092 – The Importance of Metadata & Getting Credit for Your Work in the Studio – with Deborah Fairchild of VEVA Sound

by | May 10, 2018 | Podcast

These days, recording project related data doesn’t get captured the way it used to. This leads to incomplete metadata and a loss of opportunity for those involved in the recording process.

In this episode of The New Music Industry Podcast, Deborah Fairchild of VEVA Sound shares about how easy it can be to collect the right data with their Studio Collect plugin.

Podcast Highlights:

  • 00:14 – Introductions
  • 00:24 – What is VEVA Sound?
  • 01:52 – Why is metadata so important?
  • 03:51 – Why aren’t studios collecting recording data anymore?
  • 09:33 – What are some common mistakes engineers make in recording data
  • 11:14 – What have you seen people do with collecting data that surprised you?
  • 13:20 – How does the Studio Collect Suite plugin work?
  • 15:43 – Do you need a plugin like SCP to begin collecting recording data?
  • 16:37 – How can metadata help with monetization?
  • 18:18 – Where do you see things going next with metadata?
  • 19:44 – What advice do you have for audio engineers?
  • 20:50 – Conclusion


David Andrew Wiebe: Today I’m chatting with VEVA’s executive vice president Deborah Fairchild. How are you today, Deborah?

Deborah Fairchild: I’m doing well. Thank you. How are you?

David: I’m great, thanks. Thank you for asking. So tell us a little bit about VEVA Sound and what you do.

Deborah: So, VEVA Sound is an asset management company that we started 16 years ago in Nashville. And we’re the bridge between recording studios and the creatives and content owners. So we work with a lot of the major labels in the US and Europe, and Universal, Sony… Companies like that, as well as people like Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, that own their masters, we can handle the catalog transfer, legacy equipment. So we have a collaboration with Blackbird Studios in Nashville where we pretty much have every piece of machinery available from every format that music was created in. But through the years, the past 10 years, especially we’ve focused in on everything is already digital. So there’s a lot that goes on in the back end. You know, all the files, being on servers and recorded in studios and different houses and things like that. We facilitate the collection of the metadata and the audio files, and then provide it in platforms where companies and entities can utilize it and re-monetize it and repurpose it. Sorry, that was a little long winded?

David: No, that’s very helpful. Why is metadata so important? And why should credits be collected during recording sessions?

Deborah: So, it’s interesting… I’ve always been fascinated, I’ve been doing this now for 15 years, and everyone at VEVA has an engineering background. And we’ve all went to audio school and have worked in studios and part of the creative process. And what we found in our work that we do for the record labels and things like that, but for whatever reason, the concept of collecting your credits, while you create your your music is something that’s been lost in the digital age. So previously, like when we’ve done transfer work, we were literally scanning track sheets that have all of the instruments and who played on it, and what studio they were in and the date and all kinds of information descriptive, and technical metadata about the recording. And when things have gone digital, it’s really something that has been left behind. So what ends up happening is because of the way the fragmented recording process occurs, which is also really cool, you know, I can be in London and send files over to LA. And depending on the file size, they can have it in 20 minutes and download it and start working in LA on the same project. So everything is so fast paced, and people are forgetting that they need to, you know, write down who is there. So then eventually upon release, it can be discoverable and available to consumers. And so we’re really hoping with the plugin we’ve created, it’ll the ease of access to actually gather this data can start happening within the Pro Tools session, Logic session, things like that, and then travel with the session, and then ultimately reside in a better user consumer experience.

David: Why is it that many studios aren’t collecting recording data anymore?

Deborah: Well, it’s not the role of the actual studio, which I think a lot of people kind of get confused on that part too. So the role of the studio is to provide, the gear and the acoustics and different things like that in terms of a lot of people will go to a certain studio because they have a specific microphone that’s really rare. And it sounds amazing and stuff like that. But from a business perspective, it’s up to the actual engineers and producers to collect the data because then as soon as you leave the studio, you take your files with you. And the knowledge of who was there goes with you as well. So it’s more up to the individuals creating the music to actually document it because they’re the ones there. So the studios aren’t very reliable, sometimes for files, but even then, you know, once the session is paid for and done. It’s up to the person who paid for the session to keep track of the files and things like that.

