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News / Song Sleuth / 16 Sep 2021

5 Things To Know About Music Rights

3 minute read

So you’ve decided to dive into the world of music rights. To be honest, it isn’t an easy topic. There are layers upon layers of complications that aren’t for the faint of heart. The trick is figuring out where to start. So let’s break it down into 5 of the top things to know about music rights.

Music rights and royalties are broken down in different ways

We’ve mentioned layers already – this is an easy way to think about it. To start, each piece of licensed music has two different types of rights – master and publishing. Master rights belong to whoever owns the master sound recording. Usually, record labels own these. Publishing rights belong to the owner of the composition.

These rights get broken down into different categories. There are four main types of music royalties – mechanical, performance, sync, and print. We won’t go into more detail about them here, but you should know that within these four categories is where rights holders can collect revenue on music.

Metadata - The pickaxe and shovel behind the music gold

Now we’ve got the basic idea. Rights-holders are separated into two different categories, and rights themselves are split into four. So how do we know when a rights holder can collect royalties? This is where metadata comes in. Basically, metadata is “data about data”. Now, that definition never helped us, so let’s give you an example. Metadata in music is information about a song file like artist name, producer, writer, song title, release date, genre, etc. If any of this data is missing, it can be a problem for collecting royalties.

It gets really messy when each label, publisher, or collecting society builds its own database. Unfortunately, at the moment, there’s no single database that contains all metadata. This creates what is called “black boxes”, which is essentially when royalties can’t be tied to any specific artist because of a lack of metadata. This is why it’s very important to fill in as much data as possible when uploading music to the internet.


So you’re beginning to see the problem. You may be thinking that someone should streamline this process, and you wouldn’t be the only one. Music is everywhere, and artists and record companies can’t collect the royalties because of incomplete metadata, especially on digital media. This is why platforms like Song Sleuth are so important. Song Sleuth bridges the gap between the burgeoning world of digital media and the rights-holders that make it possible.

What's around the corner

FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) are constantly tinkering with their toys to bring more users to their services and grow subscription or advertising revenues. As tech evolves, so does the way music is being used. Lyrics can be synced with the master songs shared online. These can generate revenue, but metadata is always required. Otherwise, nobody can match songs to their rights holders.

Live Music Returns!

Everywhere around the world, live music is making a comeback. UGC, or user-generated content, will explode too. Imagine someone films a live performance. Then, they upload the video to YouTube. Once the metadata is collected, royalties are distributed. When millions of videos are uploaded regularly, rights holders can’t keep up. Even if all the metadata were put into one neat little pile, which it isn’t, the sheer volume of music is too much for rights-holders to sift through. New technologies such as Song Sleuth automate the process of matching UGC metadata to rights holders.

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