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RIAA and NMPA working on their own song-database project


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One of the big challenges in any project to build a comprehensive database of music rights is the many cooks involved in such a recipe. Infighting, competition and mutual suspicion aren’t a smooth path to solving this particular industry problem.

So you’ll be delighted to hear that the latest efforts in the US to build such a database are already sinking into recriminations.

Billboard has the latest news: it turns out that the context for criticism of ASCAP and BMI’s announcement of a database project is that industry bodies the RIAA and NMPA were already working on their own such plans. Plans which had “purposefully excluded” ASCAP and BMI to avoid the prospect of them “frustrating the process” according to Billboard.

Cue claims from within the ASCAP/BMI camp that criticism of its project has been “hypocritical, considering it’s the very same thing that the NMPA and RIAA appear to be doing”.

Meanwhile, the opposite camp is suggesting that ASCAP and BMI “are a piece of the puzzle and yet they just announced to the world that they are the entire puzzle”. The biggest challenge in building this kind of rights database clearly is less about the technology and more about the people. Twas ever thus…

The scale of the challenge is highlighted by a separate study conducted by Music Reports and published this week. It analysed Billboard’s end-of-year top-10 charts going back to 1960, and found that in the 2010s the average track in this chart had four writers and six publishers associated with it.

Obviously Music Reports’ point here is to promote its own Songdex database, but the data highlights the wider complexities for digital music services of negotiating the terrain of publishing rights.

Stuart Dredge

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