Latest Episodes (click below to listen)

Latest Videos (click below to watch)

Friday, October 24, 2008


Got proper metadata? If the answer is no, then you could be losing fans and missing transactions. That was a major takeaway from a pair of recent digital music conferences, on both sides of the Atlantic. "We are in a society that now pulls," said Nettwerk Music Group chief Terry McBride during the You Are In Control symposium in Iceland last week. "We pull all of our information, so that information has to be searchable. The metatagging allows it to be searchable... it's your description, digitally, of what a song is."

Indeed, rich metadata contains a large amount of information, starting with the basics of song title, artist name, and associated album artwork. Dig deeper, and fans should be able to find discographies, biographies, related artists, liner notes, lyrics, images, and anything else that accurately describes and informs the music.

At its simplest level, metadata allows the user to quickly locate a song, album or artist, and it also allows digital content stores to easily organize music for sale. But that is just the beginning, and artists that fail to properly describe their music face the prospect of getting lost in a quickly-growing digital space. "It's very essential down the road that you really pay a lot of attention to that," McBride continued. "As digital lockers, digital maids and valet services come into being... [metadata] will become extremely powerful."

The sentiment was echoed by a panel of metadata experts at the SanFran MusicTech Summit this week. "You no longer have these massive music brands that are just driving more and more CD sales, you have a music business that is largely comprised of Long Tail artists and publishers," said Mike Troiano, chief executive of Matchmine. "The data becomes fundamental for connecting artists with the people that are interested in what they have to say."

But Troiano pointed to a large group of artists and labels that are not prioritizing metadata, and leaving some sloppy information behind. "There's often not a person dedicated to the provision of data to third parties," Troiano told Digital Music News, referring to labels, digital distributors, and publishers. "It can be a pain in the ass to get it out."

That prompted questions among the audience on the best ways to make sure metadata is getting disseminated properly. The first bit of advise was to make sure that data is neatly organized, assembled, and maintained locally in some sort of logical, electronic form. "Get a good data system yourself so that you can give people content lists and content information," advised Darryl Ballantyne, president of LyricFind, Inc.

Once the information is created and assembled to satisfaction, the next step is to disseminate it to the bigger brokers of data. That includes AMG, a major provider of content metadata to digital music sites and stores. "If your information is missing from, the odds are that it's not going to be on iTunes, it's not going to be on Rhapsody," said Andrew Stess, currently CEO of MusicIP and a former executive at both AMG and Gracenote. In the case of lyrics, Ballantyne also pointed to a feeder relationship with the Harry Fox Agency.

Often, the data dissemination role is handled by digital aggregators and distributors like IODA, or managed through bigger label and publishing groups. But content owners were advised to double-check their descriptions. "It should come through them generally," said Frank Johnson, vice president of Data Solutions at AMG. "But you really need to look to make sure, because that's the data that's flowing all over the place."