Metadata: A Primer

By Mark Frieser

At a past Rio Music Buzz conference (organized by the head of Brazil’s Independent Music Association (ABMI) Luciana Pegorer) I moderated a panel featuring music supervisors Alex Hackford, Andrew Charles Kahn, Nora Felder and Andrea von Foerster.

The subject of the panel was the business of music supervision from each speaker’s perspective, including the creative, practical and developmental aspects of setting music to visuals in TV, film, advertising, video games and commercial trailers.

A big part of the conversation centered around best practices for people who make, own and represent music to follow when they’re looking to place their music in projects, including their preference for one-stop rights, suggestions on how to work with agents to help you connect your music to projects researching projects and the types of music used as well as other important elements, like metadata.

We covered a lot of really productive ground and I thought we gave the audience some real, productive tools and information on how to best take advantage of potential sync and scoring opportunities.

If the people in the audience listened and retained what was said, it would greatly increase their chances for success in getting their music into projects.

So why is it every panel I moderate, no matter where in the world, after giving people all this great information, asking them if they understand what we’re saying (and always, almost all of them say they do), I get a letter from one of the panelists telling me an audience member sent music they really wanted to use in a project but couldn’t because the music wasn’t properly cleared or lacked metadata?

It’s like all our time and effort – and the time, effort and money of the attendees – was completely wasted.

It blows my mind that people take the time out to come to a conference, pay good money to attend, listen to what the panelists have to say and then completely ignore it.  Why, why why?!?!

Don’t just come to an event thinking, “Hey, I can connect with some music supervisors, maybe place some music.” If you have ANY doubts on how to submit your music, you should really go to the panels, take notes, then do what the panelists suggest.

If you don’t, it’s like throwing your money and time into a furnace. Music supervisors really want to hear and use your music, but if it doesn’t meet their criteria for clearance or metadata, they never will.

And this brings me back to the panel in Rio. In this case, one of the panelists, who recently used Brazilian music in a project, heard some Brazilian music he thought was amazing – music he really wanted to use on a particular project. The only problem was, none of the files sent were tagged with even the most basic metadata – not even the name of the artist or song…

WTF?!?

Did anyone listen to what we had to say? I think we mentioned and detailed what comprises needed metadata for about 15 minutes.

Obviously to no avail.

And that sucks.  Here’s why.

  1. It’s necessary, but it’s boring and uninteresting to us. Detailing what metadata is and what should be included is a complete snoozefest for us.We’d rather talk about how a supervisor found the perfect song under a tight deadline and budget then rehash how you need to include the name/writer of a track when submitting music for projects.But, we also know and believe educating the audience on what is good metadata is one of the most important and necessary things we can do as panelists, and we want to help people put their best foot forward.People on the stage want to use your music – but they can’t if they don’t know what the name is, who wrote it, etc. (more about that later). Which leads me to my next point…
  2. Including metadata is absolutely necessary if you plan on selling your music to ANYONE, not just music supervisors.  That’s why it blows my mind when I hear people submitting music without including basic track info.I mean, seriously, forget about music supervisors, how do you expect to sell it anywhere?  Like iTunes? Amazon?  Spotify? A merch table at a show?Come on people!  If you can’t provide the most basic information about you music, how can you expect anyone to buy?You’ll never get it used, and most important, no one knows how to pay you.So if you are planning to do anything with your music outside of playing it for your friends, you’ve got to get your metadata right.

So, how do you get your metadata right?

Well, let’s start off with what metadata is in its most general form. Metadata is the information, or data, that describes a material or a piece of data.

Without this description, it is impossible for anyone to know what the rights are, what the track is, where to put it when they are storing tracks or who to contact if they want to use it.  Now, let’s talk specifics.

In this case, the data or material requiring metadata is a piece of music, and that data needs to be submitted/included with every track you submit.

In practical terms, the metadata requirements are actually pretty simple and don’t take a lot of time to get right.

If you’ve ever properly submitted to iTunes or Spotify, then you’ve included the the info that music supervisors want and need as well.  And if you haven’t or have doubts, here’s what to do…

Here’s the minimum information you should include with every track:

  1. Name(s) of artist(s)
  2. Names(s) of composers
  3. Name(s) of performers
  4. Song Title
  5. Album title (if any)
  6. Label
  7. Publisher
  8. Year Released
  9. Track Number
  10. Genre
  11. Producer
  12. Contact (yours/management)
  13. Performing Rights Society Affiliation (ASCAP, BMI, etc.)
  14. Mood
  15. BPM

Pretty basic right?

It shouldn’t take any more time than 5-10 minutes per track, and it could the best 5-10 minutes you’ve ever spent on your business or career.

It certainly will make the difference between getting synced or getting ignored. So take the time to do it.

Mark

Leave a Reply