Music Biz 2022: DiMA Looks to Build Industry Consensus Around Tackling Data Challenges
By: Garrett Levin, DiMA CEO
On May 9-12, the Digital Media Association team heads to Nashville and the Music Biz conference where our advocacy will focus on the need for the industry to collectively improve data collection and management processes. Bad data is a serious problem that keeps artists and songwriters, particularly those who aren’t widely known, from collecting royalties they are entitled to receive.
Problems with data might happen for a variety of reasons including incompatible systems or basic human error. But perhaps the most common (and most difficult to address) is missing data. The life cycle of a song in the digital era is complex and has lots of points where data can get added. A song gets written – usually by multiple songwriters – then it makes its way to a recording session, where it is recorded, mixed, and engineered. At some point the recording then gets put into commercial availability through a streaming service via a record label or distributor such as Tunecore or Distrokid. Once streamed, data about what was streamed goes from the streaming service to a collecting entity like a performing rights organization (PRO) such as ASCAP or BMI, SoundExchange or The MLC, or directly to a rightsholder that has the further job of dividing payments and getting them to songwriters and artists.
At any step of the way, if data is missing or inaccurate, royalties can get lost, delayed, or sent to the wrong place. And at each stage of the process, it gets harder and harder to fill in missing data or fix inaccuracies. Once a mistake happens, it’s a bit like trying to mail a royalty payment to an address with a misspelled name, no zip code, and the state abbreviation for Alabama when it should be going to Alaska. The chance of it making it to its rightful owner isn’t high. The rightful creator also misses out on receiving credit for their work.
This is undoubtedly frustrating and harmful for artists and songwriters, if they even know they’re missing payments for what could be just one song with wrong metadata. Streaming companies still pay royalties even if they end up sitting in limbo at other entities in the chain. This isn’t a small amount of money either. While we don’t know exactly how much gets lost, a little over a year ago multiple streaming services sent The MLC almost half a billion dollars in royalties earned by songwriters whose songs couldn’t be matched.
This isn’t a problem that just a few entities in music can get together and fix by themselves. Comprehensive solutions need everyone to come together – whether that’s working with creators about the importance of proper metadata or continuing to develop and encourage the use of standard data identifiers. To be sure, lots of work is being done throughout the industry to identify data challenges and craft solutions—but much of the work unfortunately remains siloed. If we can’t all come together to assess data challenges with clear eyes and without finger pointing, our collective progress will fall short. That’s what we’re advocating for at Music Biz and we’ll be making this case at two particular events:
- “The Credits Due Initiative Explained.” — First, on May 11 at 11 a.m. CT we’ll be co-leading an event about Credits Due, which was started a year ago by the Ivors Academy and the Music Rights Awareness Foundation. DiMA and our members strongly back this initiative to bring the music industry together to ensure that complete and accurate song metadata is attached to all recordings at the point of creation and music creators are credited fairly.
- “Royalty Flows & Data Challenges: Conquering Them TOGETHER” – Second, later that day at 3 p.m. I’ll be kicking off a three-part super session (here, here, and here) on a similar topic where we bring leaders from across the music industry to have a conversation on shared data challenges and what needs to happen to fix the problem.
We’re excited about #MusicBiz2022 and the mission of #SupportCreditsDue. We’ll be actively Tweeting about our efforts at Music Biz May 9-12.
To learn more about the Credits Due initiative that we’re proud to partner with and sponsor click here.