Last week, Congress offered a plan to create a global, centralized music database. Now, ASCAP and BMI are taking a giant step towards that goal.
Last week, Digital Music News reported that Congress re-sparked plans to create the world’s first central, unified music database. Previous efforts to create an authoritative database have failed miserably. Music data, along with ownership records and music licenses, remain in disarray.
Sadly, promising plays like Spotify are getting pummeled by licensing issues. Even worse: a centralized, comprehensive music licensing database could have prevented those problems — and a flurry of expected lawsuits ahead.
In a desperate attempt to fix metadata attribution problems plaguing its platform, Spotify acquired blockchain startup Mediachain Labs. Last year, the Swedish streaming platform paid the NMPA $30 million to settle a lawsuit over unpaid royalties. This year, the company also paid indie songwriters $43.4 million to cover unpaid mechanical licenses.
In addition, independent publishers have started their own lawsuits, with possible damages crossing into the billions.
But maybe the industry can work its own problems out. Enter ASCAP and BMI, who have just announced plans to create a comprehensive music database. Or, at least the first steps of it.
The aggregated database will cover musical works from the combined repertoires of the nation’s two leading performance rights organizations (PROs). That means that a giant percentage of data involving performance rights will be in one place. Potentially, other PROs like SESAC and Irving Azoff’s Global Music Rights (GMR), could also jump in.
It’s the kind of snowball effect that the industry — and Spotify — desperately need.
As for this initiative: the joint database feature song ownership data from ASCAP and BMI. It will have the following information:
- Song and composition titles
- Performing artist information.
- Aggregated shares by society for ASCAP & BMI
- International Shared Work Codes (ISWC) and other unique identifiers.
- IPI names and numbers.
Copyright, technical, and data experts from ASCAP and BMI first started work on the project a year ago. The comprehensive database will also indicate where other PROs may have an interest in a specific musical work.
ASCAP and BMI hope that the project will serve as a foundation that can evolve. Later, both organizations hope to include “a broader range of music information across the entire industry.”
Both organizations are currently analyzing, testing, and reconciling data. Teams from ASCAP and BMI will address incomplete or incorrect song registrations and share splits. They will also address US representation of international works as well as complicated ownership disputes.
Ideally, anyone can access this database, from anywhere. Currently, teams from ASCAP and BMI are testing combined data sets in a cloud platform. The results of the analysis will serve as the foundation for the shared music database.
Speaking about the project, ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said,
“ASCAP and BMI are proactively and voluntarily moving the entire industry a step forward to more accurate, reliable and user-friendly data. We believe in a free market with more industry cooperation and alignment on data issues. Together, ASCAP and BMI have the most expertise in building and managing complex copyright ownership databases. With our combined experience, we are best positioned to make faster headway in creating a robust, cost effective market solution to meet the needs of the licensing marketplace.”
BMI President and CEO Mike O’Neill added,
“This is an important solution for the marketplace created by the experts who know their data best. We have always advocated for data transparency and supported the need for a user-friendly and comprehensive solution that would benefit music users and music creators alike. While BMI and ASCAP remain fierce competitors in all other regards, we recognize that our combined expertise allows us to create the best solution for our members and the marketplace. We’re excited by our momentum and the promise of what this database can become in the future.”
Phase One of the shared music database will launch by the end of 2018. The first phase will include the majority of ASCAP and BMI’s registered songs. Both organizations promise to build a “user-friendly” and “searchable” database.
Future phases of the project will explore customizable, interactive API solutions, and the inclusion of other databases.
So that’s not everything. But it’s a start. And a huge action towards licensing sanity in the music industry.