David: I’m sort of imagining engineers or producers being too shy to ask for everyone’s name, or maybe just so caught up in the recording session that they even forget to ask.

Deborah: Yeah, I think it’s, it’s really fascinating to me why all of the reasons why it’s not happening. I think it is a time thing. I think people think it impedes on the creative process at times to kind of stop a session or even start a session to ask. So there could definitely be some of that embarrassment or not wanting to rock the boat or things like that. But we feel that as things continue to progress with, you know, Spotify has announced that they’re going to start doing enhanced credits, there’s a company called Jaksta, that is launching this year out of Sydney, to be a global database at this sort of thing. And open doors doing some work in… different companies are starting to display more metadata, and I think that shift is going to cause a stir within the creative community because they’ll want their names, at the point of stream or sale, or I think it lacking on that area is kind of causing an adverse effect in the studio, because, you know, the engineer’s name isn’t readily available anyway. So they’re thinking why waste time doing it,

David: So, they don’t feel like they’re being credited to begin with. So then they’re kind of going like, well, I shouldn’t have to do this.

Deborah: Yeah, it’s kind of like the chicken and the egg issue. But it’s also a bigger issue within the Grammys and getting nominated and things like that, you have to have actual credited information in order to get nominated. And a lot of people sometimes get left out of hit records, because their names didn’t get collected along the way, which is really sad, you know, it’s a big issue within the music industry as a whole. But I think there are lots of companies that are working to make it better. And so we our company is just part of the process to try to raise awareness of the issues, of course, but also show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And there will be companies that come along. So like the Jaksta company, it’s in beta right now. But you can click on a guitar player, for example, and then see every recording that that guitar player played on, which is really cool. Or mix engineer, click on a mix engineer’s name and see every album they ever mixed. So that’s something that’s really exciting and cool. That’s on the horizon.

David: That’s huge, because it’s not the same as like a ghostwriter who isn’t credited on the recording, but still collects royalties, versus somebody who doesn’t have their name on it and can’t collect anything that’s owed them.

Deborah: Yeah, so it’s really cool as far as, and also just getting work. So, you know, back when people were buying CDs, you could open up the liner notes and see the guitar player and different producers and people like that and they would maybe hear hear a sound and then contact the player because they want that that person involved or right now that’s also lost.

David: Yeah. And that kind of goes to a deeper issue as well, where so many things sound alike, and a lot of producers are copying each other or trying to emulate one another. And there’s not as many unique sounds, but in an instance where there are I think you’re right on that there’s people that would love to contact and work with you if you have a trademark sound.

Deborah: Yeah, it’s definitely… I think as more of the companies start displaying this metadata, which is definitely in the works with a lot of entities, I think our our help in it, of providing, you know, this plugin, really we’re trying to be non-intrusive, and something that engineers will want to use. So, in the grand scheme of collecting metadata around a whole project, that may seem like a lot of information, but if it’s gathered along the way and collected as they’re creating, it really isn’t that much time or effort to add the little bits of metadata as you go along. That’s what we’re hoping happens, you know, like that, it isn’t some cumbersome, big deal, a big drag, you know, like, “oh, I don’t want to do this.” It’s something that it happens in the session, it gets saved, you know, the next engineer opens the session, they can add their bit of data, and then it travels that way.

David: So, let’s say an engineer is diligent about collecting data. What are some common mistakes engineers make and recording data when this responsibility falls to them?

