June 16, 2022

Credit Where Credit’s Due: How to Fine-Tune Your Song Metadata to Get Paid

Session Studio*, a free app created by award-winning songwriter/producer Niclas Molinder, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, and producer Max Martin, helps music creators get fairly credited and compensated for their work. 

“The digital revolution has created endless possibilities to share your music on a global scale, which is fantastic,” says Molinder, who has spent decades songwriting and producing for artists like Miley Cyrus and Mary J. Blige as well as running his own publishing company RedFly Music. “But, it’s also created a huge problem for the creator, which is ensuring that if your music is used, played or performed, you get fairly rewarded.” 

Session Studio, “does all the heavy lifting in terms of capturing the necessary IDs,” says Molinder. “Creators simply need to use [it] when they’re writing, recording and sharing their music. 

We spoke with Molinder about the music ecosystem’s challenges with data and specific guidelines creators need to know so they can get more consistently credited for their work.

Noteable: Why don’t music creators always get paid or credited for their music? 

Molinder: “When creators upload music onto websites or submit it to a distributor, a label, or even share it via email, the essential song and recording information is often absent. Tens of thousands of tracks are released every day, the majority missing the key information. Industry organizations, including Spotify, [reward] creators to the best of their abilities, but they are limited to the information they have on file. When creators, managers, or labels try to look back in time to figure out who did what, where, and when on a song, it becomes almost impossible.” 

What song and recording information should creators include with every release?

“Much like you have a social security number or a passport ID, in the music industry there are a number of identifiers (IDs) to connect creators to their work. Many different people can have the same names, song titles, or album titles, so you need identifiers to keep track of an individual’s work. There are five different types of song and recording IDs that you need, which is why it gets a little complicated. 

What are those five key identifiers?

[Please note that the word ‘song’ here means the musical work]

“1. The IPI is the code to identify songwriters: If you are a songwriter or contribute to the creation of the song, you must have an IPI number so people know who to pay! To get an IPI number, you need to sign up [with] a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). 

“2. The ISWC is the code to identify the song: The ISWC is an ID for your original song, so the lyrics and melody. So, if you or someone else records your song and gets 10 million streams, you will get credited and rewarded if your song has an ISWC. You will get an ISWC code by registering the new song with a PRO or a publisher.“

“3. The ISRC is the code to identify the actual recording: The ISRC code identifies each unique recording. You can get an ISRC automatically created with Session Studio, or with a distributor or label. There must be a unique ISRC for all recordings on a song, for example an album version and a live version of the same song.”

“4. The IPN is the code to identify performers: If you perform on a recording of a song in Europe, you need an IPN to ensure you’re fairly credited and receive your neighboring rights. To get an IPN, you need to register with a Collective Management Organization (CMO), who collects on behalf of performers, since PROs collect on behalf of songwriters. The IPN represents music performers.

“5. The ISNI is the code that brings the other four together: ISNI is a public ID that can be seen by all. By adopting an ISNI, artists, songwriters, and other creators can be unambiguously identified and therefore credited for their work. The ISNI links your other IDs together and keeps track of you as an individual for your contributions, both on the musical work and also as a performer on the recording.”

Do you need all five identifiers?

“That depends. If you compose, record, and perform music, then yes, you need all five. If you’re a songwriter, you only need to worry about the IPI, ISWC and ISNI. If you're a performer, you’d only need to worry about the IPN and ISNI. Different companies use different IDs, so the best thing to do is use a tool like Session Studio to capture every relevant ID possible.” 

When you get all five of your identifiers, what next?

“If you have all five IDs, when anyone, anywhere in the world uses your music, you can be identified, and ultimately credited and/or paid. The important thing to do as a creator is ensure that you include your identifiers when you or your team share or release your music to anyone, anywhere.” 

Why is it so complicated?

“As a creator myself, I understand that not all creators love the admin and ID [parts]. This is compounded by the fact there are so many people involved in the making of music, and most people don’t track who did what, when, and where at the point of creation. We’ve designed Session Studio to be super simple for the creator to attribute their IDs to all their music, without having to know the details, and to help creators at every stage in this journey. It has collaboration, recording and performing tools. It collects every role and contributor in the studio. If you’re performing on a recording, you simply check-in using a QR code. You can organize and agree on splits, and then when you want to release, Session ensures all your information goes with it. For producers, Session Studio is a lifesaver; it takes care of the administration that takes up a lot of time.”

“When it comes to sharing your final song, Session Studio makes sure you have all the necessary IDs attached. Simply send a share link to anyone, or directly to labels (and soon, publishers) in the format they expect it.” 

How does Session Studio ensure your IDs are 100% correct?

“We have something called Creator ID verification. We verify IDs, but we don't make it public. We just make sure that every time a songwriter or a performer walks into the studio, they are identified, and the IDs will be automatically linked and matched with the only ones that the PRO thinks should get access to it. No one else. Session Studio is completely free, and is available as a mobile, web, and desktop app at www.session.id.”

*Session Studio received some funding from Spotify last year ahead of its December 2021 launch.