HOW TO: Master Class: Credits Where Credits Are Due
Originally published in emusician | May 26, 2016 | BY RANDY CHERTKOW AND JASON FEEHAN
When you release music, it’s natural to focus on registering it with revenue-generating sources like Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), SoundExchange, and services like YouTube’s ContentID. As we discussed in the Master Class article “Song Release Checklist,” doing so ensures you get all the royalties you’re owed. But taking advantage of these resources alone means you’re only doing half of your homework.
There’s another set of registrations you need to do to credit everyone who worked on your song properly. Who played which instrument? Who was the vocalist? Who wrote the lyrics? And who produced, engineered, and mastered it? To attach proper credits to your release requires registering with public database sources and uploading your credit information. Updating this information is important for historical and cultural reasons; it can also improve your credibility and visibility in the music industry; and it provides fans with ways to learn about you and discover the other music you make.
For instance, music distribution sources and media like Spotify, Apple Music, MTV, and iTunes pull credits from a specific set of databases. If your credit information isn’t in those databases, then you’re losing out because these services aren’t informing their customers and listeners who’s behind the music they’re enjoying. It’s ironic that in this information age, once we lost the physical record and CD, tracking the people behind the music became harder to do. As it’s often said, if the information in iTunes today was all of the credit information we had, we’d only know of a band called Led Zeppelin and wouldn’t know anything about a guitarist named Jimmy Page.
But registering song credits is not just about music distribution. Music industry associations—such as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), which honors talent every year via the Grammys—rely on credit information in these databases. If your credit information and history aren’t there, then you lose out. Plus, credit information can let licensors know who you are so they know whom to contact to license your music.
Registering your credits for an album is not difficult and can be done in an evening; you just need to get organized and collect all of the information needed. Read on to find out which credits you should track, the various databases and services where you should register, and the information each one covers so you’ll know what to provide for each.
WHAT TO TRACK
The time to collect your credit information, or metadata as it’s known, is during the recording process. At this point in time, fields for recording credits are being added to new DAWs—a logical place to capture this information. If your DAW has this feature, you should use it. Otherwise, track all your credits and lyrics in a place that’s easy to use, like Google Docs or a spreadsheet.
The credits you should track include the following categories, at a minimum:
• Instrumentalists (list each instrument separately)
• Recording, Mixing, and Mastering Engineers
Note that these match the categories of eligibility with the Recording Academy. (And if you’re interested in becoming a voting member, you must have worked on 12 qualifying tracks in at least one of the categories found at grammypro.com/join.)
You should also consider including additional credits:
• Art Direction
You should insist that your contributions as a guest musician on other artists’ music be documented and registered at the same database services, so your contribution can be properly credited. Your work on someone else’s song might get noticed and lead people to you and your other music. This could result in more work and opportunities for you. For instance, this is how producers grow their word of mouth. Of course, you should extend the same courtesy to anyone who appears on your releases.
ROVI AND ALLMUSIC
|Visit Rovicorp.com to see the way rovi tracks credits for musicians and releases.|
If you had to choose just one place to upload your credit information, you would choose Rovi (rovicorp.com). Rovi tracks credit information and metadata for music, TV, and music players like Windows Media Player. The easiest way to find out what information Rovi provides to its media clients is to visit the AllMusic website (allmusic.com).
Go to AllMusic and get a feel for what they track for each artist and release. Make sure to click on each available tab. For example, for artists, you will see that the site tracks the biography, discography, song history, photos, and credits of all the releases where a given artist appears. Keep in mind that every bandmember is a separate artist, as is the band itself. In order to assign each credit to the right person, each bandmember must have an artist page. Also, if a person has multiple roles on an album, you need to track all of those roles when you submit the credits list. Most independent artists won’t have information listed here, and this is where the information you’ve collected needs to be entered.
The best way to start with Rovi is to search All-Music for your name (and your band name if you have one) and see if your information is already listed. If it is, check it over carefully, and keep an eye out for any errors or omissions. To make changes, click the Submit Corrections link that’s on every page.
If you’re not on AllMusic as an artist and none of your releases are listed, then you’ll need to follow the instructions on the product submissions page. This contains Rovi email addresses so that Rovi can update its database, and therefore AllMusic. To learn more about this process, read the AllMusic FAQ, which details the information you’ll need (credits info for albums, your bio, photos, etc.), and the timeline for submissions. Note that Rovi provides no time guarantees for additions or modifications. This means that if you want to make sure that your information is up when your album releases, you should complete the submission process as soon as possible.
Because the method of adding a new album or artist is manual—it’s done via email—group things carefully by artist and release, providing careful groupings by each tab that you see on AllMusic to make it easy for them to update. Make it cut-and-paste ready since this will make the process go more smoothly.
|MusicBrainz offers Coldplay as an example, to show the type of information in its database.|
MusicBrainz (musicbrainz.org) is an open music database. It began as a place to store CD metadata. But it’s now a database for all music, whether it’s released on CD or not. Similar to the Rovi database service, MusicBrainz is used by many music sources, including BBC Music, so it’s worth the time to enter your information and credits here, too.
Note that MusicBrainz goes beyond basic track titles, album names, and artist information; it contains space for credits similar to those in Rovi’s database, as well. So this is another place where you should list each contributor to your release.
