Music Metadata - Future Requirements

When metadata is being discussed in the context of music business, it is often used to define the current challenges and problems of the industry. At the same time, the world is not going to be ready with just these strings of numbers in place.

When metadata is being discussed in the context of music business, it is often used to define the current challenges and problems in distributing music royalties to right holders, recording artists, songwriters, publishers, labels, musicians etc.

In most cases, the debate is around how we could match better the mostly used unique identification codes relating to music recordings, music works or music creators or other music related content like ISRC (International Standard Recording Code), ISWC (International Standard Work Code), IPI (Interested Parties Information), ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier) or ISAN (International Standard Audiovisual Number). In a digital world, you do not exist unless your metadata is correct.

“The music metadata problem” as shortly described above is not a new one, but in the last couple of years (mostly related to the blockchain buzz) more and more players have signed up for solving this solution.

Some of the initiatives are introducing new platforms (dotBC, Jaak etc.) or creating interoperability with APIs (Open Music Initiative). Some are enhancing the existing value chain problems with identifying conflicts in metadata or building new data connections with existing databases (Blokur, Project Elixir) or providing tools to create the relevant metadata as early as possible and providing it to the value chain (Auddly), or improving the data exchange practices between industry (Teosto/Pigeon).

The world would be a much better place for music creators if metadata would flow solidly in the value chain from the performance of music to the royalty distribution, but at the same time the world is not going to be ready with just these strings of numbers in place.

Future scenarios

With Teosto Futures Lab innovation platform, The Finnish Copyright Society Teosto aims to explore the future needs for music rights management and the means and knowledge to make things happen in favour of music creators. This is the ultimate reason why we exist.  

At Slush Music, I would like to bring up a few interesting areas to explore when thinking about the future requirements for metadata in music business. This is not science fiction. It’s already happening and for the existing music industry it will be a challenge to adapt to new ways of using music in innovative ways.

Biometrics. Would it be possible to create an emotional metadata layer on top of the traditional music metadata? Together with the award-winning NEMO project, Teosto Futures Lab has been exploring music and emotions. With #bananas4sonar-concept (Sonar Innovation Challenge 2017) we measured biometric data for enhancing music festival experience. When biosensor technology and emotion aware technology gets affordable for mass audiences, we will live in a world where it’s possible to know in a large scale how people feel when they consume or experience music.

When emotional information is matched with the legacy systems for royalty processing, somebody will probably start to think the reaction to music as a part of the actual value in the music. This could mean new pricing models for music with a better rate if somebody actually enjoys it.

Music metadata and cross-industry innovation. What if your music could be used as a tool for innovation in other industries? Music Tech Fest and #MTFlabs in Helsinki 24-29 November 2017 are building a creative testbed for Industry Commons, an open innovation methodology/mechanism for unleashing cross-industry innovation and creation of new markets, relying on music innovation, smart contracts and blockchain. Industry Commons is already endorsed in high-level policy regulations by the European Commission for industry research and innovation, future technologies, jobs and economic growth. #MTFlabs will be showcased during Slush Music and Slush Conference in Helsinki, with Teosto as a partner.

Micro-licensing. When some young mastermind will start to create next Paul’s Boutique or Endtroducing - the outcome will probably not be a recording like the references but some format better defining our era - it would be cool if these new pieces of art could use the whole backlog of great music that has been done, in a legal way.

Slicing up the existing recording/work -based music rights into micro-licensing of small parts of recordings or works, like instrument tracks, loops, stems is a key to this from industry perspective and culturally this could foster great new music. The technology is already there with music information retrieval, music feature extraction and smart contracts.

Generative music. Recorded work as the main format for music consumption is probably not eternal, not even near. Contextual music changing its form based on sensors, biometrics, location, consumer habits, or your loved one’s birthday will generate endless versions of one recording. This is will cause problems with current ways of handling metadata and royalties.

Let’s continue the discussion at Slush Music 2017 in Helsinki!

This topic will be discussed at Slush Music conference on Wednesday 29 November in Music Metadata – Future Requirements -panel by Turo Pekari (Senior advisor, innovation and discovery, Teosto), Virginie Berger (CEO, Armonia Online) and Helienne Lindvall (Head of business relations, Auddly.)

#MTFlabs performance+blockchain laboratory & Industry Commons launch (with Teosto as a technology partner) will be showcased at Slush Music 28 November and Slush Conference opening party 29 November.

Teosto Futures Lab is Teosto’s approach to R&D – a cross-disciplinary team of research, technology, business development and service design experts that focus on testing, prototyping and validating new concepts and technologies.


Turo Pekari,
Teosto’s Senior Advisor for Innovation and Discovery