The following is a guest post by Carl Fleischhauer, a Digital Initiatives Project Manager in NDIIPP.
In mid-October, BMS/Chace of Nashville, Tennessee, released the “first generation version” of a software tool to support the collection of metadata for the multi-track, multi-session sound recordings being produced in the music industry today. The Metadata for Recorded Sound project was one of the NDIIPP Preserving Creating America partnerships, carried out from 2006 to 2010. As part of the project, BMS/Chace developed the Content Creator Data (CCD) tool, as well as the data dictionary and XML schema that it implements, in cooperation with the Recording Academy (the Grammy award folks), and representatives of major record labels.
What is at stake here? In part, the metadata is intended to facilitate business relationships within the recording industry. Producers are contractually required to deliver certain materials to the record labels (a charmingly quaint term in this digital age). In turn, the labels or their agents put the recorded music into commerce as physical CDs, downloadable files, generally sold by third parties. At every turn, there is a need for descriptive, administrative, and technical metadata.
As the diagram shows, some metadata is best collected in the tracking and overdubbing segments of the content life cycle. Later, additional administrative metadata can be collected in the mixing segment. Toward the end of the production cycle, when the release is mixed, mastered and prepared for distribution, there is a need to collect and link additional administrative metadata (this might be where the working title turns into the for-release title), and to describe the final technical formats (where is the final multi-track and how is it configured, is this the stereo or the surround mix and, if surround, which flavor, etc?). The masters and derivatives also need to be linked with the identifiers used in commerce and long-term preservation, e.g., the International Sound Recording International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) and the Digital Data Exchange (DDEX) identifiers and associated metadata.
What is the Library of Congress stake in all of this? The recordings are part of our cultural heritage and standardized metadata will support archiving and preservation by the labels and also by memory institutions. For their owners, the sound recordings are assets that have (they hope!) multi-year cash value. Meanwhile, copies are acquired by the Library of Congress (via copyright processes) as well as by other libraries, e.g., those that serve university music departments. The metadata associated with the content will help all parties manage it and provide access over the long term. Only through effective metadata capture and linkage can we hope for creators, performers, and content owners to be accurately credited and compensated for their work.
It is too soon to say how well this tool will catch on. Two major labels conferred with BMS/Chace as the project moved forward and representatives of those companies are making trial runs with the application. Meanwhile, Maureen Droney, Senior Executive Director of the Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing, says, “We once had systems in place for documenting the recording process, but with our transition from analog to digital recording and distribution there is now a huge void where those systems used to be. The CCD application is a huge step in the right direction to help recording professionals gather and archive important information at the source—where music is being created.”