Thursday, June 05, 2014

ISWC Standard

 There are a number of successful music and other audio content monitoring companies active globally today.  They succeed an even greater number that were not successful but let's not dwell on that. (Anyone remember Verance?) Btu the problem with all these systems, both fingerprinting and watermarking is that they rely on a canonical, sacrosanct database of music in order that they too can be canonical and/or sacrosanct. And you can argue about percentages and root accuracy but the truth is in the old adage: garbage in, garbage out.  In the US, companies like Rovi and Gracenote do very well.. even freedblorg is very useful.  But all of them struggle somewhat with the minutia of metadata and versioning: remixes, edits, mash-ups, alternate versions etc.

The problem is that among all the companies in the industry who create, store, aggregate, and use this data, there is no consistency. It sounds like a small problem but It can be a big problem if you're drawing data from multiple sources as many do. This can create problems tracking airplay, paying royalties, creating charts, planning distribution and sales. The solution is often to offer less granular data. In other words, it could be a lot better.

The news today is that BMAT (Barcelona Music and Audio Technologies) signed an agreement with CISAC, (International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies). Please don't confuse them with SESAC.  Under the deal BMAT adopts CISAC’s ISWC standard (International Standard Musical Work Code.)   It's described as a "unique, permanent and internationally recognized ISO reference number for the identification of musical works.”  It's probably premature, but this this could be the first international standard for music metadata. BMAT isn't even the first adopter, but they're probably the most high-profile. It's already used by APRA, ECAD, SIAE, and many others.. but in the US it's only used by Song Code... who I've never heard of.

The ISWC standard is simple. It provides a unique id number for each work: a 9 digit number preceded by a T and followed by a 1 character numeric check number. This cross-references with the title of the work, composers, authors, arrangers and  their IPI numbers and role codes. It also includes the a classification code from the CIS standards list. Versions are coded to identify the source work or works.