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Metadata Confusion Costing the Industry More than Money, Delegates Told at NARM "Music Biz" Summit


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Misspellings, multiple identities for a single artist, and multiple release dates are costing the music industry a lot of money and causing great confusion among customers, according to a day-long summit on metadata held at the NARM “Music Biz" gathering at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles.

As the music industry becomes more dependent on digital revenue, clean, authoritative metadata becomes increasingly important, which can have an impact not only on sales but also on payment to the rights holders.

At Spotify, incorrect metadata can result in lost sales opportunities. For example, Beyonce's music has been serviced to Spotify in three different ways, one with her name without the accent over the last letter in her name, another with the accent but also with the addition of Knowles, her last name; and also as Beyonce & Shakira, with the metadata listing both artists as a single entity instead of as separate artists.

So while Spotify can create fixes when customers are making searches to link all three, it is a whole other matter to change all the metadata manually. Consequently, if Spotify subscribers follow Beyonce, they won't know if a new track or album comes out under Beyonce Knowles or as Beyonce & Shakira.

“We want all the Beyonce content on one artist page so that the users and followers can find it easily," said Spotify's label relations and content operations lead Ron Ubaldo.

For example, when “Accidental Racist was delivered to Spotify, it came in as Brax Paisley and LL Cool J." I can tell you that Brax Paisley is not getting a lot of listens," Ubaldo added.

Another situation is what happens when “an artist wakes up one morning and decides we hate the way we spelt our name," Ubaldo asked. He answered that 30 Second To Mars, which has put out three albums under that name, but now has decided that it wants to be known as Thirty Seconds To Mars. Spotify can put the new album in under that name, but it can't manually change all the metadata so that it migrates all the data under the old spelling to the new page.

Yet, artists do that. Prince decided to become a font for 10 years and younger artist decide to change their names as they get older. “We have to build tools that are system-wide solutions,” Ubaldo said. “We can't just create tools for one artist.”

Beyond names, album release dates are becoming a problem, said Rhapsody International senior program manager of content operations Brad Kovacs.

By having separate release dates for digital sales, streaming and different territories, its resulting in less promotion for a title. But beyond that, release date nowadays means more than one date; i.e. when can a new release information go up and when can track data be listed, when is the pre-order date and when can the title be streamed? Another problem is the original release date, Kovacs added.

When a title is reviewed in Pitchfork but can't be found at the music services, it creates confusion for the customers and subscribers.

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