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Music Metadata: 3 Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier

Does the phrase music metadata put you on the edge of your seat? Probably not.

When you think about your music career, it’s easy to remember the obvious moments. 

Like the feelings you got from your first show, and those long nights in the studio or even the first time someone complimented you on your music.

Yes, it’s fun to look back on these accomplishments and even some of the tough lessons you learned along the way.

As you aspire to share your music with the world, filling out your metadata for a new song or album is probably the last thing you’d associate with success. 

After all there’s no getting around the fact that metadata is boring and in some ways seems irrelevant. Well the fact is, your metadata is a lot more important than you may think.

Music Metadata: 3 Things I Wish I'd Known Earlier

Metadata wouldn’t be a huge deal if it was something musicians could get away with ignoring, but doing so leaves them at risk for encountering major issues throughout their career.

By “major issues,” I mean the kind of problems that can leave a songwriter, performer, or producer flat broke and unrecognized for their hard work.

Anyone who creates and/or performs music should care about getting their metadata right. Especially when it comes to releasing music and coordinating release details with collaborators. If you’re a musician who’s unsure about what metadata is and why you should care about it, this article is for you. 

What the heck is music metadata, anyway?

In order to understand why metadata is so important in the music industry, you have to understand what it is in context first. Virtually all musicians understand how much music has changed over the past two decades. As music has moved from physical listening formats to digital ones, fully comprehending the implications of something like metadata is harder to do.

In the pre-digital music industry, we could easily track, chart, and compensate musical artists through physical music sales and radio airplay, but the old way of crediting musicians doesn’t work in a digital world.

Today, there are countless ways audiences can discover and play an artist’s music online, from Shazam to SoundCloud to TIDAL and Spotify.

Metadata is a half-baked solution to the problem of pairing music up with the accurate details behind it, but it’s the best and only option at the moment, though many companies are trying to improve things through technology.

According to a recent article published by The Verge, “In the music world, metadata most commonly refers to the song credits you see on services like Spotify or Apple Music, but it also includes all the underlying information tied to a released song or album, including titles, songwriter and producer names, the publisher(s), the record label, and more.”

A single error or omission in a song’s metadata details could leave a musician uncredited for their work, which leads to a world of complications for not just the left out musician but also publishers, record labels, managers, and even audiences.

This same article goes on to profile an anonymous songwriter who is currently unable to collect over $40,000 in song royalties due to bad metadata associated with 70 of their songs. Metadata might be a sleep-inducing subject, but it can lead to nightmare scenarios for musicians who get it wrong.

Metadata Determines How, or Whether, You’ll Get Paid For Your Work

Today’s tech-driven music industry means songwriters are releasing music more frequently and with more collaborators than ever before. We currently have all the tools we need to put out music quickly and efficiently, but crediting musicians properly over a diverse set of platforms that all play by different rules is something the industry has yet to figure out.

In order to get paid for your music, the metadata surrounding your releases must credit you accurately. A record label, collaborative songwriting partner, or Publishing Rights Organization (PRO) like ASCAP, BMI or SOCAN is under no legal obligation to pay you for your work if a song’s metadata doesn’t reflect that you were a part of creating it.

Getting the details right the first time when you release new music can absolutely mean the difference between you being credited and paid or not. 

It could impact the number of streams and views associated with your music and take away future opportunities 

Most musicians working today might not be earning a living exclusively through their creative work, but that doesn’t mean bad metadata doesn’t impact them.

Inaccurate details surrounding a release leaves you at risk for not being credited for your music, which could impact the public streaming and viewing data associated with your work.

The major music platforms often rely on the amount of streams, follows, views, and downloads an artist generates when considering whether to feature their work on playlists and music discovery features.

Bad metadata could leave you uncredited for your musical contributions, which might also exclude you from having access to crucial music opportunities down the line. 

Metadata impacts your music’s “searchability”

Being credited incorrectly or not at all means missing out on being found online when a listener searches for your music. Music discovery tools like Shazam are becoming hugely important in music, not just for musicians but also audiences.

Inaccurate metadata breaks crucial links between you and potential new fans through things like Google searches, Shazam hits, YouTube video recommendations, and recommended artist features on platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud.

Wonky metadata also messes up the growing world of voice recognition software on devices like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. Musicians have enough hurdles to contend with when it comes to making music easily available for audiences, and inconsistent metadata can put up huge barriers between your work and the listeners you’re trying to reach, especially as technology continues to evolve.

When we think of crediting musicians for their songs, EPs, and albums, we have to accept that the music industry works radically different than it used to, and that streamlining the data around music is now absolutely crucial.

Getting metadata right with your releases is the only way to get the recognition, compensation, and notoriety you deserve. Most artists working today aren’t going to lose loads of money by adding inaccurate metadata through a music distributor’s platform, but all of us are held back in some way when we’re not recognized for our music or able to be found easily online. 

Stay tuned for our follow up to this article in the weeks to come and an associated giveaway to help you stay organized with your metadata!

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