Music Industry Metadata & Information Summit

May 6th, 2013

The conference brochure copy captured the event very well:

A never-before seen collection of high-level working sessions and talks about very practical issues, this 
two-day summit is designed to both inform newcomers about the importance of managing information 
through metadata — the “plumbing” that ensures digital tracks are labeled correctly in online music 
stores — and provide a forum for music industry executives and associated technologists to discuss and hash out solutions to key issues in the information systems of the future of the music business.

“Maintaining accurate and standardized metadata isn’t necessarily the first thing that springs to mind when one thinks about the top issues currently facing the music industry, but it is one of the most critically important,” said Bill Wilson, VP of Digital Strategy & Business Development at NARM/ “If we want people to consume more music, we need to make it as simple as possible for them to find and discover what they want, and ensure accounting is accurate and expedient. Establishing and maintaining a proper information infrastructure is the only way to do that at scale.”

As someone working in metadata for book publishing for the last few years the event is a revelation. I’d guess there were a couple of hundred in the room; it was standing room only. The title of my presentation was “You Are Not Alone: Metadata Lessons from the Book Publishing Industry.” All I could think was: I’m the one who was all alone. Who would have imagined hundreds signed up for a 2+ day program on metadata. Yes, it was widely acknowledged that the event was a step forward, unthinkable until recently. In book publishing we’ve never pulled together a sizeable metadata crowd except for a single session.

Michael Frey, Sony DAC

An executive who gets it.

Michael Frey, chief executive at Sony DADC New Media Solutions, led off the morning with an anecdote designed to illustrate just how little he knew about metadata. I feared the worst but he surprised the heck out of me: Not only did he know what he was talking about, he expressed his knowledge in a clear and lively fashion. Perhaps he didn’t know his DDEX from his ISRC but he was well-versed in what matters most about metadata: its strategic value for a content publishing organization (I use “content publishing” as a catch-all. He was speaking mainly about music but the lessons extended far beyond).

His stories illustrated many of the real-world challenges faced by a large content organization that trades, in part, in data. Frey said that SONY DADC supplies 840 different fields to 56 territories: “in music half our data deliveries are just metadata…. the metadata piece really slows things down,” he said. “We might deliver 100,000 price changes in a day.”

Frey offered a simple but clear illustration of where metadata can become a bottleneck in a way not faced by book publishers: Sony can’t launch a song in Russia if they don’t have a description of the song in Russian (with a book, there’s not much point in describing the text in a second language: either they read English or they’re not in the market for the title).

All-in-all a fine presentation that set the stage perfectly for the program that followed.

To be continued…