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Berklee College launches music data standards initiative

By | Published on Tuesday 14 June 2016

Panos Panay

Boston-based Berklee College’s Institute Of Creative Entrepreneurship has announced the launch of an Open Music Initiative, which aims to tackle the music industry’s big fat copyright data problem, raised in Berklee’s own ‘Fair Music’ report a year ago, and discussed at every single music conference ever since (and some before, we should add, GRD and all that).

The OMI isn’t aiming to build that big fat database – the much desired pot of music rights data listing who controls every song and recording in every territory, what creators and performers were involved, and what songs appear in what tracks – but rather to come up with some of those data standards that allow different databases to talk to each other and share information. Some standards do already exist, of course, but the feeling is that an industry-wide discussion is needed to truly address this data challenge.

Panos Panay of Berklee’s Institute Of Creative Entrepreneurship (which we’ll resist the temptation to abbreviate to ICE, as that might be confusing in a report on music data initiatives) told Billboard: “We want to help create an open-source framework for music rights and music rights licensing”.

He expanded thus: “This is less about a centralised, closed database that’s accessible to a handful of organisations; this is ultimately about creating an open-source structure to enable the registration and identification of not only music rights holders but also anybody and everybody who was involved in the music creation process”.

The OMI will focus on fixing data for new works rather than catalogue, though principles could presumably be applied retrospectively. The project, which Panay – keen, presumably, to present the venture as independent – says is funded by “gifts from donors to Berklee”, is supported by a plethora digital services like Spotify, YouTube and SoundCloud, plus the UK’s Music Managers Forum and Featured Artist Coalition. Oh, and the three pesky major music groups. It will be interesting to see how Panay and his team go about balancing the priorities of those different stakeholders moving forward.