Metadata, discoverability, and the digital value chain are at the heart of the discussion. Music industry business models are being transformed by technology initiatives in an effort to achieve greater transparency in the collection and redistribution of royalties to rights holders.

Whether in Quebec, Canada, or internationally, an independent and emerging artist must surround himself with a team that believes in his talent, demonstrate consistency in the release of new musical creations, get on stage, and perform for an audience. Between each release and performance, he must use the tools that best suit him to market his music and reach new audiences. Little by little, he creates a fandom and expands his horizon in order to reach all his goals.

The artistic development of an artist hasn’t changed per se since the last decades, but the increase of distribution channels and players has come to transform the way the industry works. So what does this mean for an independent and emerging artist?

The Mission

Ensuring that all required metadata is complete, accurate, and attached to the sound recording as it moves through the digital value chain.

The five elements of required metadata:


  1. Creator identification (IPI, IPN & ISNI)
  2. Full names of authors, composers, producers, performers, musicians, and contributors
  3. Title of the song and alternative titles
  4. Identification of the musical work (ISWC)
  5. Identification of the sound recording (ISRC)

These five elements are essential. When any of these elements are omitted, the identification of rights holders, the crediting of creators, and the collection of royalties are affected. 

As soon as a song is sent for distribution, it must be accompanied by all the metadata required to identify the rights holders, the musical work, and the sound recording when released to ensure that all rights holders and contributors are credited and that royalties are collected for distribution.

For example, upon distribution, the ISWC is used by Performing Rights Organisations (PROs), such as SOCAN, to identify the musical work and the rights holders. Without the ISWC, the PROs will not be able to uniquely identify the musical work, which leads to delays in royalty payments. Moreover, a musical work is only eligible to receive an ISWC when all participants have an IPI, hence the importance as an author and/or composer to join a PRO in order to obtain its IPI.

The ISWC is an optional metadata for most DSPs. Why is it optional? Obtaining an ISWC can take up to six (6) weeks and the declaration of the musical work can only be done if all (100%) rights holders are identified with their unique IPI. In addition, not all PROs issue an ISWC to an original musical work (proof of performance must sometimes be provided).

What do collecting societies do when an ISWC is missing? They try to identify the rights holders using matching techniques using other identifiers provided such as the ISRC and they work in collaboration with technology companies such as BMAT, which have a database of music and metadata augmented by all the players in the music industry.

The Challenge

Getting discovered in a music industry that is flooded by an increasing volume of fragmented data in constant circulation, as well as an increasing number of revenue sources.

It was recently announced that over 100,000 new songs are being distributed on DSPs every day. At our recent conferences in Europe, we asked a DSP the following question: when distributing new songs, what percentage of them have all the required metadata including an ISWC? The answer was only 1%. With this number of new songs being distributed weekly, how does an artist stand out and get discovered?

Découvrabilité” or “discoverability” is a term of French-Canadian origin that saw its emergence in 2016 at the “Sommet de la découvrabilité” organized by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission). The France-Quebec mission believes that this term encompasses several aspects and is in fact a phenomenon that “depends not only on the characteristics specific to the content but also on the global strategies of a few large players who concentrate cultural uses online.”

“The “découvrabilité” of content in the digital environment refers to its availability online and its ability to be found among a large set of other contents, especially by someone who was not specifically looking for it.”

MCC Quebec & MC France, 2020

So, to turn the question around: how does an artist stand out and get discovered with the recommendation algorithms on platforms?

The Solution

Encouraging adoption and awareness of the importance of metadata quality from the moment it first enters the digital value chain. Metadata quality is the foundation of an effective digital value chain. If the metadata is incomplete and incorrect at the outset, everything that follows will be a result of its quality.

By adopting metadata documentation practices early in the creative process, the burden often associated with copyright and metadata management is alleviated. MusicTeam® allows for the documentation of unique creator identifiers, full names of rights holders and contributors, song titles, identification of the musical work and all its metadata as well as the sound recording early in the creation process.  

Once a musical work and its sound recording are registered and documented, the optimisation of royalties collection is facilitated. Since all the required metadata is listed in one place, it is simple thereafter for an independent and emerging artist to export these to all the platforms, in the digital world, that allow the monetisation of cultural content.

With the constant arrival of new platforms and new environments such as Web3, the management of copyright and metadata and the identification of rights holders are crucial in order to ensure the durability of cultural content throughout the digital value chain. By taking a closer look at how the digital world works, creators, with the help of technology initiatives like MusicTeam®, will be able to navigate technological advances and adapt more easily to this ever-changing world.

  • Mission Franco-Québécoise sur la découvrabilité en ligne des contenus culturels francophones (FR) – online
  • Tips for Songwriters (EN) – online
  • #SupportCreditsDue (EN) – online