Metadata is probably a word you’ve heard a lot of publishers and music supervisors talk about. But, it’s surprising how many people disregard how important it really is. “What exactly is metadata?” I hear you cry. Lets discuss.
In its most basic form, metadata literally means a set of data that gives information about other data. (Stay with me!). So, putting this into context, this is the data that describes your song. There are many different attributes to metadata, but I will go through some of the most important ones for music publishing here.
Song Name – I know this seems like an obvious one, but please don’t retitle your song when sending it to your publisher, sync agent or music supervisor. This just causes confusion and issues with royalty payments.
Artist- This is the performing artist, which may be different to the composer.
Composer- The full legal name(s) of whoever composed the song. You could even include the percentage of the song that they own and their CAE/IPI number if possible.
Genre- Try and be as specific as you can here, but also accurate. Don’t put that your song is acid jazz when it is hip-hop.
BPM- This can be helpful for certain scenes when your song is being synced. It’s not mandatory but if you know it, it’s best to include it.
Barcode- This is a 13 digit numerical code given to a product (e.g your album or single).
ISRC- This isn’t specifically for publishing, but whenever you record and release a song it will be allocated an ISRC. This will be attached to that specific recording of the song forever so it’s important that if you’re sending that recording to someone the ISRC goes with it.
ISWC- Bringing it back to publishing, this is allocated to the underlying composition of a song. For instance, one artist performs and records your song and then 6 months later another artist covers the same song. Each of these will have different ISRC codes but they will have the same ISWC.
Tunecode- This is another number allocated to the song. A tunecode is allocated by the performing rights society that you register the song with to earn your performance and mechanical royalties. E.g. PRS for Music in the UK.
Most publishers will have their own method for delivering metadata to them to suit their administrative processes. This could be an online platform, a spreadsheet etc. but the same guidelines apply as to how to fill out each field.
Why is metadata so important?
Delivering music with metadata to your publisher is important for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it means that when they are registering the songs with a collection society the correct information is in the database ready to match with the public performances, downloads or streams of your music.
It’s equally as paramount that music supervisors receive accurate metadata from your publisher. They might really like your song but it’s not quite fitting with the project they’re working on right now. Two years down the line, they might be working on a new TV show and your song pops back into their head. If it was delivered to them with complete and accurate metadata they’ll be able to find it in their library a lot easier- and voila you’ve bagged yourself a sync! You don’t want your track to be lost in the masses of “Track One’s” they receive each day.
Making sure your metadata is correct will not only help you in the sync and publishing world but also across the whole of the music industry. It’s needed by record labels and distributors in order to sell your music physically and digitally. Most importantly, meaning any sales track back to you properly. It can also have an impact on your chart position. Imagine if you produce a physical CD with one barcode on it, but then you use a different barcode when uploading the release for digital distribution. Most services won’t recognise that these are in fact the same product and therefore the sales won’t combine. So, it’s really important that once your song or album has its metadata- it sticks with it for life!
Repeat after me. Metadata, metadata, metadata. Got it?