What Do We Do About Album Credits in the Digital Era?

When you put in hard work on a project, you want it to be noted. Everyone wants to be recognized for their contributions, right? This is why all movies and TV shows come with a credit roll, detailing all the people who contributed their expertise and labour to the project.

In the days of CDs and vinyl, it was easy to find out who worked on an album; you just flipped through the artwork/sleeve/booklet In the digital realm–downloads and especially streaming–we have no idea who may have been involved. The best source for this information is Wikipedia, an imperfect solution at best. Medium.com takes a look at the problem.

Growing up, the only thing I ever really wanted to do was open up a CD jacket and see my name listed in the liner notes. The first time that happened, I thought I’d officially made it. I mean, I hadn’t — but at least it felt like I did.

Now, CD jackets are a thing of the past, liner notes merely whatever is on an album’s Wikipedia page, which poses lots of problems—not just for people contributing behind-the-scenes, who now have nothing tangible to explain their life’s work, but also because it’s just flat-out confusing.

A recent article at the website Genius details how a 20-year-old from Austria who calls himself Cali the Producer basically fooled the entire music business into thinking he’d worked on songs by Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Chris Brown, among others.

The gist is this: he flagrantly edited Wikipedia and added his name to song entries in which he had no involvement. Record labels, when they’ve had to send out press releases, found it easier to Google a song’s information than find it internally. That takes minutes; Wikipedia, seconds.

So the labels have sent out inaccurate information, listing this guy as an actual producer, when he is not. And then websites have posted this inaccurate information, because they don’t vet anything either. They take them at their word, because god forbid someone in the media ask questions.

Read on. (Link via FYI Music)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “What Do We Do About Album Credits in the Digital Era?

  • April 27, 2016 at 9:58 am
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    I wish it was just included in the ID3v2 tags on each MP3 — just text data, trivial amount of space.

    As well I’m bummed at how rare it is to get liner-note scans when buying digital albums. I think of the 60 or so (really rough estimate) albums I bought digital-only, two have had liner notes. Lucky if the album art is even included.

    Reply
  • April 27, 2016 at 11:07 am
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    At the bottom of that post someone posted an interesting solution.
    http://resonate.is/using-blockchains-for-metadata-and-licensing/

    Here is snippet from the link.

    “In this post we’ll explore another emerging trend – using the blockchain for managing and automating music metadata and licensing.

    Very briefly, the blockchain is the technology framework that powers Bitcoin. To begin to grasp the potential it holds, lets compare it to virtually everything else that exists online.

    By example, the website you’re reading this article on sits on a specific server in a specific room. For all the hype about “the cloud” it’s all the same thing… databases of content stored on specific machines in specific rooms. A blockchain database by contrast exists everywhere… everyone that uses it, has it, making it a highly unique form of data management. Decentralized and distributed across the entire network.”

    Reply
  • May 3, 2016 at 1:39 am
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    I think online databases – Allmusic and RateYourMusic (soon to be known as Sonemic) have done well to digitize this and take it a step further by bringing the data together. It’s great to click on a credited artist and see a webpage that provides their whole resume.

    Unfortunately, in the case of RYM the completeness of an article place is highly correlated with the popularity of the album since they’re all user submitted. It’d be really great if the labels (or even SOCAN?) took it upon themselves to populate these spaces with data so that the databases may be complete. It’s a lot of work, but the industry as a whole would reap the benefits as users would click their way through and get turned on to new things within a few degrees of separation.

    All that aside, I do miss flipping through liner notes…

    Reply

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