While I write this, I obviously can’t say who I am referring to but let’s just say, it is pretty much like this across the board in the music industry aside of a few efficiently ran companies that don’t have the problem I am about to write about.
Quick Disclaimer: For the sake of you understanding, a digital service provider or “partner” are companies that you likely use to listen to music. Also, this isn’t a problem specifically to us but rather, to all Distribution companies and record labels that have direct deals thus why I consider it to be a problem with the music industry.
Our business, as you may know, is Music Distribution. Whenever I say that, I always feel inclined to give folks a simple explanation of what we do by stating that if you are a musician, we let you use our system to upload your music, and that system then delivers that music to all of the digital service providers that we work with.
Doing that job however, isn’t as easy as us giving someone a CD or a USB drive and really, that’s one of the main reasons that we do what we do. To do the hard work of delivering music so that musicians and record labels can concentrating on putting out great quality art.
In short, we have to conform to specifications from every single partner that we deliver to and ensure that we deliver the said content in the exact method that they need it so that every consumer can sit back, relax, and jam out. Fortunately, and with full transparency, there are now standards that most digital service providers are using but nonetheless, the job of doing this essentially requires us to be more of a tech focused company than a music focused one.
If we as a company deliver to hundreds of partners, then that means there are hundreds of different methods that we have to deliver music in. Hundreds of different album cover sizes, hundreds of different audio file types, and hundreds of different files that piece all of the packages together. These files are called “XML’s”. Some (most) partners accept XML’s but there are still a few that have different and specific niche ways of delivering.
To further complicate matters, since we work in the Sync Licensing field also, Music Supervisors and Ad Agencies don’t really care about XML’s and want music in a way that is easy for them to listen to and search. That means tagging songs not necessarily by genres but rather, by moods, feelings, key words, etc. (Yeah.)
So, with you knowing a little bit more about the process to distribute music, I can FINALLY say what it is that annoys me personally.
Let’s say there is a record label with about 100 songs. If the record label wishes to change their distribution relationship, they have to ensure that they take their catalogue down from the distributor and further, the distributor has to ensure that the catalogue is taken down from all of the partners that it is delivered to.
Sounds pretty standard right?
Well, just like how I mentioned that there are so many different delivery methods, there are also many different takedown methods and further, methods to update releases. That means anytime a client makes a mistake or the master is incorrect, we have to either take down and/or update the release with our systems.
Now that you know that, picture this “problem” as follows:
In order to actually update or take down a release, we have to deliver a XML that references the update and/or takedown, and in most cases, no matter who it is, what the problem is or anything, we are forced to have to deliver an XML file.
Yes. We can’t even email or call a partner to take something down, we have to send a freaking XML file.
You may be saying, “Dude, it’s no big deal, just do your job”. And in your defense, if you’ve made it this far, yes, I’d probably say that as well BUT, here is where the real problem and frustration comes. (Do you like how I hype it up?)
Let’s say that we as a company absorb another distributor with hundreds of thousands of releases that comprise of I don’t know, about 1 million songs.
If we as a company are buying an entire entity that has delivered to a digital service provider, in MOST cases, the digital service provider or “partner” as I like to call them, DEMAND that we send in takedowns for each and every one of those releases and then further, redeliver the exact same release but just under our account.
Sigh. Yes, everyone wants to do double work and digital service providers are more comfortable with having to pay for storage and bandwith costs, have a content representative review this transition and further, potentially have music taken down from their platform than just simply have a process to transfer a piece of music from one “account” to another “account”.
I find this to be quite annoying and frankly counter productive.
The worst and truthfully, MOST annoying part of this entire process isn’t even what I mentioned above but rather that these companies are multi billion dollar corporations that invent AI, cars that drive themselves, or hell, even a way to send you music based on your interests. They spend so much effort and time being able to develop such great and advanced technology but, to transfer something from one to another, its a greek tragedy.
This problem hurts their platform, hurts their consumer base, and it doesn’t even cut down on costs, more specifically, our costs (Yes, as a bootstrapped business I have to bitch and moan about it).
So, Music Industry, to close my very long rant……
It is now 2017. You are experimenting with VR, AR, freaking whatever R and getting billions of dollars invested to develop technologies, can you maybe spend a week or less to build something that makes it easy to simply move one release from one provider, record label, distributor to another without requiring this ridiculous and annoying step?
Time shall tell.