Why are there so few working administration software solutions for music publishers?
If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.
This quote is, probably falsely, attributed to Henry Ford. However, it does raise an interesting dilemma. On one side, there are potential customers with their needs, wishes, expectations, and concerns. On the other is the future technology.
Customers usually know what they don’t want. Regardless if it is slow transportation or typing the same metadata over and over again, that is the only thing that an engineer can believe. While wishes, expectations and concerns may give some guidance, they are usually misleading.
What does “faster horses” translate to in music publishing? For a generation used to a criminally slow software, it means making a much faster clone with many new features. For a new generation of creatives, it means great user experience. For people used in dealing with metadata in Excel, it means better templates.
A fast system with redundant data (implied by spreadsheets) and great user experience is not realistic. But what is? Our articles provide answers, but they are neither simple not short.
Metadata Exchange Formats
Lack of free, practical and universally usable metadata exchange formats has sustained the monopoly in administration software for music publishers.
Let me explain what free and practical mean in this context. Free means that one can use the format without any limitations. Applying for a licence is a huge limitation in this context. Practical means that it is part of the contemporary programming practices, e.g. understandable to contemporary developers. Universally usable means that it can be processed fast, regardless of the use case.
This is where music publishing has been failing. DDEX is definitely not free (its licence is incompatible with open-source licences). CWR is free, but outdated by three decades at least, and therefore not practical. Both CWR (and related formats) and DDEX are formats that do one thing. When programs that do just one thing, it is a good thing. When formats do just one thing are just electronic versions of bureaucratic forms.
There are some initiatives out there that claim to be working on new formats. But I have not yet seen any workable solution that uses any of them. Nor any institutional receiver or a service that accepts them.
If we did have such formats, then we would be able to exchange data among existing solutions and integrate them in ways that would be seamless for end users.
This brings us to the first principle: Software should be modular and each module should do one thing well.
The interface must provide seamless integration, but the functionality should be loosely coupled. And fro that, we need good formats and industry-wide acceptance of modern data exchange protocols.