The article linked below, published earlier this year, is called “Metadata is the biggest problem plaguing the music industry.” We’ve all heard some of the many reasons why musicians resent streaming services as the new industry standard for listening–with artists like Taylor Swift and Neil Young citing low payouts to artists and low quality audio as reasons to leave or argue with popular streaming services–but this article discusses a less high-profile crisis: one based on flawed metadata.
The metadata in streaming services includes the names of songwriters, producers, publishers, and other personnel who had a hand in the creation of a song or album; under the payment models of streaming services like Spotify that pay royalties per stream, this means that metadata linking names to songs is how creators get compensated for their work. But with no standards for creation or collection of music metadata, the process has proved to be far too messy to properly guarantee payment where it is deserved. When information is entered incorrectly, streaming services are effectively unable to pay out profits earned on streams, leading to hundreds of thousands of dollars lost by artists in the streaming shuffle of metadata. Shockingly, this article estimates that up to 25% of all royalties are paid out incorrectly, or not at all. With the confusing and complex world of music rights changing so much, the importance of creating metadata standards that will last through the streaming age highlights the obsolescence of the structures that support traditional music publishing and rights–metadata must be able to link artists, companies, and streaming platforms, without the money getting lost in between.