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Intellectual Property Office puts the spotlight on the music rights data problem

By | Published on Thursday 20 June 2019

The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has published a report on the music industry’s big fat data problem, recommending more education and collaboration within the music community, and better sharing and governance of the sector’s copyright data.

The lengthy document – based on a project instigated by veteran artist manager Peter Jenner and research by Ulster University – reviews the various issues around music rights data. It explains how the music industry’s incomplete, inconsistent and incompatible databases cause various issues, in particular in getting people credited for their work and paid whenever their music is played.

Those issues have, in the main, already been much debated within the music community in recent years, especially around the collapse of the music publishing sector’s Global Repertoire Database project in 2014 and the subsequent flurry of music conference panels on whether or not the bloody blockchain may be part of the solution.

The new report puts all those issues in one place and confirms that pretty much everyone in the wider music community – including labels, publishers, collecting societies, streaming services, artists, songwriters and their advisors – now agree that music rights data issues are negatively impacting on the music business and the livelihoods of music makers.

Commenting on the report, IPO boss Tim Moss says: “The UK music industry is a global success story that provides tremendous cultural value to the UK. Consumers have access to an almost unlimited choice of musical content. With this success and breadth comes the challenge of managing the huge volumes of data created. This could include who wrote the song, where it was recorded, who played on it [and] who owns the rights to it”.

“By resolving the issues identified in the report”, he goes on, “new technology such as standardised AI-enabled data management can help join up an often fragmented industry, improve standards and deliver real benefit to music creators, performers and publishers alike”.

The Ivors Academy hosted a preview of the new report earlier this month and its CEO Graham Davies has now formally welcomed the work. “We knew there was a data problem”, he said earlier this week, “[and] this report concludes that it needs urgent joined-up action if creators are going to get paid fairly and accurately”.

He went on: “This is important now but becomes even more important as consumption of music increases online. We can and will help creators become more educated and empowered to manage their data as the report suggests, but we also invite those organisations that are paid to manage creators’ data to explain what needs to be done to solve the issues raised in the report. We are keen to build on the positive change already underway and support the development of an industry music data roadmap that we can report on as we move ahead”.

One key problem for a while now has been that – although pretty much everyone in the music rights industry agrees that there is a data problem to be solved – no one can quite agree who should solve it. There are various database, data sharing and data standard initiatives underway already, of course. Though unless one single solution is going to win through, fixing the challenge also requires fixing the challenge of ensuring joined-up thinking between those fixing the challenge. Which sounds like fun.

On the back of the report the IPO is inviting key stakeholders to propose and consider practical steps forward. In the meantime, it has made four top line recommendations as follows…

1. Improve education and awareness to improve standards of data input.
2. Collaborate to improve communication across a diverse and fragmented sector.
3. Develop technical solutions to allow for interoperability of databases developed in isolation.
4. Develop data governance to ensure adherence of data standards, learning from approaches in other sectors like banking or internet domain names.

You can download the full report here.