Apple has responded to calls from classical music fans to include composer information in the metadata of Apple Music by launching a minor new update to the service.
iTunes update 12.3.2 will brings the desktop version of Apple Music in line with the recently released iOS 9.2 version of the app.
Here’s the important bit: Apple has told users that it will allow them to ‘see works, composers and performers while browsing Classical music in the Apple Music catalog’.
If that sounds like a fairly mundane improvement, you’re not thinking through the consequences.
Music publishers have long bemoaned the lack of public-facing songwriter credits on streaming services, not to mention inaccurate and missing songwriter metadata behind the scenes – an issue that is directly contributing to dire financial consequences.
But it’s a start. And for publishers and songwriters living in hope that their representation on streaming services will change, it can only be a good thing…
In October, NMPA president and CEO David Israelite estimated that as much as 25% of due royalties are not being paid to publishers by streaming services – or are being distributed incorrectly – because the publishing/songwriter metadata is wrong or missing on the likes of Apple Music and Spotify.
The founder of Downtown Music Publishing (John Lennon, Ray Davies, Hans Zimmer), Justin Kalifowitz, told MBW this month: “The record companies, on a weekly basis, upload thousands of new sound recordings that utilise underlying song copyrights without including the metadata of who the publisher and songwriter are. The amount of uncleared music that goes online is insane – even for big hits.”
The problem is a historical one: the days of record labels supplying composer data (‘label copy’) to third parties has gone. An attempt was made to create an authoritative global database of this information – the so-called ‘GRD’ – before it collapsed after territory-specific PROs pulled out of funding.
Apple appears to have just become the first DSP to publicly launch the ability to carry user-facing songwriter information. Whether or not it will allocate its own taskforce to filling in the songwriter blanks, or expect the music industry to get its act together, is another matter.
So let’s not get carried away: Apple Music’s functional update is genre-specific and the platform certainly hasn’t committed to sorting out composer information itself. (Classical music labels will likely provide the metadata here, as searching by composer is arguably more essential for customers in their genre than it is in pop/hip-hop/rock/R&B etc.)
But it’s a start. And for publishers and songwriters everywhere, that can only spell good news.Music Business Worldwide