Efforts to properly credit and compensate musicians can be hampered by a lack of quality information about the song’s creation, including its author and owner, and those who performed on its recording.
The UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) hopes to improve the quality of this metadata in the era of digital music streaming.
On 31 May 2023, the UK IPO published the UK Industry Agreement on Music Streaming Metadata (the “metadata agreement”), which it hopes will improve the quality of metadata in new recordings, and in turn deliver consistent crediting on streaming services.
Accompanying the metadata agreement, the UK IPO also announced that it is to establish a working group on creator remuneration.
Both initiatives form part of a programme of work by the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to address issues in music streaming, following a Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the economics of the industry.
What is the metadata agreement and working group all about? Let’s take a look behind the streams.
The metadata agreement
The metadata agreement arose out of a recognition that, in the digital music era, it is difficult to obtain accurate or complete metadata on exactly who has contributed to a track’s creation, and how. This does not further the interests of music creators, as it delays their prospect of being properly recompensed for the use of their works. The metadata agreement represents a voluntary effort by industry participants to address the issue.
Signatories include the Association of Independent Music, the British Phonographic Industry, the Music Managers Forum, Musicians’ Union, and collecting societies Phonographic Performance Limited and PRS for Music.
Importantly, this isn’t a closed shop; the UK IPO is inviting further UK music industry organisations to join the fold and sign up to the agreement, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The agreement represents a positive commitment by industry to improve music streaming metadata in the UK over a two-year period, by:
- Recording a shared ambition to gradually improve metadata in new recordings, and consistent crediting on streaming services. This includes providing streaming services with complete work and songwriter data (including identifiers, where available) in similar timeframes to recording and artist metadata, and ensuring that works and songwriters are consistently credited on streaming services and identified in relevant reports to licensors.
- Taking steps to ensure a core data set is associated with all new recordings. The contents of this core data set are set out in a diagram in the agreement, which lists the core data elements that should be provided for metadata relating to both the sound recording and the underlying musical work.
- Promoting and following good practice in the music industry. Expectations of good practice are specified in an annex to the agreement, including for songwriters, recording artists, managers, publishers, producers, collecting societies, releasing parties and service providers.
- Establishing and supporting expert working groups on education (to raise awareness of the importance of metadata) and technical solutions (to explore improvements to current workflows, standards and technologies to enable delivery of the core data set mentioned above, and measure how well this is implemented in future recordings).
Implementation of these aims over the two-year period will be overseen by the UK IPO, who will report on progress to government ministers and industry representatives. The UK IPO will also chair a steering group of industry representatives who will guide and support implementation of the agreement, to meet formally every 6 months.
At the end of the two-year period, progress towards the above aims will be measured, with signatories then considering how to build on this and achieve higher standards of metadata provision in the future.
Creator remuneration: UK government working group
While the metadata agreement sets out some lofty ambitions from its signatories, details on the UK government’s planned working group on creator remuneration are currently rather sparse. The working group’s formation and terms of reference are to be discussed over the coming weeks, but ministers’ visions for its work are that the group should explore “industry-led actions on remuneration for existing and future creators, acknowledging recent progress by music companies in this space”, as well as to consider “wider issues facing creators and industry alike, including artificial intelligence”.
The working group will comprise representatives and experts from across the music industry, and will consider existing research, including that which the UK IPO has already published on music creators’ earnings and copyright.
Expect further details to stream out of Whitehall in due course.
Both the metadata agreement and the planned working group should be welcomed by music creators who have been calling for better accreditation and compensation for their contributions to recordings. The initiatives represent both existing and future commitments from the UK government to improve the quality of data in the digital era of music streaming, and the use of a two year initial period in which progress can be measured and overseen is encouraging.
Here’s hoping the initiatives mark the beginning of better data in metadata.