The many faces of transparency in the music value chain
Transparency is a wide concept. For decades statements coming in from record labels or distribution companies have been far from easy to read or to challenge. Transparency has often been a contract line allowing for annual audit of books by your lawyer and accounting firm. With computers, digital and the technical capacity to generate automatic reports, some naïve thinkers thought that suddenly accounting transparency would become easy to achieve. Transparency when reporting on usage that is. But then two icebergs would be hit. Honesty would be the first one and bigdata crunching would be the second one (speak about this with the guys at Transparency Rights Management). Without honesty, transparency will ever remain a principle. Once honesty is established, costs involved in building reporting systems might just kill the cat.
Aside from transparency will and capacity in reporting, there is the issue of transparency in negotiation, disclosure of deals points and stock options by the industry stakeholders. Both David Byrne in his recent article for Billboard (read the full version on http://davidbyrne.com/) or the Songwriters Association of Canada and Music Creators North America fostering a study on the economy of sustainable practices for the music industry have started to address that one. My fear is that advocating for more transparency from money driven endeavour might just give way to a big clash between creators and private companies. As we know, some wars never end.
How can we achieve more transparency to the benefit of society, creators and the cultural industries? As far as I am concerned, I believe this could be achieved by weighing in the consumers and music lovers interests. Ultimately, empowering music metadata and users tags, asking for the legitimate reintroduction of accurate production credits for creators and contributors on a recording project, could force the definition and construction of new descriptive standards and interoperable databases. Open data and collaborative databases like MusicBrainz, ISNI or Discogs should be a concern shared by creators and music listeners alike. Fairtrade music platforms would be happy to enrich the information available on playlists and contents. This new ecosystem of data would facilitate the dissemination of better information with positive effects on reporting processes. Finally a more fluid supply chain based on metadata, consumers tastes and behaviour would stimulate the diversity of the content offer and dilute the mainstream effects.
The most dangerous of all poison is ignorance.
Music metadata is the antidote.
Jean-Robert Bisaillon – Iconoclaste-TGiT founder
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