20 Questions for New Artists Sidebar: The Importance of Metadata

[For the next few weeks, we’re going to post updated sections from the article “20 Questions for New Artists” that Amy Mitchell and I wrote a few years ago which has been posted various places.  This doesn’t constitute legal advice, or any intent to form the attorney-client relationship. (If you miss an installment, try searching this blog for “20 Questions for New Artists”.)  For new issues that should be included for new artists, we’ll be adding the “Sidebar”, and this is our first one on the important subject of “metadata’.]

“Metadata” is a generic term for “credits” or what is also called “label copy”.   It is–at a minimum–the song title, artist name and sound recording copyright owner for each track, but should also include the songwriters, side musicians and vocalists, the producer and, if applicable any remixers or mixers.  The “metadata” issue comes up every time you—or someone you authorize—upload your recordings or videos to a digital service, or your song information to ASCAP or BMI or your recording information to SoundExchange.  Any mistakes you make potentially stand in the way of your getting paid by those services or PROs.

We can’t emphasize enough how important it is that you are consistent in your metadata and that you make an extra effort to correct it if you see it is incorrect on any digital service.  These are burdens of time on artists and their managers, but correcting metadata is often at the bottom of the failure of a service to account to you for your royalty.

Any mistakes along the way can get magnified and may drag you into a Kafka-esque experience inside the room of mirrors in Dataland, where mistakes are always someone else’s fault, everyone is understaffed and the machines rule and are considered to be infallible.

Make sure you ask your distributor for their rules for metadata, often called a “style guide”.  In the meantime, you should read the iTunes Style Guide which is available from Apple at this link: https://help.apple.com/itc/musicstyleguide/en.lproj/static.html

There’s a lot of information there, but it is important stuff to know.  Remember—your ability to get paid may depend on the tender mercies of a data input clerk working at minimum wage who you will never meet and who probably does not care as much as you do about getting your data input correctly.  You need to make it as easy as possible for them to do their job right.  However you may feel about poorly paid data entry clerks, empathy doesn’t pay your bills.



Copyright 2019 by Chris Castle and Amy Mitchell