Metadata and the "Ownership Print"
Metadata is a critical component to your music. Want to monetize your music? You will need metadata. Want to add additional ownership prints on your music, sequences, and productions? You will need metadata. Want to make your music searchable? Want to get paid from streaming services? Yup...metadata.
What is metadata? At a basic level, metadata is the embedded digital information associated with your audio, sequence or session file. It's also the data associated with your file that enables users to search music libraries or allow listeners to find your music on streaming services.
Metadata can include critical information like composer, artist, track name, date, file formats, copyright, and PRO information. Further, metadata can include additional information such as writer(s), band name, label, publisher, song duration, genre, keywords, producer, studio or any other relevant information a composer or artist wants associated with their files.
Now, the big question is what type of metadata should you associate with your files. To answer this question, you need to determine what you plan to do with your music. Libraries? Streaming Services? Database? Licensing? Searchable? Ownership Prints, score for hire? Songwriter? Answering these questions enables you to determine what type of information you need or want associated with your files.
You may have noticed I used the term "Ownership Print" in this post. This is probably the most important piece of information you can associate with your files and I am not just talking about your finished audio file. An Ownership Print establishes ownership and a system of record for your file. For example, I score and write most of my music in Cuebase and like Cuebase, many DAW's allow you to add metadata to your sequence, score and audio files. By putting your basic information into the Sequence data, you establish an Ownership Print with the file (Sequence/Session) of creation. This information can be as simple as your name, copyright claim, etc. e.g. David Frederick © 2023 David Frederick Music. All Rights Reserved. Now you have an Ownership Print in metadata associated with the system of creation. If you are ever challenged on the creation of your project, song, score, etc. you now have an Ownership Print associated with your work. If you are a producer, this could be the session in Pro Tools, or as a composer it could be in your Logic session, etc. There is a lot of talk in industry legal circles and in our industry in general on using these "Ownership Prints" on files to help content creators establish ownership and a system of record at the source of creation. I believe this will be critical as we forge forward in the digital age. I highly recommend you add Ownership Prints to your sequence and session files.
Many DAW's enable you to create a project template where you can add this information and it will always be in the project template going forward. However, in some cases you may want to add specific information to your Ownership Print that can add more protection and/or make your client and their legal department...if your hired to compose music, more comfortable. In this case you could do something like this: David Frederick © 2023 David Frederick Music - Film Project XYZ -Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved. To be clear this Ownership Print is for the Sequence or Session file NOT the audio file. However, an Ownership Print can be included in the notes or copyright section of the audio file as well. Important...an ownership print is NOT a substitute for copyright. It is an additional layer of protection for the creator.
Additional metadata information that I would highly recommend including in your audio file would be the following:
- Artist/Composer legal name
- Artist/Composer stage name
- © Copyright information - name, date i.e. © 2023 David Frederick
- PRO (performance rights organization)
- Publisher (if any)
- Client (if any)
- Project name (if applicable)
- Album name (if applicable)
- Contact information (If you are using for a client. You can add this in the notes section. If not for a work for hire client, I would simply put your artists/band/producer, etc. website.)
- Keywords (Dramatic, Aggressive, Happy, Driving, Emotional, Simple, Complex, Dark, Bright, Sad, etc.)
- Genre (Polka, Underscore, Rock, EDM, Hip Hop, etc.)
- Key Instruments (Kazoo, Distorted Guitar, String Ensemble, Synthesizer, Choir)
- Association (ESPN, CBS Sports, Game of Thrones, CSI Milwaukee, etc.)
- Song Writer Splits (if applicable - name and PRO of each writer and their split.)
- ISRC Code (if applicable)
- Album, artist or logo image
You can always add more information in the notes section as well. Think of your use case to determine which of these are applicable. However, the more you use, the better and more searchable your music will be across multiple platforms and use cases.
So what to do if your software does not allow you to add this information? In the case of the DAW, I am pretty sure you can include metadata in the project at least to establish your Ownership Print. I am also pretty sure most DAW's and audio editors enable you to add robust metadata. However, in the unlikely event they don't, there are a ton of 3rd party file tagging and metadata editors that will enable you add this information and more. Just search the web or the Apple store, etc. Lastly, be careful if you make different file format versions of your files i.e. 48k Stereo Wave to 96k Stereo MP3. Sometimes the metadata may not transfer and you will have to re-enter all or a portion of it. It can be a pain to enter all this information for each file or sequence, but it is well worth it.
I would recommend if you can or if your software enables it, to create metadata templates that cover the basics that typically don't change like name, PRO, contact info, copyright, etc. With some metadata editors, you can also batch process your files which can expedite the data insertion.
In closing, metadata is a critical part of the digital musician's world. Whether writing music for libraries, score for hire, songwriter, producer, etc. metadata can help you protect, organize, manage and monetize your music. If you make your music available on streaming services, full and accurate metadata ensures that your music is properly protected (metadata is not a substitute for copyright filing - check with your legal professional for the best protection of your content) and credited. Further accurate metadata can help you with your royalty payments from streaming services. If your metadata is wrong, you run the risk of not being paid your royalties.
Lastly, accurate metadata ensures your music is mapped to the correct artist profile on streaming platforms. The last thing you want is for your music to end up on someone else's profile or someone else's music in your profile. I have had this issue with a "rapper" who has the same name as me getting his songs on my profile. Believe me...its a time suck and pain in the but to get it corrected!
Hopefully this helps you understand metadata a little better and what I call "Ownership Stamps" and how to leverage it for your protection, monetization, and file organization. Metadata is your friend and you should be familiar with it and use it. Its all upside! By the way, this information can used with sound effects and sound design, video, graphics, or any other digital content. The principals and concepts apply equally even if some of the data may be different.
For what it's worth!