Deborah: Well, something we haven’t touched on yet, but this is a good segue into that is, there’s an entity called DDEX that is all of the company’s digital data exchange standardizing how data is sent around and our plugin exports a RIN file which is the recording information notifier that has all of the fields, the Recording Academy actually did a minimum field set that they would think is the minimum amount of data, the engineer should collect. And so when you export it, because of a plugin that has all of the necessary fields, and so it’s something that because visually, it’s there, then they won’t forget, because you can actually see, “oh, I need to put this in there and I need to put that there.” And then when you export the RIN file, it can flow into the, into the supply chain. So it’s giving an engineer a leg up in the sense of not having to remember or forget things, because it’s right there. You know, like when they open the plugin, and they see the song titles, and “oh, I need to add this and add myself” and it’s tracking data it adds a level of organization. So I think it’ll really help people, even the most organized ones, just do it in an easier fashion. Because right now, it’s kind of like spreadsheets or Word docs or a Google Doc or, you know, it’s just kind of all over the place. There isn’t really a structured method for it.

David: And this is a related question, but what sort of things have you seen people do when collecting or not collecting data that surprised you?

Deborah: Well, that’s part of what’s interesting about our company is we do that we do a credit, that’s part of what we do when we are working on verifying and archiving digital albums every day, is we reconcile the credits and go back and forth with producers and labels to make sure things are there. And when we’re trying to get the credits, it’s literally, we will get text messages or phone calls or an email, it’s just so scattered in terms of how it’s collected, currently. And I think the worst part is when you kind of notice, as things are going down, when you’re trying to get answers on credit that people really don’t remember, you know, because they’re collecting it maybe eight months later, and it was a session, and then everyone’s busy, and they’re working on a different song. So I think just being forgetting about people that are involved can happen and does happen, which is really sad.

David: Yeah, it is a challenge when you have so many different responsibilities, something that I’m wanting to do more of is collecting live performance royalties from the shows that I perform and, you know, submitting those songs and everything. And, you know, just like you say, it can end up being months later, when you don’t even have all the information anymore. Or when you don’t have the relevant tickets or date or whatever of the show. And you can’t get those… Or when you finally get around to it. You’re not sure all the details are there.

Deborah: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s something that it’s never, I don’t think the creative people are intentionally ever forgotten. I think it’s just like you said, they’re busy. And it’s just not in the forefront. That’s why we’re hoping the plug in and the adoption of it. And that the plugin is free. That’s also helpful. You know, it’s not something that we’re charging engineers, it’s something that we’re hoping can be a tool that they can use and integrate into their workflow. And then it becomes second nature, hopefully.

David: Well, you’ve mentioned it several times already. So how does your studio collect suite plugin work?

Deborah: So it’s a diagnostic plugin that can be downloaded and used on Macs or PCs on any sort of Logic, Pro Tools, Nuendo, any sort of digital audio workstation, and we recommend just putting it the plug in on the master fader, it doesn’t affect the audio, it’s strictly metadata. So you can download the plugin, insert it into the master fader, and then you start adding the data as you metadata as you go along. So when you start out, you know, it may just be you, if you’re an engineer, and you’re creating a beat, you would credit yourself as this is my beat, this is what I’m doing. And then you save it within the session. And the idea is if someone has your session, and they’re modifying the data that they have some sort of right to have the session, if that makes sense. So it’s locked within the recording process. And then once it’s finished, and the song is finished, you can export a PDF that can be sent around, you know, to whoever you’d like to sign off on credits, but then it also exports, the DDEX RIN file, which is an XML data file that can flow into other databases. So like you mentioned CD Baby earlier, you know, we’re hoping that we can integrate this into different companies like that where they can then import a run file and I already have all of the data and credits surrounding the song in one place.

David: Yeah, I think a lot of artists specifically would find this beneficial. Some distributors are very easy to send your music through and get it onto all the popular stream streaming platforms and online stores, while others require information that an artist would sort of be scratching their head going, “What exactly are they asking for here? What do I need to put in?” So I feel like in some ways, this is one of those things that if it was sort of taken care of artists wouldn’t have to think about it as much.

Deborah: Right. Yeah, absolutely. Like the need of who recorded what and where, really does fall on the engineer, because they’re the ones recording it and doing it. So giving them a method to gather it in a tool to keep it going along the way, is what we’re hoping the plugin does.

David: The benefits are pretty obvious. But do you need something like SCP before you begin collecting recording data?

