Sound studio

Sound Credit Version 4 aims to eliminate billions in missing royalties

One of these days, the billions of dollars in unparalleled, unpaid annual music royalties will number in the millions. And then, up to thousands of de minimis. But what will it take to get there?

For years, the path to clearing a billion-dollar industrial embarrassment has been discussed in conferences and committees. It’s not the sexist part of the business – that’s for sure – but as data expert Thomas Redman says, “where there’s data smoke, there’s commercial fire”.

The good news is that smartly invested dollars have supported solutions that are now coming of age. At the forefront is Sound Credit, whose founder and CEO Gebre Wadell has made music metadata a career calling. The latest version 4 of Sound Credit offers a broader set of platforms and interfaces for capturing and clarifying metadata. This includes a desktop app, two mobile apps, and an in-studio kiosk.

Sound Credit, which is intensely focused on expanding metadata associated with music intellectual property, has already garnered serious traction for its credit solutions. In 2019, Blake Shelton and Warner Music Nashville tapped into Waddell’s behind-the-scenes adventure on the track “God’s Country.”

The mission was quite simple: give detailed credit to everyone involved in the process of creating a song. As part of a larger credits-focused campaign led by the Recording Academy, Shelton issued an unusual shoutout on the track to more than two dozen contributors, including all the musicians, engineers, producers and writers who have made the possible song.

“The power of song is amazing, and this year #GodsCountry has been exactly that for me,” Shelton blasted on Instagram. “Honored to work with amazing creators and friends on this one. Join me in celebrating and #GiveCredit to everyone working #BehindTheRecord. It’s been a hell of a good year.

Blake Shelton God Country Music Credits

Photo credit: Instagram

Shelton’s participation was a watershed moment for Sound Credit. Suddenly the industry could see that music credit can be a simple process instead of a chaotic liability.

Credit Capture also helped Sound Credit loosen up its support for the Recording Information Notification (RIN) metadata standard. As part of the Shelton project, a detailed RIN file was sent back to Warner Music Nashville, and the data was then distributed to major streaming platforms like Pandora.

“This was the first delivery of a credit platform to a major label representing the genesis of the music credits movement,” Waddell told Digital Music News. Just recently, DMN partnered with Sound Credit to continue the crusade to improve music credit – and get a whole lot more creators paid.

It’s amazing how many people are often included in a song like “God’s Country”. But what’s even more staggering is the number of creators who are often excluded entirely credits. It is estimated that approximately $1.4 billion in royalties remains unclaimed and unpaid each year. But those deep in the guts of this problem freely admit that this is only a rough estimate. The missing royalties could easily amount to billions per year worldwide and for all types of music licenses (performances, mechanics and recordings, to name a few).

But why is the music industry so behind when it comes to simply paying creators their due? A quick answer is that the music industry is extremely complex. But many industries are more complex than the music industry, but far ahead in supply chain logistics and data management. “Other industries in the developed world solved their supply chain data problems at the start of Web 2.0 in 2005. However, the music industry focused on survival – with peer-to- peer, CDs disappearing and record stores closing,” Waddell observed adamantly.

This leads to what Jimi Hendrix might call “a frustrating mess”, although it is also an opportunity for companies like Sound Credit.

Sound Credit seemingly came out of nowhere in 2017. That’s when a simple workstation plugin for capturing credits went viral, addressing the urgent need for efficient and functional credit in the production point. Sound Credit notes that it was the “most viral music software release in history”, with eventual release in production environments in over 60 countries. Ultimately, the Memphis-based Sound Credit attracted an investment round from the Revolution Fund. Shortly after, 60 minutes presented the platform.

For Waddell, there was no turning back from that explosive start. Part of the reason an estimated $1.4 billion in royalties remains unpaid is that the industry lacks a simple standard for collecting metadata details. It’s chaos, although the spread of the platform and the rapid expansion of the company’s products give hope for a uniform standard.

Today, Sound Credit version 4 contains over 4 million lines of code and over 30,000 active users. Perhaps most importantly, Sound Credit consolidated production management operations across Nashville. As a result, virtually all of Music City’s budgets, session bookings, and union forms for major labels and major independents are executed by Sound Credit’s full-time staff. From this proving ground, Sound Credit aims to expand the services of its historic music center in Tennessee to the global industry.

“After nearly 30 years in the industry, I think it’s high time credit tracking was streamlined,” said Scott “Scojo” Johnson, a Nashville production manager who joined the team at the alongside Mike “Frog” Griffith and Alyson McAnally. “I’m thrilled to join the team that’s shaping the future of credits recording in a more user-friendly way.”


Sound Credit’s Nashville Team Scott “Scojo” Johnson, Alyson McAnally and Mike “Frog” Griffith

The product portfolio has also branched out to include a desktop app, a mobile anywhere app, plug-ins for virtually any DAW workstation, and even a physical kiosk that prompts contributors to enter their credits before entering the studio. The result is a rich network of metadata capture points, all of which flow into a larger river of appropriate credits.

The platform also has a patent-pending data hub method allowing users to export to multiple formats after entering credits, including union forms, label copies, and lyric sheets.

Sound Credit’s platform also integrates a growing number of terminals, including major music labels and publishers such as Warner Music Nashville. Beyond that, Sound Credit’s list of partners now also includes metadata-dependent entities like PPL, with whom they partnered in 2019, to improve credits globally, as well as the Mechanical Licensing Collective ( MLC).

“We are delighted that Sound Credit has made it easier for users of their new app to create bulk upload files that they can use to register their works with The MLC,” said Kris Ahrend, CEO of The MLC. “This new feature will make it easier for these users to register their works with the MLC, which, in turn, will ensure that we pay them all mechanical royalties owed to them for their works.”

It is a growing music industry network powered by a more robust credit collection engine. All this raises hopes that the pile of missing royalties will decrease in the years to come.

“Sound Credit 4 has a never-before-seen level of elegance for music credits and data, from design to functionality. This represents a quantum leap that our industry leaders must understand if credits and music data are important to their work,” Waddell said.

Sound Credit Tracking Sheet Plus from Sound credit to Vimeo.