It wasn't just fidelity that got lost in the digital transition. Somewhere along the way, hundreds of thousands of producers, engineers, session musicians, and other contributors found their credits missing from digital metadata, despite playing critical roles in these releases. The list also includes backup singers, instrumentalists, and even other members of the band. Which is why last April, producer, mixer, and engineer Count (aka Mikael Eldridge) took a huge stand on the issue, and started a snowball that has now multiplied in size.
Enter the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), which is putting the finishing touches on an initiative to ensure that all music creators are credited for their work on digitally released recordings. Flying under the banner of 'Give Fans the Credit,' early participants include T-Bone Burnett, Lamont Dozier, Sheila E, Skylar Grey, Jimmy Jam, RedOne, and Don Was.
According to NARAS, synonymous with the Grammys, this is the sad state of invisibility experienced by anyone behind the scenes - including songwriters.
A petition has already been posted at givefansthecredit.com, though at present, we're unclear what buy-in, if any, has come from various digital music services like Spotify, iTunes, Pandora, or even YouTube (please stay tuned). Adding to the complexity is that metadata is difficult to adjust, and is often handled by a separate entity entirely. Which means that this discussion could take several builds, lots of money, and even years to properly address.
Indeed, groups like SoundExchange struggle daily with incomplete metadata, and adding lots of extra fields to pre-existing metadata files sounds migraine-producing. And, taxing for money-losing operations like Spotify, though the question is whether this challenge is being selectively ignored. "We can watch movies online with the credits included, and the same should be true for digitally released recordings," said NARAS president Neil Portnow. "If music devices can access millions of tracks in the cloud, we're confident we can find a way to acknowledge those who created the tracks here on Earth."
Count feels that a failure to properly address this issue could alter the ability of fans to properly interact with their favorite bands. And, perhaps more tragically, erase certain names from future Wikipedias.
--Count (aka Michael Eldridge)
Visitor Thursday, August 23, 2012
It really does suck that the best the music industry has is All Music Guide... which is grossly incomplete, inaccurate and has horrible service. Somehow, IMDB (and IMDB Pro) manage to have largely complete and accurate credits on films, even the small indie ones.
I run an indie label, and we publish a digital pdf booklet on itunes with EVERY TITLE we release becuase credits are important to everyone who contributes to an album.
Claus Frisenberg Povlsen Friday, August 24, 2012
Couldn't agree more! Beside lack of royalties even "Search" in all services often miss the direct link into let's say "Featuring Eric Clapton" on a specific recording/track or the next big star who started out in some obscure indie band.
I've been preaching this for some 10 years but industry haven't seen the light (it is extra costs). Obviously you sell/stream more music if you are able to find it!
It's like all the fanboys of digital services kind of took over debate (and yes I am totally into these technologies myself) but losing metadata + sound loss is plain stupid.
The positive news is.. we'll get there.
Industry Veteran Friday, August 24, 2012
Serioiusly...? Get over yourselves! I've worked in the industry for over 12 years now, highly involved in the production, distribution, selling, etc. of both digital and physical releases (probably had my hand in thousands of records), and have yet to have the first credit in a commercial release. Not even in the "thanks" that I know of. I really hate to bust the bubble here, but if people care about that stuff, they're probably buying the vinyl or at least some sort of physical format of the record anyway. If people can't plop down $10 for a album, they don't care who played the tin whistle on track 6.
Frunobulax Friday, August 24, 2012
Maybe you have lingering resentment over your chosen profession.
The recording industry has always been resistant to giving credit to anyone. They still describe their recordings as "works made for hire" even though the recordings with very few exceptions are never WMFH.
They would prefer to not name anyone who might come back later and say "hey, I worked on that album, I never saw or signed any kind of WMFH agreement, I want a cut of the SR royalties."
I think the point is that it is something that is very simple to do from a technological standpoint, so why isn't it being done.
David Wednesday, August 29, 2012
You're right. People don't care who sells the record. Sounds like that was your job. It's too bad you didn't ever get thanked by a band.
But to suggest that people don't care who created the art they love? That's just incorrect.
HansH Friday, August 24, 2012
Couldn't agree more.
This is how I like to listen to music: sitting on my couch, holding my iPad, headphones on or even better using Airplay-AppleTV for playback on my stereo. Now the Spotify iPad App is beautiful and the album covers look great, but are you going to stare at the cover for minutes? Well, I’m surely not. I want to know more about the artist I’m listening to or read the lyrics.
