There has been much talk about the need for a global repertoire database in music. I would go further and say we need a global content database in culture.
But how could such a thing even come into existence? On such a vast scale, the integration of so many different types of database seems endlessly challenging. Really big outfits like Deloittes and really smart outfits like PPL have struggled to figure out how to create their own futures when just keeping up with the present seems such hard work.
Well some of the questions we need to ask are about who is paying for the current investment and the investments that have been made to date – and who do we think will pay for the investment required in the future to achieve our collective global ambition?
If those who have paid in the past are not the same as those who we think will pay in the future, then some kind of reconciliation of the delta is required.
My guess is that for the greatest part of this, the cost has always in the past and will always in the future be largely borne by artists and writers, albeit that those costs are taken for them as often as not by their agents – labels, publishers, collecting societies.
If you were to ask artists if they thought that the information gathering and data massaging that they had paid for should remain in private hands or be made publicly accessible – I suspect that the majority would say that they would prefer that their authorship, performance or other contribution should not remain a trade secret but be a matter of publicly accessible record.
I had suggested that it should be put in the public domain, but I didn’t mean it the way some people interpreted that. I meant simply that anyone should be able to access the data – but not be able to alter it. Who we might ascribe that amendment right to, will no doubt be the topic of further discussion.
So how to avoid duplication in the global effort as against current industry efforts and how to facilitate integration?
By distinguishing them from one another.
While every collecting society and data aggregator worth its salt is busy cleaning its data and trying to improve its current service offering, very little effort is being made to consider a model for the future. In fact, the more pressure PROs and the like come under to “clean up their act” the more likely they are to focus on the here and now – and not on the future…
We need to create a separate model for our forward-looking activities. We need to create a new database for new data going forward which is created in parallel to but separate from the ongoing updating of current databases in their current silos. We need to create a new database where the rights information is properly integrated across the fullest range of relevant rights owners possible. And the guys who are doing the data collection currently need to feed all new data into their current systems and the new one concurrently.
Apparently in quantum physics, there is a theory that says that lines which are parallel today will meet at the point of infinity.
My concern is that our current industry practice is such that we are in danger of the opposite happening. That is to say however much convergence we may wish for, our lines of parallel activity will never meet if we continue to pursue them in the way that we are conducting business today.
But we can’t let our current business needs lapse, so we need to do some extra work in order to invent the future to which we aspire.
We need to create a new model database with a completely integrated data structure which is populated by new releases from a go forward date as fully as possible – in parallel to current activities. And it needs to be as fully fledged as possible with as much functionality as possible built into it so that a new structure of accessing this data and offering services based on it can come into being. This is a structure which sees integrated bundled data being accessed equally by all those organisations who wish to do so.
And this aggregation of the full range of data sets – could subsequently be added to by data about other related content to enable even faster, more effective rights clearance and payment mechanisms that could potentially extend across all content types not just music.
These new contributing organisations, collecting societies, PROs – whatever we want to call them – can then compete with one another for the business of their members – but not for the rates that they charge licensees – only for the cost of their services. Because they should not be any more interesting than that – they are not for profit!
Get this right and it’s just possible that we might be able, collectively, to invent our own future as opposed to continuing to be strangled by our own collective past.