AES Panel Advocates Standardizing Metadata

A uniform global metadata standard that provides all the critical details of everyone who participated in a recording will alleviate lapses in the present system, concurred a well-attended panel session of about a hundred people at the 139th AES Convention here at the Javits Center on Oct. 31.

Such an infrastructure is close to being finalized by DDEX (Digital Data Exchange), a U.K.-based consortium of 2,000 media companies, music licensing organizations, digital music service providers and technical intermediaries that since 2006 has focused on creating standards for use by businesses in the digital media supply chain, reported panelist Niels Rump, who serves as DDEX secretariat.

Sharing of finally accurate information will ensure all appropriate parties get paid royalties that should be coming to them and all who participated in the creation of a recording to receive proper credits.

“We haven’t yet created the specification, but we have an idea of what it should be,” Rump said, adding that DDEX is in the process of “seeking input from the community” on what fields should be included in the database.

Complete metadata could include, for example, not only the people but also the equipment involved in the session, such as the models of recorders, tape format used, or which take.

The absence of integral details results in “a lost legacy,” said in his introduction session moderator Paul Jessop, founder and director of U.K.-based firm consulting County Analytics Ltd. The failure to capture and log in recording details prevents a passing down for future generations, he added.

DDEX has won the endorsement of the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing (P&E), whose managing director Maureen Droney, reflected from the panel:
“Thirty years ago when I was an assistant engineer and my job was to document all this information [that transpired at the studio she worked at the time].”

Droney admitted the current “structure is not working very well” because there’s a lack of protocol being followed by studios and labels. Consequently, industry professionals and consumers suffer, Droney said.

The creation of a single database will not only enhance music discovery and the value of music; it’s essential to the monetization of existing recordings, resulting in new royalties paid out to music creators, she added.

Panelist Jonathan Bender, chief operating officer of SoundExchange, a Washington, DC-based performing rights organization that pays performers, labels, producers and engineers royalties, emanating from the playback of streamed music. Absolutely critical for royalties to be paid out is for affected parties to be registered with SoundExchange, he noted.

“We depend on the metadata to divide up that money, pure and simple,” Bender said. SoundExchange typically receives from digital music services “10 million lines of data every month. It’s important that it’s as accurate as possible.”

DDEX also won the support of BMS Chace, a Nashville, Tenn.-based company that restores, preserves and archives recorded media. In 2007 it began working on a similar three-year project with the Library of Congress to explore the creation of a metadata standard.

“We realized the best place was putting our efforts under the DDEX umbrella,” said panelist John Spencer, BMS Chace president and founder. “We will all be speaking the same language,” he added.