To add your information, you’ll need to register to add new entries and edit existing ones. A good way to get started is to read the beginner’s guide on their site; it walks you through adding a release. There is a peer review and voting system that verifies the data you’ve uploaded, and this can take as many as seven days to process. You’ll find an explanation of the voting process online as well.
Similar to MusicBrainz, Discogs (discogs.com) is a crowdsourced database of music. It began as a database that tracked electronic music, but moved beyond it to cover all genres. It’s still known as a more complete source for electronic music, but it has more than 6 million releases in its database,. To add your information here, you’ll need to create an account and then submit your releases. You can find a quick-start guide on the site. Similar to both Rovi and MusicBrainz, Discogs tracks extended credit information, so you should submit the same data on all of these sites.
|If you’re not registered with Gracenote, online credits for your album will come up blank.|
Gracenote (gracenote.com) is a service that tracks CD metadata and powers music players like iTunes and WinAmp. If you’ve ever wondered why iTunes knows the track information when you put in a CD, it’s likely coming from Gracenote.
If you still produce CDs, entering your information into Gracenote is a must. If you aren’t listed, when your fans play your album or rip it, the artist, album, and track information will all come up blank. Many music distributors and aggregators, such as CDBaby, include a service tthat will automatically upload your album information to Gracenote. Otherwise, the easiest way to enter your data into Gracenote is to insert your CD into a computer that has an optical drive and iTunes, carefully edit the artist, album, and track information, and then submit the data. Note that while the artist and credit information is tracked in Gracenote, this service lacks the credit information that the other databases like Rovi, MusicBrainz, and Discogs all contain. Still, Gracenote is an important part of making sure that your artist data is out there when your fans are looking for it.
FreeDB (freedb.org) is an open-source version of Gracenote; it contains CD metadata such as artist name, album name, and a track listing. It competes against Gracenote mainly by being free to access and use by other services. To ensure your information is uploaded, you’ll need to submit it to FreeDB; the method is similar to Gracenote’s. To do this, you need to use one of the FreeDB-aware applications to enter your information, such as Plex, Feurio, and more.
LyricFind (lyricfind.com) is the source of the lyric information you see at AllMusic, as well as many other sites, apps, and media. If you’ve ever typed in a random lyric hoping to discover what the name of the song was, it’s possibly powered by LyricFind. Registering all of your lyrics can therefore help people discover your music. It also can make it easier for other musicians to look up your lyrics and cover your song—something you usually want to encourage, because it can increase your performance royalties through PROs.
Lyric Wikia (lyrics.wikia.com) bills itself as an open wiki website where anyone can get lyrics for any song by any artist. And, since it’s open and free, some services pull lyrics from it. Since wikis are sites that allow anyone to create or edit pages, you can easily create an account and add any lyrics from your music to the site.
|Last.fm tracks artist information, and the number of times that individual tracks are played.|
Last.fm (last.fm) collects listening information from fans all over the world who use the service. It lists artist biographical information and discographies, and it includes a page that displays the names of Last.fm members who are listening to your music—a unique way to connect with fans. The listening information is collected using a program called a Scrobbler, which tracks all of the songs you listen to on your devices so it can be shared with friends as well as compiled and aggregated by Last.fm.
It’s worth having a Last.fm account on this site both to manage your credit information as well as to connect directly with your listeners. Start by searching for your name at Last.fm to see if you’re already listed as an artist. If you are, you can create a label account and claim the page, so you can edit and control it. We also recommend creating a personal account for yourself so you can interact directly with your listeners. If you don’t yet have a page, you simply need to fill in the appropriate ID3 tags on your own music, create a Last.fm user account, install the Scrobbler program, and listen to your music with the Scrobbler on. Doing this will create a page that you can claim via your label account.
Some music services (and fans) pull their data from Wikipedia, so it’s yet another place where people find credit and biographical information about you and your music. If you have an entry, you’ll want to make sure that it’s up to date and accurate, and contains your latest discography.
If you don’t have a page, keep in mind that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and requires references to justify the entry. To have the best chance of having your entry stay on the site, you’ll need objective proof of your stature as an artist. This is where reviews, articles, and websites that talk about your music come in handy, as they provide references for the footnotes. Note that the credit information databases we discussed above are a big help for this purpose and can be used to help justify content that you add to the Wikipedia page. Because you’ll be entering that biographical information, you can then influence what appears on your Wikipedia page with an “objective source” such as an AllMusic page.
INITIATIVES TO IMPROVE METADATA
Currently, entering credit information so that music distributors, media, and other services will credit and present you correctly is very much a manual process. Luckily, there are numerous organizations working on improving this process for musicians, producers, engineers, and the industry as a whole. The Recording Academy is very involved, and its Producers and Engineers Wing is working on an initiative to address the current lack of visible recording credits and various metadata. And, if you’re curious to learn more about the technical side of metadata tracking—getting it captured during the recording process and standardizing the digital supply chain into a universal format—then explore the technical organization DDEX (ddex.net).
YOU’RE DONE … FOR NOW
Your fans deserve to know the behind-the-scenes information on your releases. They want to know who did what on each song. And your place in the music industry is partially determined by this information being accurate, up-to-date, and publicly available in all the right places. Going through all of the registrations listed here is your way to show your accomplishments to the press, the music community, and the world. Given that it only takes an evening to pull the data together, register for the services, and enter the info, these tasks should go hand in hand with every album release.