I used to start up Google and search my way to the artist’s homepage, Wikipedia page and a site for lyrics. But more or less for my own convenience I have set up Spoticonnect.com.
I now listen, click the Spoticonnect icon on my iPad and the artist’s website, the Wikipedia page. the Lastfm artist page and the lyrics are just one click away. The only thing you need is an account at Last.fm It is not just for Spotify, if you listen using iTunes or Windows Media Player the system works as well. Any player that scrobbles does the trick.
Maybe it is of some use for you as well. You can give it a try at www.spoticonnect.com
PTSoundhound Friday, August 24, 2012
You guys not heard of Decibel?
Haven't played with the APIs but if they do what they say on the tin...
Chadh Friday, August 24, 2012
Would it be straying off too far to say that there is a possibility of labels and the industry not wanting to include full meta-info?
Overloading the 'dumb' consumer with names could ruin the super-star facade that is created when one believes that every facet of the music is done by the artist.
Yes, I agree that this seems farfetched, but there are people out there with no understanding of the industry who think this.
Frunobulax Sunday, August 26, 2012
It is not farfetched and you are right. It is all part of the marketing of "artists."
Consumers want to believe Taylor Swift does it all by herself.
Sean Friday, August 24, 2012
I am a definite music lover and I never even thought about this problem! Of course these people should get at least the ability to be recognized by fans who enjoy their work.
Were it not for album notes, I would never have known who Bob Rock or Steve Albini were, for instance.
Great article on a problem that should definitely have a solution.
Zoe Keating Saturday, August 25, 2012
I'm glad that this issue is getting some attention. It's complicated…like building infrastructure for an already-constructed and unplanned city.
A contract between a recording artist and an engineer or side-musician can't force a digital retailer to include a new table in their database. There has to be some requirement for the digital retailer to meet a new metadata standard. Who sets the standard? Who would the retailer be accountable to?
I'm no expert, but it seems the current 'system' of ISRC codes and artist/label names, exists as a method for tracking songs in order to compensate copyright holders, whether that is sales on iTunes or reports of Pandora plays to Soundexchange. That music services also use this metadata for search and discovery, is a byproduct of that use. As you would expect when using something for a purpose it wasn't designed for, there is stuff missing. Classical music folks, for example, have been grumbling for years about being shoehorned into ill-fitting metadata buckets in iTunes.
I guess I can't imagine how any uniform policy regarding digital metadata could occur without a law forcing the issue and a neutral entity responsible (is there such a thing?) for setting the metadata standard.
Maybe some prominent digital music company needs to be a maverick and lead the way even if they are not required to. Hey Spotify, here's a leadership opportunity for you!
p.s. and kudos to Count for spearheading this issue. Count, by the way, does all my post-production, but of course you wouldn't be able to find that out unless you read the credits in my album packaging or on our respective websites ;-)
@earlabs Sunday, August 26, 2012
I hear ya...
Spoken X Digital Media Group Monday, August 27, 2012
Oh we can definitely relate to this article. In (50) world wide digital distribution deals on (34) tracks they forgot the signatures and to place Literati X (C) (P) on royalty-payroll. At a time when we should be laid back, we're whining like a bitch for quite a few billions. . .Phantom X, witness the powerful experience of the spoken word explosion as we spray the spoken spectacular throughout the universe--remember the good ole days ?
@botperrier Monday, August 27, 2012
FrankyP Monday, August 27, 2012
I can remember the days when liner notes incuded not just the names of the musicians and engineers but also the instuments used in the creation of the song. But alas, those days are long gone. Printing costs have skyrocketed and liner notes ultimately confined to casette covers and CD jackets became quite difficult to read and required more print space. So now there's a movement to right a perceived wrong, Oh Well, give credit where credit is due, should be required for all projects.
Claus Frisenberg Povlsen Tuesday, August 28, 2012
@Zoe Re: Classical music is a complete mess. I been in a handfull projects last 10 years and we always end up saying "We have to wait with classical..."
Beethoven gets composer as display artist eg. Barenboim.
Add there's no global standard describing each work of classical music well there are but there are more than one for some composers.
Add not all countries use English as only parameter (for instance in Denmark we translate "Swan Lake").
Not to mention transliteration of Tchaikovsky et al ;)
Professor Pooch Tuesday, August 28, 2012
I List EVERYONE in any way involved on my Indie Label releases on my YouTube Page and the Label's site and FaceBook - where I have control!
Everyone should follow through on this!