By Andy Whittle
Here at Absolute, we spend a lot of time working with metadata to ensure our labels’ releases are delivered to all stores accompanied by accurate information and optimised for the platforms they’re consumed on. Clean metadata not only helps to offer the best customer experience, but also ensures that releases have the best possible Search Engine Optimisation and visibility on stores.
Identifiers are a key aspect in digital music distribution. It’s what sets your music apart from the millions of other tracks and releases it sits amongst. It’s also what allows us at Absolute to provide you with meaningful data on who’s listening to your music, whether the majority of your listeners are downloading or streaming your music, where your listeners are from and spikes in consumption via our analytics dashboard Absolute Project.
With this in mind, it’s more important than ever to make sure that the metadata provided is not only conforming to the high data standards of our digital store partners, but to make sure you are using correct identifiers for all aspects of your releases.
Key Release Identifiers Include:
- UPC/EAN – Like any product you would find in a shop, digital music requires a bar code which identifies them as a unique, commercially available product. There are 2 main types of bar code used in digital music distribution; 13 digit EAN (International Article Number, formerly European Article Number) and 12 digit UPC (Unique Product Code). Using these, we are able to ingest information relevant to your release and display it within Absolute Project. This is particularly important for keeping track of pre-order figures.
- Catalogue Number – Although not mandatory for all digital retailers, the catalogue number is an opportunity to create a unique identifier for your release, but with more flexibility and stylistic options. This can include a section of the label name, artist name etc. to provide you with an identifier that’s not only unique, but easily recognisable. Although we supply catalogue numbers for many of our labels, there is always the option to allocate your own. Contact your label manager if you have any questions about this.
- ISRC – International Standard Recording Codes are unique identifiers referring specifically to a recording/master of a track, as opposed to ISWCs (International Standard Music Work Codes), which could potentially be associated with multiple ISRCs. An important thing to remember is that unless a track has been re-recorded or remastered, its original code should always be used. Accuracy here is critical, as many digital stores match their own internal analytics based on this (e.g. total play count across all releases a track features on), as well as being a primary identifier for music discovery services such as Shazam. This is also what allows us to provide you granular information about which tracks are your most popular and where.
Common Mistakes In Metadata:
When you work on as many releases as we do, you become familiar with common questions and issues people face when filling out metadata. Here are a few pointers to help get your data ready for distribution:
- Product vs. Track Level Metadata – One of the most common issues we find is the distinction between product level metadata and track level data. Product level metadata applies to all tracks on a release (e.g. album artist, bar code, product title etc.) so be sure to keep this in mind when filling out your metadata. This helps us to understand exactly how you want your release to be presented on stores
- Ⓟ Holder – In music distribution, there are 2 main copyrights we are interested in: The owner of the sound recordings (the ‘phonographic’ copyright) and the copyright in the release as a whole (the artwork, packaging, track listing etc.). The Ⓟ holder is commonly mistaken for the publisher, but what we’re interested in the owner of the recordings. Copyright law defaults this to be whoever paid for the recordings to take place (unless otherwise specified), so generally this will be the name of the record label.
- Volume Number – This is the digital equivalent of the “disc” number. Whilst digital has no format/space restrictions, there are times when this is appropriate to use, for example if you’re releasing a double album that you wish to make a clear distinction between the discs, or if you are reissuing multiple albums in the same package. Please remember that when using this, your release will be priced per disc, so different pricing options are available. For all other releases, we would generally expect this value to be “1”.
By keeping all of these factors in mind, you’ll be ensuring that you as a client and your fans are getting a rich and informative digital music experience on all stores and of course, if in doubt, you are always more than welcome to ask us. After all, it’s what we’re here for!