Data Has A Lot To Say About Music Royalties, All You Need To Do Is Listen

Data collection is enabling artists, labels, brand protection technology, and intellectual-property beneficiaries identify when their music is being used so that they can get paid royalties when they are due
5 min read
data collection for the music industry

In this article we will discuss:

Which music industry record needs fixing?

One of the biggest issues the music industry is currently dealing with across the board, is conformity in terms of metadata (see explanation below) database entry. Simply put – different music platforms enter metadata differently as well as having different fields from one another. This lack of conformity means that more often than not, crucial metadata, such as the royalties owners, get lost when music is uploaded to a given platform.

According to The Verge:

More than 46 million instances of unidentified songwriters or unknown copyright owner ‘Notice of Intents (NOIs)’ have been digitally filed with the US Copyright Office by streaming services since April 2016.

Unpaid global royalties have reached an estimated $2.5 billion, making it a major source of lost income for artists, music labels, and other intellectual property beneficiaries.

But this is not just an isolated issue on music streaming applications. In fact, according to Digital Music News:

80% of music played commercially is either unreported or misreported.

This includes music played on TV, and over the internet. The latter is becoming an especially potent hotbed for music rights infringements including:

Social media– For example, TikTok  videos that are being used for commercial purposes, and/or advertisements

Video sharing– For example, YouTube or Vimeo clips being produced by SMBs or independent contractors

Web domains – For example, a business’s website which includes background music or a photographer or artist’s portfolio

What is metadata in terms of music?

Generally speaking, metadata is an additional set of data usually attributed to a song, picture or video in order to enable searchability as well as digital catalogue or archive placement. Some of the most common metadata included in music tracks include:

  • Song title
  • Artist name
  • Record label
  • Publisher/producer
  • Bitmap image file (BMP)
  • Genre

Metadata is crucial for music artists, record label owners, music licensing agencies and other parties who have a vested interest in earning royalties from music broadcasts, and streaming. It is metadata that allows music applications, radio stations, and film editors to identify how many times a track has been played and how much is due to the rights owners.

Who is being deprived of their music royalties?

A wide variety of artists and labels have fallen victim, and continue to suffer from this phenomenon. According to the verge, one musician who spoke on condition of anonymity, was owed as much as $40,000 for 70 songs, over the course of a 6-year period.

But more well-known pop stars are not immune. In another article published on hypebot, Katy Perry’s song titled ‘Firework’ was used as a prime example of a track with many people involved in production and distribution.

Songwriters that sang Kate Perry's Firework song includes Esther Dean, Katy Perry, Stroleer Mikkel Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Sandy Julien Wilhelm and publishers are  Downtown Music, Peer Music, Sony ATV, Ultra Music and Warner-Chappell

Image source: Bright Data

This sheer amount of songwriters and publishers in this project almost guarantees that some metadata will be left out and one or more involved parties will suffer losses as a result. The exact dollar amount lost has not been made public and is difficult to calculate, but it is safe to say that streaming services held on to a nice chunk.

How data collection is helping to restore harmony

One of the leading music industry solutions to metadata omission, and unauthorized usage, is data collection. By scanning the internet, artists, agencies, and music brands can track where their music is being played in real-time. For example, a party who owns the rights to a song and suspects it is being used without his or her authorization, can scan and collect metadata on:

  • YouTube
  • TikTok

As well as other websites, networks, and channels. It is in this way that they can identify copyright infringements (i.e using their music without paying the required royalties). Legal teams will usually reach out to violating parties and give them a choice – either pay-to-play or remove unauthorized songs from platforms, and content in order to prevent further usage. In extreme cases, especially where the amounts owed have accumulated into large sums of money this may lead to prolonged litigation or a settlement deal.

Different brand protection firms’ software, for example, utilize Bright Data’s data collection technology which enables them to carry out royalty-infringement discovery.

Initially, firms will perform ‘metadata discovery’ which entails collecting relevant metadata from target websites. This data may include:

  • A YouTube channel’s name
  • The number of followers on a social account
  • The quantity of clips on a given site
  • As well as other relevant granular data

This preliminary stage can help first map, and later identify potential infringement sources.
Which can then be cross-referenced with mp3 track samples that they are trying to enforce royalty rights on. Once completed, these findings can then be recorded and sent off to customers for further action or be mitigated by the brand protection firm itself.

The bottom line

Royalty infringements in the music industry are a long standing problem which will continue to challenge artists and labels. Thanks to data collection technology, companies no longer need to passively sit on the sidelines, and allow their Intellectual Property to be used without their authorization. Music owners can now scan the web in real-time and demand their hard-earned royalties.