songs and the performers with the many stakeholders who are eligible to earn royalty income from terrestrial and satellite radio, public performance and streaming services for the public performance of music.

Last week a collaborative step to create a uniform reporting process was announced between Bell Media’s 100-plus terrestrial radio stations, rights collective Re:Sound, and Music Canada.

The announcement concludes lengthy discussions between the three to streamline sound recording data that tracks every song played on Bell stations. The data is fed to Re:Sound, which in turn identifies the stakeholders and pays out to a handful of rights organizations, including Music Canada’s affiliated Connect Music Licensing. In turn, these collectives pay pro-rated shares of income to the recording artists and others involved in the recordings, which include the record labels.

Billions of data points are generated from music performances. Having all the information about who and what is necessary to correctly I.D who rights payments go to, and equally important is having a standard protocol for Re:Sound and the songwriter/music publisher agency, SOCAN, to interpret.

The muddle of knowing who owes what to who blew up when the music industry morphed from LPs, with detailed liner notes, to digital files that in early days failed to embed the relevant information that could help identify the rights owners. The industry now realizes that millions of dollars sit unclaimed because the agencies that collect the monies don't have enough information to determine who gets the payments.

This is the broad brushstroke. It gets a lot more complicated when one understands that there are a lot of songwriters and groups with similar or identical names in different jurisdictions. There is also the fact that the US doesn't collect performance royalties (we call it a 'neighbouring right' in Canada) from terrestrial broadcasters, whereas most top line music countries, including Canada, do. Simply put, if the US doesn't collect for performances of Canadian artists in the US, we don't pay for the performance royalties collected in Canada to them. The money is divided up between those countries Canada has reciprocal agreements with, and our homegrown artists.

You can read the details of the Bell Media story on FYI and on the Music Canada’s website; below we include some of the critical information that recording artists, record labels and producers must tag their song files with if they want to collect what's theirs.

Metadata, also referred to as ID3 tag for mp3 files, is the identifying information associated with your song, such as the

  • composers

  • performers including musicians

  • song title

  • title of the album from which it was released

  • year released

  • track number

  • track duration

  • genre

  • album art

  • lyrics

  • producer

  • country of origin of the recording

Additional reading

How to get all the royalties you never knew existed (from an American perspective)

Canadian music royalties explained: clear, concise and artist/manager-friendly resource document that deciphers everything

Metadata explained - how to embed metadata into your music

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