In the Introduction, I hinted that metadata management should start as early as possible. If one creates a musical work and does not record it, it is right then and there, but today musical work and recording, if only informative, are often made at the same time, especially in production music.

A Futile Start

Several potential customers had an idea to create a VST plugin, so the musical work can be registered immediately without the nuisance of going through the web forms, via CWR, and ISWC can be obtained. I created a CWR file for one of them. For the record, CWR does allow for registrations sent by writers for if they do not have a publisher (at the time). He sent it to BUMA/STEMRA, who sent him to ICE Services, who “process CWR for them”.

Then ICE Services answered: “Currently, ICE does not support this, and I would suggest that you get back to Buma Stemra and ask if they are able to find a solution for how you can register bulk unpublished works. ” It turned out that there isn’t one. (September 2018)

Now, this is the actual story, but this society is no worse than most, in fact, it is, in my opinion, one of the best ones in many ways. And I can only praise ICE Services for CWR processing and support they provide. But this is a good example of how societies and other organizations, mandated to solve these issues, are really the main problem.

Immutable Data

Actually, registration in a society is not what is needed at this point. It is really only about obtaining ISWC. And for that, the minimal data is:

  • Work title
  • For each of the writers (composers and lyricist):
    • Last name
    • First name
    • Role (C, A, CA)
    • IPI Name or IPI Base number

And these things never change. Additional data can be added later, eg. alternate titles and publishers. There is absolutely no reason why it should be done after the registration, in fact, it should be done before. But this is beyond the scope of this article.

The reason why defining this immutable data and including an ISWC is important is because this data can then be integrated into the recording metadata straight away. But, obtaining ISWC currently takes several weeks. By then, a lot of recordings have already gone into the next step. And it is too late.

Best Scenario Today

Taking into account these two obstacles, the fact that there is no way to electronically register without a publisher and that it takes so long to obtain ISWC, I made Django Music Publisher, an open source solution for music publishers. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the simplest solution to do this process as soon as possible. More about it can be found in the official documentation and these articles.

For this context, what is important is that it allows original publishers to register works with CWR and then import ISWC from society exports. In the 19.7 version released in July 2017, CWR 3.0, including ISWC handling, was added, as well as new comprehensive JSON exports.

Agreement-driven approach

From this point on, software should be based on applying agreements to the immutable data, not changing the data itself. This will be covered a bit later in the series. The next article is, actually, an older one, that fits right in here.