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Metadata in Music – The Basics

What Is It?

Basically, metadata is a collection of pieces of information gathered together for a reason. In music, the reasons can be obvious (such as that embedded onto an mp3) and some a bit more obscure (searching through a music library to find the exact piece of music suitable for a particular placement).

The mp3

From the Oxford Dictionary, an mp3 is…

“… a means of compressing a sound sequence into a very small file, to enable digital storage and transmission.”

We use mp3s because they take up less space when stored. However, there is a payoff for this and that is loss of quality. WAV and AIFF files are what we use for full high quality sound recordings.

We embed metadata onto mp3s so that it can be read by any other device, anywhere. WAV and AIFF files do not so universally store data.

So why is this data storage so vitally important to us?

Getting the correct metadata embedded into the mp3’s of your music tracks is absolutely vital before you send then anywhere.

It’s not an option, it’s an essential.

Mp3s can have data embedded into them which allows whoever possesses it to see many pieces of info about that song or instrumental.

  • Title
  • Artist
  • Writer(s)
  • Length
  • BPM (Beats per Minute)
  • Album title (if relevant)
  • Track number (if relevant)
  • Year released (if relevant)
  • Genre
  • Album art
  • Lyrics
  • Producer
  • Your contact details (arguably the most important one!)
  • ISRC code if it has one (if it has been released it will have one)
  • Comments

Most mp3s don’t contain all this info as someone was lazy and didn’t enter it all, but hopefully they have the essentials. If you only want to put a few pieces of info on, then please make it the following few:

  • Contact details in the Comments section (most important one).

Then…

  • Track title
  • Artist name
  • Writer names, splits and PROs (Performing Rights Organisations).
  • ISRC code

BPM, genre, length, artwork and year are all important too, as they allow clients to search for the music they are looking for in their own collections.

As an indie songwriter releasing and submitting your own music, you should leave the Grouping field empty. Grouping is where 3rd party master and publishing rights holder information is stored.

We will look into embedding metadata onto an mp3 in a different article.

The Music Library

Music libraries make extensive use of metadata to enable searches of the tracks in their collection.

Each track will be attached to a virtual file of detailed information, everything from the mp3 info through to bands or artists that that piece of music sounds similar to, as a reference point.

They need to be able to search by bpm, multiple moods and keywords, type of vocal, lyric themes, tempo, key, length, instruments used, genres and subgenres, writers, artists, year recorded, year released, producer, to name a few.

Once a song is selected they will also need to know the writer’s splits, and detailed PRO info.

Plus they will need to attach the information about when the publisher (the library) registered the track with their PRO too (date, PRO registration number, title given if different to the original title, library code and so on). Then when and where it was pitched, what placements it received and the sync fees associated with that. And then maybe even the backend royalties received over time.

As you can see the metadata involved in running a music library is very extensive, and we have only talked about the basics here.

Hopefully after reading this intro to music metadata you won’t be too fazed or frazzled. Certain elements need much more detailed deep dives, and we will be covering these in other posts.

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