How To

Music Metadata How To: What Is Metadata?

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock


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Sync is the holy grail for many in the music industry. It is a golden egg for artists, a key revenue stream for publishers and lifeblood for others, such as music libraries. Now is a good time to cover the basics and essentials, and provide some extra tips and tricks with Metadata to help you get your music placed.

records in the music shop

What Is Metadata?

Metadata is a secondary set of data that describes and gives information about other data. A definition of metadata in the context of music is the information embedded in an audio file that is used to identify the content. If the song file itself is the data, the metadata is the song title or artist name, the track length, the BPM, or genre. Basically, it is all of the information that shows up in iTunes and even a little bit more than that. Metadata is effectively SEO (search engine optimisation) for your tracks, and also works as an incredibly useful catalogue management tool. There is a full list of metadata fields below, as well as information on their importance and usage, but for now, let’s keep it simple.

Why Is Metadata Important?

Metadata is important because it makes your music searchable. This means that people can find your music, listen to it and license it.

Here’s a scenario for you. You’ve sent some music to a Music Supervisor, who likes it enough to playlist the track and sort through the other 500 or so songs they’ve been sent that day.

However, you forget one vital component… your metadata! The supervisor searches for your track by genre (or by song title) and can’t find your track. Consequently, he or she loses interest and can’t find it in their iTunes library, which is a vast labyrinth of endless music.

Searchability is crucial, especially when you submit your track to a big metadata management tool. When a music supervisor comes back to iTunes looking for the song you sent, a reliable, full set of metadata could make you an ideal candidate preference for placements. Good metadata builds trust.

Metadata sync search

But There’s More!

So, now that a music supervisor has discovered your music and shortlisted a track, it is ready to be placed in the latest Netflix original series. But they still have to clear and license it.

They could google your artist name and song title, find your website and contact information, and then reach out to ask who owns the rights. Even then, they need to get in touch with the rights owners (which may be your label or your publisher). This entire process has taken them anywhere from a day to a few months, depending on how many rights holders are involved, and how easy it was to find the rights holder information, and how many other songs they’re clearing at the time.

By including contact information and copyright ownership information in the metadata of the song (we’ll show you how in a second), you can be ahead of the game and increase your chances of landing sync placements.

What Metadata Should I Add?

Music gateway Metadata management and cloud storage

Here is a comprehensive, annotated list of Metadata you should include in your song files.

Song Name – Any featured artists should be included here (i.e. Song Name ft. Artist) If a song is a cover, say this in the song name field – “Song Name (Original cover)” Eg. Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley cover).

Artist – Artist Name.

Composer – First name Last name – (Ownership %) (P.R.O number)/ Repeat as necessary for multiple authors. You should fill out all information with full names, PRO information (and CAE/IPI numbers wherever possible).

Year – Year the master recording was originally released.

Genre – Include if possible, very useful.

ISRC Code – Include if you have it, this will help identify your recording, and ensure you get paid properly.

BPM (Beats per minute) – Include if you have it, very useful but not required.

Rating – Do NOT include rating. Have this empty in the event supervisors want to use it themselves.

Grouping – Percentage controlled by the company clearing the master rights/ percentage controlled by the company clearing the publishing rights. Should include who is sending the song and the percent they control of a certain side. If the sender has the song one-stop, it should say so. i.e. ‘Gratitude Sound (one-stop)’. The Grouping section includes the company that is the contact the music supervisor is dealing with, not the actual cue sheet publisher name.

Comments – Contact info for licensing party. Also include “consult about territories” here if there are any issues regarding territories (i.e. if you can only clear for specific territories).

Album – Album Name.

Album Artist – Same as artist above, not required.

Disc Number – Include if you have it, not required.

Track Number – Include if you have it, not required.

If you have extra data, such as mood, or instrumentation, cover versions, or anything else, then add it where you can. Generally, the rule is more is better. Just be sure to format things so they are readable, do not use caps, and be clear and watch for typos. Is that everything? Well, probably not, but it’s a good start.

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How Do I Embed Metadata Into Files?

music gateway sync licensing

If you are signed to a record label, they will do this for you. If you’re signed to a music publishing company, they can help. Do you release music independently or just wondering how to add metadata? There are websites for metadata storage, like Music Gateway, that make this process reliable, time-efficient and easy!

Simply upload the files to your file storage area, and click ‘Edit Metadata’. We even have a music metadata editor tool across multiple files, a rare and useful tool that will save you lots of time.

Top tip: WAVs can’t contain metadata but if you create song info for them, the correct metadata will automatically embed into the MP3 conversion. You can use our WAV to MP3 file converter to do so.

What Is The Sync Portal?

music gateway sync portal

We are working with some of the best Music Supervisors across TV, Films, & Gaming, and have an exclusive channel into a large number of Advertising Agencies. We also offer a Sync consultancy service to provide you with 1-2-1 feedback on your music and invaluable advice on the sync market!

The Sync Portal is a way for our members to have their music represented by Music Gateway. We’ll be doing all the heavy lifting, so you can focus on what’s important… the music!

Read more about the sync portal and get started with it here. Not a member of Music Gateway yet? Take advantage of our 14-day no-strings-attached free trial now!

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