The music industry can be a complex place to navigate for music creators, particularly when it comes to getting paid fairly. After all, the mechanisms of how to get paid, and via which revenue streams, have not always been the easiest to grasp, even for those who have been active in the business for a long time. An understanding of the importance of metadata, though, has become crucial in the digital age, particularly when it comes to maximising potential music royalties.
But what exactly is metadata, and why does it matter?
Music metadata relates to the information that is shared when a song is registered with PRS. This includes the song title (and any alternative titles), the names of every songwriter involved and their respective creator identifiers (also known as CAE or IPI numbers). The writer, performer and mechanical shares for each song also need to be specified: writer shares refer to the people who wrote the song, while performer shares cover any artist who sings or plays on the track. Mechanical shares, meanwhile, refer to the royalties that are generated from the reproduction of compositions, such as vinyl record sales.
These details are all covered in the Get Paid Guide. Created in the wake of the DCMS Select Committee’s 2021 inquiry into the economic impact of music streaming, this simplified step-by-step digital resource has been designed to empower songwriters, composers and artists to take ownership of their metadata and learn how to manage it accurately and successfully in order to get paid promptly and fairly.
M recently assembled a panel of UK music industry leaders to discuss the importance of metadata and why creators should utilise the Get Paid Guide when it comes to maximising their royalties. Songwriter and Peak Music UK founder Eve Horne, Ivors Academy Chair Tom Gray, publisher Andy Godfrey and SoundCloud’s director of music licensing Bina Mistry all shared their thoughts on metadata and the guide, with Eve emphasising the latter’s cross-generation appeal.
‘It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the industry, you’ll always forget exactly how to register your stuff,’ Eve says. ‘There’s so much information to understand, so it’s important that there’s something like the Get Paid Guide that you can constantly refer to. It’s the perfect online tool to pull up.’
Bina agrees: ‘It’s just a good reference guide. If you know you’ve followed all the steps, your works are registered correctly but you’re still not receiving royalties, then you can go and investigate elsewhere. With the Get Paid Guide, the foundation is there.’
Due to the sheer volume of transactions and music use that occurs every day, accurate metadata is paramount, says Andy: ‘To be efficient we have to make these processes automatic, so assigning unique identifiers to works and accrediting all the writers makes matching that much more effective.’ To aid this, creators need to be on top of the admin side of things when it comes to metadata.
‘The Get Paid Guide is your set of instructions on how to take music from a hobby to a career,’ he adds, a point Tom backs up: ‘If you want to call yourself a professional music maker, you’ve got to figure this stuff out. You’ve got to follow the Get Paid Guide, it’s very simple.’
When it comes to metadata, creators must strive for accuracy: even track titles need to be written in the same format each time they’re referred to during the metadata inputting process. ‘Keep it simple,’ Bina advises. ‘Don’t try and be clever with your song titles, because it can have a knock-on effect where the work gets lost in the system because it’s spelt differently in various places.’
Tom is also keen to point out the importance of proper songwriter accreditation during the registering process. ‘[Songwriting] credit and money are the same thing in music,’ he says. ‘Accrediting yourself and clarifying that in a place where all the [metadata] information is stored is the only way you’re going to get paid. There’s an extraordinary amount of money being left on the table, and this guide is the way to access it.’
Songwriting credits are particularly key, Eve says, when it comes to building an artistic portfolio. ‘You need to be thinking about that from the beginning [of your music career], so that when you’re older you’re still getting all the royalties that you should,’ she says, before issuing a reminder that even non-performing creators can benefit hugely from this. ‘You can be a millionaire songwriter with multiple streams of revenue and never [have to] be on stage if you register your works correctly.’
Bina’s message? ‘Remember: you’re a business. Yes, you’re a creative, but you’re also a business. I think there's this notion of the “starving artist” not being able to make a living wage. I'm not saying the Get Paid Guide is going to solve it, but if you follow the steps in it and understand what metadata is, I guarantee you'll double your money.’
Our panel also speak glowingly of the Get Paid Guide video series, which succinctly outlines the journey that goes from writing a song to getting paid royalties, and its online checklist resource that helps creators every step of the way when it comes to inputting their metadata.
The UK government is continuing to explore the potential of music metadata, establishing a working group earlier this year dedicated to creator remuneration. While there’s still a lot of work to be done, it’s reassuring for songwriters, composers and artists that the matter is being taken seriously and that metadata quality can be improved — so long as everyone plays their part. Ultimately, improving the use of metadata within the industry will only enhance revenue flow for creators.
‘The Get Paid Guide has always been needed,’ Tom says in summation. ‘Now that we’ve got it, we need to make sure we use it.’