By SOCAN CEO Eric Baptiste
Metadata in music is essentially the back-end identifying information attached to a song or recording. It's usually made up of a number (like a vehicle’s license plate) and text fields containing the name of the song, its creators, performers, rights owners, etc. This isn't as technical or complex as it seems, and all parties in our industry should know and care about it.
SOCAN is a strong, relentless advocate for the general, reliable use of metadata in the music industry value chain. With this in mind, we co-hosted the “Metadata Forum” at the 2012 Global Transmission Summit earlier this year in Victoria, BC.
In today’s digital “anytime, anywhere, any device” world, rights management can no longer afford to get by without machine-readable song identification. There is simply too much stuff out there, too many transactions happening every millisecond, too many one-to-one narrowcast communication services, to depend on old-school manual identification and tracking. People understand names and words, but computers understand numbers, and only computers can handle the rights management workload in the digital realm.
For SOCAN, having proper metadata available throughout the music value chain allows for electronic identification without risking mistakes due to mis-naming or misspelling. This helps ensure that we pay the correct royalties, to the right songwriter, composer or publisher, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
All this is possible only if there's a will across the delivery chain, from the top down, since all the building blocks are already there. All of us now have to follow SOCAN’s lead and commit to using them! This is not an issue for I.T. people; it's one for CEOs and for the grassroots.,
The International Standard Work Code (ISWC), an identifier for musical works (songs) has been established through the International Standards Organization (ISO) and it is managed by the International Confederation of Authors & Composers Societies (CISAC), of which SOCAN is a very active member. CISAC's rules and database (containing millions of ISWCs) ensure the uniqueness of the identifier for any musical work, worldwide. Music rights organizations such as SOCAN have agreed to use of this code in their own operations, enabling great efficiency.
The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), a similar, unique, ISO-approved identifier, has been created for the recordings (audio & video) of the songs .
There are often many recordings for any given song, and it's important to know the ISWC to which an ISRC points. Ultimately, the plan is for these two identifiers (for songs and their recordings) to be linked in a globally authoritative way. SOCAN is again leading the way in raising international awareness about this solution, a true game-changer. As an interim solution, SOCAN’s teams have developed ways to link up a variety of proprietary identifiers often designed and used by music digital service providers, such as iTunes.
SOCAN will continue to push for greater usage of cleaner metadata for the greater benefit of all our members.