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Metadata: how billions of dollars are being missed by the music industry


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The Verge has run a lengthy piece on the existential crisis around metadata that the music business is currently facing down and why the longer it continues, the more money is being lost.

“Metadata sounds like one of the smallest, most boring things in music,” it says. “But as it turns out, it’s one of the most important, complex, and broken, leaving many musicians unable to get paid for their work.”

This is, of course, hardly news to the music industry, but the fact that it is a continuing problem that seems to be getting worse that is really at the heart of things here.

The premise of the piece is that bad metadata (including misspellings, inconsistencies and missing information) means that billions of dollars are not making their way back to artists. While this is bad, the thrust of the article is that it is only going to get worse, primarily because all the different platform databases (and sets of rules they run on) collectively confusing and complicating things.

With multiple writers/producers and multiple performers on tracks increasingly the norm in genres like pop and hip-hop, a world of pain is the inevitable result. “The longer the chain of custody for the data, the greater chance a portion of it will be incorrect,” is how The Verge puts it. The more links in the chain, the more holes the metadata can fall through. The conclusions are far from optimistic and the problem, as one artist puts it, of “dripping pennies” is only going to become a flood.

Eamonn Forde

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