Music Industry

Published on August 20th, 2018 | by Alan Cross


Spotify to artists: “Please get your metadata sh*t together”

Ever download a song only to find that the album art is missing or that it gets filed on your device under “Unknown Album?” If so, you’ve experience incomplete metadata.

Metadata is the information embedded in a digital file that tells you something about the song, everything from the artist and title to the composer, the record label, the year of release–there are a whole host of fields that should be filled in.

So much of what I get today–INCLUDING FROM THE MAJOR LABELS!–is incomplete. For example, most of the stuff that’s digitally delivered from Sony never has the album title metadata included. My music computer is strewn with Sony releases all from “Unknown Album.”

All right, so what? Why should a label, an artist, anyone, care if metadata is complete? Let’s let Spotify explain.

Making sure you’re digitally credited for the music you make is key to your income—and your success.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide legal or accounting advice. Those decisions are ultimately yours to make. We’re just here to help.

If the word “metadata” doesn’t jolt you awake with visions of great wealth, then either you are not employed in the digital-music business or you are a perfectly normal, well-adjusted person. Most likely both. Because the thing about metadata is this: It’s as fundamental to digital music—whether you’re making it, marketing it, or simply enjoying it—as flour is in your bread.

For the uninitiated, metadata is literally “data about other data”; it gives structure and context to a given set of bits and bytes. In keeping with our metaphor, you might say that metadata is the gluten holding together that delicious, doughy loaf of ciabatta (apologies to readers on the keto diet).

Music metadata, more specifically, is the collection of information that pertains to a song file, such as Artist Name, Producer, Writer, Song Title, Release Date, Genre or Track Duration, to name a few. For now we are focused mainly on publishing metadata, or the data that refers to who wrote what and in what proportion. If any of this information is missing or incorrect, it can have an adverse effect on how its creators are compensated.

Keep reading. This is important information for everyone.


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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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