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Monday, March 15, 2010

How Bad Metadata Costs Artists $$$

If you're an artist and don't already know about SoundExchange, then you should. The company was appointed by the US Copyright Office to collect royalties for artists and performers who's music is played on any digital service, either online or satellite.

That means if you're an artist who didn't write the song you're performing, you can still get paid for your hard work. Performance royalties have been long overdue in the US (Europe has paid them for a while now), and the battle still rages regarding royalties from radio broadcasts, which will hopefully be settled this year sometime. But for anything digital, it's a done deal.

Don't confuse artist performance royalties with songwriters performance royalties; they're not the same. Songwriters have always been paid if they retained their rights, but until now, performers were never paid a dime. It's hard to believe that a group like the Righteous Brothers can have the most played song ever on the radio with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" and never make a penny out of it, but that's the way it's always worked. At least on the digital side, this has now changed and performers can expect to see at least a little cash.

But a couple of roadblocks stand in the way of a payday. First of all, you've got to sign up with SoundExchange so they know that you exist and where to send the money to. But the second one is the big one; the metadata of a song hasn't been sufficiently logged.

Metadata is data about the data, so in the case of a digital song, it's everything about the song, from the artist to the label to the musicians to the year of release. Surprisingly, the copyright owners sometimes don't include that information. As a result, there's money that sits in an escrow account at SoundExchange for "Beethoven" (who never recorded anything) instead of the orchestra that recorded one of his pieces, or "Various Artists", or "Artist Unknown." You can pay money to someone if you don't know who they're supposed to credit. Gradually, the word is getting out that carefully including a song's metadata gets everyone paid, so expect to see the problem to lessen a bit as the word gets out. Just remember that if you're self-releasing songs online, be crystal clear about all the metadata.

If you're an artist, register with SoundExchange. It doesn't cost anything and you might be surprised to find out that you have some money coming. And treat your metadata seriously.

Check out this article about SoundExchange and monies owed by Laura Williams.

1 comment:

ninetwelve said...

I had no idea that's what SoundExchange did!

Thanks for posting this.

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