Let's fix music data

Creators rely on data from a range of partners, including labels, publishers, distributors and collective management organisations (CMOs) to understand how their music is being used, and to get paid. But the data is often hard to understand. Money slips through the cracks because of bad data, which is a big problem that needs fixing. Our white paper looks at the data creators receive from CMOs, and the challenges around that data.

Music copyright is complex

The music industry is powered by copyright. There's copyright in a song, and there's a separate copyright in a recording. There are also various 'performer rights'.Each music right helps protect creators, and ensure they get paid when their musical creations are used. The way money flows through the music ecosystem for these different rights is pretty complex.

Payments require data

Each time a piece of music is used - for example, when it's streamed on Spotify or Apple music, or played on radio - data needs to be gathered and reported so that the right creators can be paid. One way that data and money flows through the music business is via Collective Management Organisations or CMOs, and this is where we've focused our research.

Collective Managment Organisations

CMOs, Collective Management Organsiations or "collecting societies" are a way of managing music rights at scale, helping creators be paid when their music is used in certain ways - that could be streaming, radio or TV, in bars and clubs, or even when music is played in a shop or hairdresser.

There's a lot of music data out there

The amount of data that needs to be processed by CMOs has increased a lot over time, and this sometimes causes problems. Every time a piece of music is used it generates data. The amount of data creators receive - which is how they verify they have been paid correctly - has also increased.

Not all data is good, and things fall through the cracks

Most creators aren't data analysts - and making sense of large amounts of data is tough. Sometimes the data they receive has missing fields, and sometimes things get lost as data moves between CMOs

The system is really complex

Most CMOs are trying to improve things - but the problem is that the whole industry needs to adapt, and improve standards and the way they exchange and share data.Thanks to funding from MusicAIRE we have been able to research this in more detail, and have presented that research, and recommendations, in a white paper.

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Meanwhile, you can see some of our key findings:Data should be better and can be better
Our research found a lot of practices relating to data management that present significant barriers to creators being able to utilise data effectively. The good news is that improvement is possible and that a number of organisations are providing great data - proving it is possible.
Standardise Data Formats Across CMOs
While CMOs play a pivotal role in managing creator data, their use of inconsistent data formats creates unnecessary bottlenecks. It's essential to facilitate industry consensus on standardized data schematics. In-depth research should be conducted to study the interaction between data inputs (e.g., DDEX metadata standards) and how this data passes through the various consumption platforms before being processed and presented back to creators.
Data-First Approach to CMO reporting
To improve data transparency and utility, CMOs should adopt a "data-first" methodology. This entails making CSV files available to all members, alongside a machine readable data format, such as XML or JSON. Legacy data should be accessible both dynamically for more recent data (the last five years, perhaps) and via "cold storage" for long-term archival. PDF reports can still serve as narrative summaries, but must not be the sole data presentation layer for CMO members. A range of standardized reports should be available as additional resources for creators, with a clear explanation of what their purpose is.
Reduce Portal Overload
Many CMOs now offer web portals that offer creator members key insights. But many creators work with many different organisation and "portal overload" is becoming as much of a problem as limited access to data. Portals are helpful, but they are often "one size fits all" solutions that don't give the holistic overview combined with the granular detail that creators need.
Promote Collaborative Initiatives
As seen through the MusicAIRE project, collaborative initiatives can provide deep insights into industry challenges. We recommend fostering collaborations between tech firms, music representatives, and CMOs to develop and deploy solutions addressing industry-specific challenges. These collaborations can drive innovative solutions to industry challenges and should be actively promoted.
Facilitate Access and Transparency
CMOs should actively support middleware platforms like FXR, designed to help creators better understand their data. Upon a member’s request, these platforms should be granted seamless data access. Attention should be given to potential security risks, such as "password sharing," which could compromise account integrity. This not only aids the creator but also boosts transparency and trust within the ecosystem.
Educate Creators
Education plays a key role in empowering creators and their managers to navigate the complexities of music royalties. This not only reduces the support burden on CMOs but also decreases misunderstandings, thereby fostering creative growth. A well-informed creator is better positioned to identify discrepancies and leverage their rights.