We looked at the importance of recording credits a few months ago, but it’s worth revisiting the topic now because, while the necessity of assuring proper crediting remains eminently critical and woefully underserviced, the ability to actually do something about it is improving. The solutions are not perfect, but they represent a good start for tackling a complicated subject.
New Kids On The Block
There are several relatively new platforms that can be used to collect and database recording credits. Each has its own specialties and features, but they are basically online spreadsheets, and as such the primary caveat here is the coder’s basic creed, GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.
Off The Record pen signature image.
DDEX is a consortium of leading media companies, music licensing organisations, digital service providers and technical intermediaries, focussed on the creation of digital supply chain standards. Think of this as the infrastructure for a proper crediting format. DDEX is what will help the various proprietary credit‑logging services that follow here to interface with organisations, such as PROs and SoundExchange, that will use that information to assign credits — and payments — properly. To support the automated exchange of information, DDEX has standardised the format in which information is represented (in XML messages) and the method by which the messages are exchanged between business partners. These standards are developed and made available for industry‑wide implementation.
Jaxsta is a data‑collection platform, launched this year, focussed on accurately gathering and collating credits information for the music industry. The Australian company asserts to be a one‑stop credit shop for the music business, relying on their relationships with record labels and organisations and using that access to authenticate and verify the credits it gathers.
Veva Sound is a slicker version of BMS Chace, a Nashville firm and an early entry in the music‑data field. Like its earlier iteration, Veva Sound still works on preserving, archiving, standardising and helping to monetise sound recordings. Its new incarnation, however, is heavily involved in databasing recording credits.
Refreshingly, the new entries in this field make an effort to include producers, engineers, mixers and studios in this process, but Veva goes a step further, creating a plug‑in, called the Studio Collect and compatible with Pro Tools, that lets engineers enter credit information into the database as a project progresses.
These solutions are vastly better than what came before, which was little more than pen, paper and a bit of ambition, but they’re not perfect. The biggest challenge remains getting people to actually do the data entry. At the Music Biz conference in Nashville in May, where I had a chance to talk with some of these companies’ reps and others, engineer/producer F Reid Shippen (Deathcab for Cutie, Eric Church, Jonas Brothers) got everyone’s attention on a panel when he mentioned that he opened his mail one day to find a cheque for $12,000 — royalties for a long‑forgotten project on which he played a few instruments in addition to engineering. Even so, motivating everyone involved to participate in the process of entering credits into whichever database they use is still the biggest hurdle.
Then there’s the fact that not all of these proprietary platforms might be completely compatible, beyond the inclusion of a DDEX format. They’re for‑profit companies and they’re understandably jockeying with each other as they look for market share.
Unspoken at the relevant panels was the fact that there already are a number of credit compilations, what I’d call digital‑age legacy companies such as Discogs and AllMusic.com, and newer ones such as Genius (which focusses on lyrics but which has become an unintended repository for musician and production credits along the way). The accuracy of these largely user‑sourced Wikis can vary wildly from entry to entry, but they do offer an existing information base that could be used by newer platforms, as long as some dutiful curation is applied.
Then there’s the potential for any such platform to be gamed. Given the tremendous value that credits can offer — saying you were the engineer or the drummer or the programmer on a hit record can translate into anything from a plum new gig to royalty earnings — the need for accuracy and policing of any database is crucial. Fortunately, the connection that this next generation of credit databases has forged with record labels and key organisations will help significantly in that regard, though that’s mostly at the upper echelons of the business, leaving lots of other recordings more vulnerable. And if there are gaps in the system that can be played, it’s reasonable to expect that there are data‑adept trolls out there who will exploit them. That said, this generation of platforms for collecting and validating credits is a huge leap forward.
Getting involved in the evolving credit‑data process is absolutely necessary. The technology is improving, and best practices around it, such as who on a project is responsible for keeping up data entry, will come together over time. Over the course of a career, being properly credited for what you do will be priceless.