The modern music business is an increasingly complex operating landscape where formats are regularly evolving. Over the past 20 years or so there’s been a significant shift in the way the music business operates. The number of different formats that there are today is way beyond anything that anybody could have imagined 20 years ago. Who’d have thought that TikTok would be dominating the conversation in the industry the way it is now, or that we would be asking Alexa to play us music to listen to in the bath?
The consumption of music is constantly advancing, and it means that we’re entering an extremely complex operating landscape. As the digital music business has evolved, the systems and processes behind the scenes, the way we are managing data, the way we are managing contractual information, assets, everything that makes up a release, have remained largely static. A lot of those processes and systems are still carried over from the reign of the physical. They aren’t really fit for purpose for the superfast moving, content heavy world that we live in today. The fact is, many music companies and rights holders are reducing the long-term value of their catalogue by not effectively managing their digital assets, data and contractual information.
The music industry doesn’t have a wildly successful track record of predicting innovation. When MP3 came along and downloads came to the forefront, a lot of the industry was left scrambling around and panicking not knowing what to do; equally when streaming came along a lot of people were on the backfoot. As an industry we need to admit that we’re not great at predicting the future. But what we can do is future proof our catalogues so that as new services come to light, as things that we’d never even thought of bubble up out of nowhere, we’re ready, and we can take advantage of them.
DSPs can decide to change their data requirements whenever they like, and delivery partners evolve and change all the time. Even platforms like Apple Music and Spotify can, and do, change their requirements frequently.
Just look to livestreaming music events that have appeared in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. No one would have seen these sorts of online events taking off in the way they have beforehand. There have been many instances of illegal re-uploads of these events all over the internet since they began to gain popularity and those who have their data and rights sorted properly have been best prepared to take them down.
What does the future of music discovery look like?
Consumers are turning to new ways to discover music. It’s likely that you yourself have searched the lyrics for a song you had stuck in your head but couldn’t quite name. There are now AI companies who store the lyric data for millions of songs ready for when this happens.
The industry is also using new ways to discover talent, but they rely on being able to find music through properly sorted data. Having the correct data registered with your PRO and CMO, and even with MRTs, will mean that discovery from those you want to notice you becomes more possible.
If music is being performed in a venue where MRT is in operation and you haven’t submitted your catalogue to that MRT, then how will you collect your royalties for the use of your music? Many CMO and PROs have done deals with MRTs to get the right data, so the right people are getting paid, however this is not yet an industry standard.
Doesn’t my distributor do all of this for me?
Short answer – no! While, yes, distributors manage this to an extent, they don’t often deliver the information back to you as the client. Distributors have teams of people who polish up data to the standards required by DSPs and other delivery partners, however this is being done for their business and not your benefit.
Distributors have quality scores which determine how quickly content they’ve received can be pushed live on different DSPs. It makes sense that it is in their best interests to polish up the data they receive before they send it to DSPs so that it can be put live sooner. Their customers do benefit, but they’re unlikely to pass back the data they’ve added to your catalogue.
Because every distributor will work to a different standard, switching to a new distributor isn’t always easy and oftentimes artists end up trapped with a distributor because they haven’t written the relevant metadata themselves. If you’ve got a hold of your own data already then switching distributors when it comes to the end of your contracts will become endlessly easier.
Distributors are certainly not evil for polishing data and not returning it, but to ensure the safety of your catalogue and it’s future you should be doing this yourself. What if your distributor goes bust? What happens if you have a dispute with them and they hold your data hostage? What if their servers are lost to a fire, akin to the 2008 Universal Records fire, and your catalogue literally vanishes up in smoke? Having your data sorted yourself will save the life of your catalogue.
Once you have your catalogue and contracts consolidated, cleaned and checked you can ensure that you are collecting all the revenue you are due. By having everything in order you can make better decisions, faster decisions and be a better business partner. Great data lets you do great reporting and be more transparent to your partners.
People want to work with great labels – and that means labels who have the best A&R and marketing, but now it also means the labels who have the best reporting, catalogue admin and data management. Great rights hygiene shows your artists and their managers that you’re really on top of things, and can be trusted to represent the rights correctly. By staying on top of stuff you can have intelligent conversations earlier which means you can possibly retain a catalogue longer.
Legal Protection & Due Diligence
Say you’re looking to sell one of your catalogues. If you’ve got all the data in the best possible shape, the value of that catalogue increases. It makes the deal move faster, and when deals move faster you can often get better terms, or even just save money on legal fees.
Ultimately, having your data in check allows you to be accountable when it comes to any rights disputes which may come up. Say you’re accidentally acting out of term on a release, and your deal doesn’t have some sort of continuation clause in the contract. If this occurs then there can be really severe penalties. Alongside those severe legal financial penalties, it can have really negative PR consequences for your label. This is all so avoidable if you have your rights and data in proper order.
Saving time/ Workflow
Most people who work in the music business got into it to put out music and work with artists. The idea of spending hours and hours every week doing data entry and crunching through contracts isn’t particularly attractive. Catalogue hygiene is often the last thing that people do. Everybody is busy, everybody in the indie sector is doing the jobs of three, four or 500 people sometimes, and when a release is being worked on, everything’s put in place, and then the focus shifts to marketing. Catalogue hygiene and getting all the data in one place and maintaining it often gets left to whoever can pick it up, rather than someone who’s been specifically tasked to do this. Quite often there’s a lack of coherent tools to manage all of that data in one place and to make sure that it’s very easily accessible as you go along.
How do you get all of your rights in a place where you’re confident that you have all the data you need, you’re confident that you’re properly registered everywhere and that you’re collecting all the money you’re entitled to? We want to help you ensure that your catalogue is in the best possible shape and best maximise the revenues and opportunities of your catalogue. All whilst teaching you how to stop this from being really really painful, by reducing the amount of time you spend doing data entry and audits.