What freelance artists need to know about data transformation



There is a fundamental disconnect between the writing of songs and the recordings that bring them to the world. This means that collecting all the money owed to a creator can be a daunting task. Enter the data transformation.

By Chloe Johnson, Head of Client Relations and Strategic Partnerships, Check media

Data has never been a sexy topic, but like a gripping Greek tragedy, it has layers of drama and intrigue if you take a closer look at the problem independent artists face. Low royalty payments from streaming, drop in sync offers, difficulty getting on playlist, streaming music into a void – it can seem like a bane for a freelance artist to release music in the era. digital. And we are all sick of the plague. So, to get to the heart of these issues, we must first identify the dark mass that surrounds our protagonist: and that is the disconnect between songwriting and recordings. We must then identify the weapon that can overcome the dark: data transformation.

Words like “transform”, “translate” and “resolve multi-party differences” are littered across the Verifi Media website like streamers after a midsummer parade, but we understand they can have very little impact. meaning for the community of independent artists that we exist to serve and protect. So… we’re here to demystify the data problem under our noses and start working smarter in the 21st century.

What are companies like Verifi Media transforming, and why?

To understand why someone would even want to transform data formats in the first place, we first need to remember the two types of IP inherent in every record. 1) The underlying composition itself (think: sheet music, lyrics, chord boxes, TAB) and 2) the main recording itself (think: .wav, .mp3, vinyl, wax cylinder). The underlying composition is controlled by the publishing industry (publishers, ad administrators, PRO, CMO, mechanical licensing bodies, etc.) and the main recording by the recorded music industry (labels, distributors, neighboring rights companies, digital service providers / streaming services).

There is already a complexity formed by the fact that your new version has two datasets and at least eight agencies / organizations responsible for pursuing your royalty payments. On top of that, these two sides look more like distant cousins ​​than siblings, and that’s because each side uses a different data format and standard. If you think of these standards as different languages, then what we mean here is that your publisher could speak French and your label could speak Japanese, leaving you stuck in the middle without a translator.

The two industry standards we talk about the most are DDEX and CWR, which can be served in a multitude of file formats (like .xml, .csv, .txt, .v21, etc.) and require expert software. to open and decode messages. contained in files without data loss. DDEX is widely used for recorded music only (although formats such as BWARM seek to marry recording works and data), and CWR is for publishing data.

Many platforms (Verifi included) want to make it easy for independent artists to enter data using plain text, but as soon as it is shared with partners like Apple, Spotify, Deezer, ASCAP, BMI, PRS, etc. transformed into standards such as DDEX and CWR. Once Humpty Dumpty falls off the wall, it takes all of the Queen’s horses and all of the Queen’s men to put Humpty back in place, and even royalty makes mistakes.

Reconstruct works and recordings

Often freelance artists ask, “Hey, it’s not tracking this data that my [insert publisher, label, distributor, manager, mom, etc.] is for?”


  • Works in the CWR standard cannot be read by most DSPs, and DDEX deliveries do not always include the works. This means that organizations looking for writers and editors to pay from the black box are struggling to speak the same data language and know who to pay.
  • Publication data is rarely shared by a label or distributor with DSPs, meaning that publishers and performing rights organizations (PROs) must explicitly claim ownership of recordings in order to charge songwriters. In itself, that’s not a big deal, but who tells those editors and PROs that there’s a recording for a song? If it is not the creator, then it may not be anyone.
  • PROs (if you are registered with them) collect performance royalties for works, but not neighboring rights (performance royalties for recordings paid outside the United States) or mechanical royalties for physical copies and digital distribution. This means that you need to be registered with several companies and organizations across the world to ensure that you are getting paid your various royalty streams.
  • Distributors often only collect the royalties owed to you on a recording and do not deal with the publication. Often, creators make the mistake of not going through publishing administration with the vendors that offer it, seeking additional editorial representation when releasing a new record, or verifying their international representation.
  • The most successful pieces get the bacon. If a song performs well, it benefits from fuzzy logic when companies “guess” what royalties are owed to an artist based solely on streaming performance / radio play. This means that smaller artists are unlikely to see all of the royalties that might be owed to them, as it’s not worth cleaning up and claiming bad data.
  • Part II on the above – if the MLC cannot match its “historic” DSP royalties, it will start paying the amounts accumulated for more than three years based on market share (i.e. those who are already bringing home the bacon are about to bring some more bacon home). It could start as early as 2023.

Long story short, the people responsible for cleaning and managing your catalog may not be enticed, empowered, or permitted to collect from all of the different sources you owe. Even superstar organizations that do all they can for their creators face issues translating data into and out of different data standards (like CWR and DDEX), and the whole process from top to bottom such as it turns out today is far too complex for the average designer to dip their toe in.

This begs the question, wouldn’t it be easier if we had a way to easily transform data in and out of these standards, like some sort of global transformation layer, or Rosetta Stone of data?

This autumn, Check media launches a beta platform with everything a creator, management team, label or publisher needs to:

  1. translate data in and out of any required standard and format
  1. link assignments and recordings in a way that allows all parties to see connected participants
  1. locate and correct known discrepancies between data users

While it’s important to recognize that there are different industry standards, you don’t need to be fluent in both languages ​​to feel in control of your rights or understand where they exist in this complex new world and intangible. We’re here to transform behind the scenes!

Chloe johnson is based in London as Head of Client Relations and Strategic Partnerships at Check media. In addition to its role technologist, Chloe is also a specialist in the supply chain and direct contact with fans for independent artists with 10 years of experience in the industry, and the founder of Additional magic advice.



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