Deborah: I mean, we feel like having it on the front end is it really is that ease of access, we were releasing a platform that’s going to coincide with it. And that will gather along the way. So the plugin right now is strictly the metadata. And then we’re releasing the platform later this year where it can replace, you know, Dropbox, Hightail, any of the file sharing services, so you can basically have all of your metadata, as you’re collecting sessions sync up with the platform, and then all of the audio and have everything in one place. So yeah, I think introducing the plugin first is our attempt to just make people aware of that it’s available that it’s something isn’t easy to use. And yeah, kind of like best practices of how to gather it.

David: You’ve alluded to this as well. But I think it’s the part that a lot of people will be excited about, in what ways can proper metadata help with monetization?

Deborah: So I think all of the issues that we’ve I feel like are been talked about a lot is the fact that the metadata isn’t getting collected, while it’s being recorded, leads to a lot of miscrediting or not crediting at all. And so that the proper crediting will with the discovery, so being in something like Jaksta, and getting more work, and actually the royalty stream if you are involved in a hit song that you may not… That’s the other thing that’s funny we haven’t really talked about, but it’s kind of like, no one really knows what’s going to be a hit, even though people try to think, Oh, I’m going to market this on this label, it’s like we were talking about before the podcast started, but for independent artists and things like that. As you’re recording techonolgy and sync licensing and everything going on, you really don’t know what can take off and explode with consumers. So gathering it at the point and knowing that it can flow with the RIN file into wherever it needs to go, will lead to proper crediting and more payments to everyone involved.

David: Yeah, that’s where a lot of assumptions can be made, right? Because I’ve even read online, there’s no discernible advantage to being like a signed artist, if you’re looking for sync, you know, or licensing and placement opportunities. Even independents do tend to get a lot of those and make pretty good money at it. So exactly. You just never know what’s going to hit. And where do you see things going next with metadata? What is your next step?

Deborah: Well, our focus is to really build things, like I said, at the beginning, we are all audio engineers, we’re all working in studios. Prior to working at VEVA and a lot of us still do work on different things. So our goal is to really provide tools and accessibility to the creative people in the industry that then they don’t have to worry about where it goes, or the changes that happen. Because there are a lot of changes going on with the DSPs and things like that to give the user experience a better experience with  a higher level of metadata. And then with that will, will bring more, I think enthusiasm back to music. So it’s kind of like people have said, you know, consumers don’t care who did what or why. And it’s kind of like, I feel like we’re in an age where there’s overload of information everywhere. So it’s kind of like why Why wouldn’t a music lover care to know more about stuff? So that’s, I’m just excited. I’m excited about, you know, the Jaksta platform launching and how that goes. And from VEVA’s perspective. We’re excited to provide things for engineers and creative people to kind of focus in on helping them stay creative and not have to be as bogged down with the details.

David: I’m sure audio engineering is something you’re passionate about. And it’s something… it’s a world I’ve dipped my toes into here and there. I know I’m not that great at it. But what are two or three things you would recommend to any audio engineer what what advice would you have for them?

Deborah: I think, for whatever reason, what’s the issue of engineers not wanting to collect the data, I think it’s stepping up in that area and being, you know, really, there are a lot of people that do that. But I think being more aware of who’s in the room and crediting them, and getting that level of detail going on every single project is just only going to make things better, because as it flows down the chain, and as it becomes a hit eight months later, a year later, then it’s something that you are involved in and every single person there is credited, and can get more work, which provides, you know, a better industry overall, like you were saying, even if it’s someone that’s not getting a royalty, but they did play on it, you know, letting that person get credited, as well.

David: Absolutely. This has been a great conversation. Is there anything else I should have asked?

Deborah: No, I’m excited to talk to you about it. And I’m excited, you know that more engineers are going to learn about the plugin and hopefully give us feedback. It’s the first iteration so they can always reach out to us and tell us how to make it better. And we’ll continue to iterate on it.

David: Perfect. Well thank you for your time and for your generosity. Deborah.

Deborah: Thank you so much.

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