Rhapsody Adds Liner Notes, But How Detailed Is the Information It Holds?

Rhapsody has announced, at the Music Biz 2013 conference, that it’s going to add liner notes and credits to its digital music service, giving users the ability to search for specific songwriters, producers – or even all recordings featuring a specific session musician.  It was hailed as “a first” for digital music, though there have been moves on both sides of the Atlantic to “give credit where credit is due” for a while now.

But how will Rhapsody get this information, when not even digital distributors have it?

Using digital music services, one would be forgiven for thinking that making a record is a one-person/band job.  The multitude of musicians, producers, writers and engineers that all play a part in the final recording has magically become invisible during the transfer from physical CDs and vinyl to downloads and streams.

No wonder your average music fan today thinks artists can survive on selling T-shirts, making personal appearances or partnering with brands.  Meanwhile, few people would buy a T-shirt with a picture of a mastering engineer or, say, Max Martin (one of the most successful songwriters in the world today).

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The reality is that none of the UK’s top 10 best-selling tracks in 2012 were solely written and performed by the same act  – in the top 20 there was only one track: EDM track Feel the Love by Rudimental and John Newman. And in the US, the state of affairs is largely the same.

Credits are, of course, not only important to musicians – as a music fan, from a very young age I used to buy records according to who played on the record, or who produced it, as I saw it as a quality stamp. Now I have to trawl Google and Wikipedia for the information – and, if I find it, there’s no guarantee that it’s correct.

So how can Rhapsody guarantee that its information is correct?

Believe it or not, even though both songwriters and, in most cases, producers are entitled to royalties whenever their songs are used (as are the session musicians, in most European countries), it is only optional to fill in these credits when registering a track with digital distributors.

Reporting on the issue, Evolver.fm claimed that Rhapsody would have to build a database “by hand – session player by session player”.

I doubt it.  Even iTunes now has a “composers’ view”, albeit a clunky one, which they probably sourced from ASCAP and BMI. There is a much easier way, and Swedish songwriter and producer grassroots organisation UniSon, of which I’m a member, is already putting it into practice.  Out of frustration we decided to take matters into our own hands and create a Spotify app called Cred It, using the data the songwriters’ and the performers’ collecting societies hold.

In the UK (as in Sweden), record labels have a legal obligation to provide the performers’ rights society, PPL, with information on who played on their recordings, in order for these musicians to get paid when they’re played in public.  PPL receives data on an average of 6,000 new recordings a week – that’s 312,000 recordings a year – so you can see how unlikely it is that Rhapsody would even attempt to put in this data themselves.

Instead it could simply reach out to SoundExchange, the US version of PPL.  See, that’s another reason musicians should ensure that they’re registered with the non-profit organisation, and make sure their registrations are up to date – it’s not only to get paid, but for the glory of finally being visible again online.

8 Responses

  1. Big Swifty

    The biggest reason that more attribution data is not included with digital content is that there is no financial incentive for anyone to create a universally accepted method.
    Also, there could be a negative impacton some sales. Many pop “artists” would lose marketing appeal if their fans knew that it took a team of five songwriters and ten producers to create the product.

    • Helienne

      But there is one being created – the Global Repertoire Database. It just takes a looong time to do it, and it’s obviously very costly as well. As session players get paid for airplay in most countries (though not the US, shamefully), the performance right societies do have extensive databases – though it’s important that musicians double check that their info has been logged correctly by the labels. It is a bit more tricky when it comes to the engineers, as they don’t get paid royalties…

  2. Casey

    It will be interesting to see how they impliment this. This is a good move.

    I wish more artists and labels would give Rhapsody a chance. They actually try to be a little artist-friendly. They are after all one of the only music services to not give away music for free. But artists always group them in with Spotify when they talk about the negatives of streaming and seem to always leave Rhapsody out when they talk about the positives.

  3. MJ

    This doesn’t really seem like rocket science. The major labels and distributed labels typically have all this metadata stored systematically and able to be delivered by feed. Rhapsody (and other providers) just need to accept the full offering of credit information. Building a database by hand seems like a waste of time and resources when it would be more prudent to accept a feed. Who would be verifying the accuracy of these credits?

  4. CueNoter

    There is a crowd and artist sourced version going live right now at CueNotes.com. Through the app and the website in beta now, anyone can do this, verified players, artists, participants will have special accounts, and the wisdom of the crowds can help make this happen over time.

  5. CueNoter

    There is a crowd and artist sourced version going live right now at CueNotes.com (in beta but live soon). Through the app and the website in beta now, anyone can do this; verified players, artists, participants will have special accounts, and the wisdom of the crowds can help make this happen over time. To really get all this data for the vast amount of muisc out there from the past and still being created today the crowd of music fans and people involved in production is the best source and really only way to efficiently do it.

  6. Econ

    CDNow used to have this information on most of their offered Cd’s. Don’t know why people think it’s hard to get a hold of.
    The difficulty is incorporating the data into databases that weren’t designed to hold this information. It’s a large programming task that will cost money, something existing companies that have yet to turn a profit are going to have difficulting convincing management to budget.

  7. HansH

    How about getting it using the Decibel API?