Is Metadata Music’s Next Financial Frontier? SXSW Panel Suggests It Might Be
Re post July 2011

By Sandira Calviac, Austin, TX

The “Information is Key, Data is King” saying seems to have finally found its roots at a number of SxSW’s panels and events. Strong usage of metadata has proven not only to directly impact consumers’ discovery, increase sales and nurture fan relationships, but also help with copyright and royalty redistribution.

Industries such as finance or publishing have long understood the importance of gathering and aggregating data sources in order to mine through and monetize them. The music industry is now obsessing over it, with lawyers, academics and industry players attempting to address the topic at this year’s SxSW.

At the “Music & Metadata: Do Songs Remain The Same?”, panel attendees could clearly feel some tension. Jason Schultz, as a typical lawyer, had actually staged it, by focusing the panel on copyright and having UC Berkeley academics Jess Hemerly and Larisa Mann go off on academic tangents.

Check out all of our South by Southwest coverage here.

The lack of focus on the financial implications behind the aggregation and availability of music metadata did indeed manage to get a representative of SoundExchange in the audience to voice his organization’s concerns. “Several millions of dollars are sitting in the bank today, waiting to be redistributed to ‘Track 6 various artist label unknown’ due to the absence of clean metadata and aggregated database,” he said. “There are 117 different spellings of INXS in our database.”

SoundExchange was not the only one to comment: “Your metadata is crapping in my lawn,” one said, while another attendee questioned “the tradition of having one title for songs. Artists can have multiple names and a song zero or multiple titles. Are publishers and the industry heading that way?”

All of these questions are sure to come up again as the use of metadata continues to raise concerns and revenue.