Music Reports Launches New Tool to Begin Solving 'The Database Problem'

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Music Reports has launched an unnamed rights administration platform aimed at clearing up publishing information for the millions of songs, largely from independent artists, that are digitally distributed through platforms like CD Baby and TuneCore.

Music Reports estimates 500,000-750,000 new recordings are released on streaming services every month; the company hopes to ensure that the publishing data on these songs is registered, up-to-date, and can be matched against commercially released master recordings. Since most digital distributors don't provide publishing information when placing music on streaming services, when the publishers and songwriters are not known those works are directed to a rights administration system, where songwriters or their publishers can claim those songs, allowing for publishing payments to be made.

Last month, Music Reports released its Publisher Dashboard, allowing smaller publishers and administrators to create accounts and register their songs in the company's Songdex database, which incorporates relational data, including publisher information, on tens of millions of songs, recordings and their owners.

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Recordings matched to songs without conflict can then be licensed and green-listed for streaming to Music Reports' vast array of clients in various media, according to the announcement. Music Reports works with 100 clients around the globe, including some of the bigger streaming services -- SoundCloud, Amazon, Deezer, Guvera, Microsoft Groove, Omnifone and Slacker, among others.

Music Reports is an early third-party rights administrator that started out in the '90s by assisting local television stations to manage publishing payments for music played during their news broadcasts. When the digital marketplace emerged, the company diversified into that space, using the database of songs it had built from its earlier work to assist in coordinating streaming services' licensing, accounting, and royalty payments.

"Music Reports' new claiming system is an absolute game changer for the music industry because it solves the ‘unmatched recordings' problem -- a problem that is increasing exponentially," says MRI vp & general counsel Bill Colitre in a statement. "The claiming system offers the publishing community the opportunity to bring its expertise to bear on the area it knows best: its own catalog. By providing publishers unprecedented access to match recordings and source music publishing information in this way, Music Reports is flipping a historical problem on its head and helping to ensure that every song is licensed and every royalty is paid."

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While this won't solve the problem of the major publishers working together to form a comprehensive song database, it will help surmount the data obstacle on songs with multiple writers who are represented by varying companies and societies.

The industry is in turmoil over this issue. Class-action suits have recently been filed against Spotify and Rhapsody, and more are rumored to be in the works. Concurrently, the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) is currently engaged in negotiations to reach a settlement that would see Spotify putting aside as much as $30 million to pay publishing royalties in arrears, as well as trying to solve the problem going forward.

Music Reports, through its right administration system and its dashboard, says it will have a role in solving the problem going forward -- for the smaller players too -- and ensures that in instances where the compulsory license is used, it is done so in a timely manner in compliance with the law.

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The Music Report systems "are handcrafted to be in compliance with not only the letter but the spirt of the law," Colitre tells Billboard. Moreover, with the onslaught of new music being released digitally, "crowdsourcing [the corresponding publishing information] is the only way to keep up with it," he adds. "Most bands [being distributed through companies like CD Baby] know what songs they recorded but they don't know how to handle the publishing," if they even know what publishing is.

The farther out you go on the long tail, the more likely that the artists are self published, which is one of the reasons why MRI designed its dashboard and the rights administration system. Still, in order to access the rights administration system, self published artists must register using the dashboard have to meet certain threshold requirements, including providing a tax ID. "Its not an unmoderated system, we have built safeguards so that suspicious claims can be investigated," Colitre says.