Music Industry

Published on August 6th, 2017 | by Alan Cross


Why the “Royalty Black Box” is a Music Industry Nightmare

When you stream music, you don’t care if the songs you’re listening to come with complete and correct metadata. But if you’re an artist, a composer or music publisher, you’d better that the data embedded in all digital files are correct. If it isn’t, you run a real risk of not getting paid.

If the metadata is wrong, a song can’t be properly identified and tracked by streamers and other online digital providers. If it can’t be ID’d and tracked, there’s no way to tell where the money should go.

Corrupt and incorrect metadata is costing artists and publishers billions of dollars every year. No wonder the music industry is working to create a global database of music.

Until that happens, though, royalties generated by songs that can’t be tracked, end up in limbo, a “black box” of cash with nowhere to go. I’ve heard horror stories from music industry insiders about vast stores of money that should be paid out but isn’t. Digital Music News goes a little deeper into the matter.

It’s an entire underground economy that nobody likes to talk about. Especially the people making billions off of it.

Delve into the music industry’s sordid past, and you’ll find tawdry details of mobbed-up labels and Soprano-style venues. Indeed, crooners like Frank Sinatra were notoriously implicated with organized crime. But the way he explains it, there wasn’t any alternative.

So who’s replacing the mobsters in the digital economy? Welcome to a more sophisticated racket that’s just as lucrative. And it involves billions in unclaimed, unmatched, delayed, or otherwise unpaid digital royalties. And holding the golden bag is a mish-mosh of well-positioned middlemen, including a gaggle of PROs, mechanical rights licensing administrators, and others who mysteriously can’t figure out where that check should be sent.

Keep reading.



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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ 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.

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