As the digital music economy has shifted into the streaming age, the music business has increasingly been forced to confront one of its most glaring issues: incomplete, missing or just plain incorrect metadata in song recordings, which hinders and sometimes prevents artists and creators from getting paid for their work.
Several approaches have been tried over the years, many focused on creating a central database of recordings, though none have yet come to fruition. But with the relatively recent rise of the blockchain as a potential solution to myriad data issues across a slew of different industries, a few organizations have turned to the technology to create a transparent, open-source registry where creators, publishers and copyright owners can claim their works using its decentralized database. And DotBlockchain Media (dotBC), co-founded by Benji Rogers and led by CEO Ken Umezaki, has helped lead that charge by signing up several rights organizations to help create a system where rights owners can get paid for their music, one stream at a time.
Now, DotBlockchain has signed a partnership with payments and metadata company Exactuals in order to verify the metadata that it intends to input onto its database, aiming to begin with the most accurate accounting of rights ownership it can muster ahead of a forthcoming launch. Exactuals’ RAI software allows for music companies to input and correct data for song recording metadata, and add additional information where required.
“The blockchain is an exhilarating new frontier for the music industry, but its potential applications are limited or invalidated when using low quality or incorrect metadata,” said Exactuals’ head of music product Chris McMurtry in a statement. “With RAI, Exactuals works with music organizations of all types to ensure their music metadata is as clean and correct as possible when it is added to the blockchain. Thanks to this partnership, our clients will now have the highest level of confidence in the accuracy and completeness of their data while leveraging the many benefits of dotBC’s blockchain based solution for catalog management.”
DotBlockchain’s efforts have been in the works for the past several years, and in early 2017 the organization signed partnerships with SOCAN, the Canadian-based performance rights organization, and SOCAN’s rights administration subsidiary MediaNet; publishing royalty administrator Songtrust; indie music distributor CD Baby; and digital rights service FUGA, giving it a 65 million-song starting point to attempt its ambitious undertaking. Since then, dotBC has been working with the music industry to implement its plans, partnered with CardStack on the development side and is one of a few different companies working on the problem of protecting creators and getting them paid in an era when micro-economics begin to add up into the level of royalties that can become meaningful for creators.
Separately, McMurtry has worked on the metadata issue for several years now, and developed RAI (shorthand for royalties.AI) as a tool that helps match different datasets and databases — such as master recordings and publishing, for example — to resolve conflicts among separate recordings of the same copyright in order to help clean up and better organize that metadata. Exactuals purchased RAI in 2017 and brought McMurtry on board to help launch its music-focused product, which led to this new partnership.
“For our blockchain solution to work as intended, we need to start with the most correct information possible,” said Umezaki in a statement. “RAI and the Exactuals team provide the expertise and algorithmic data normalization services that allow us to realize the true potential of our multi-party music rights management solutions for all of our clients. We are excited about formalizing a longstanding relationship with Exactuals, and continuing to develop a modernized music rights framework fit for the digital age together.”