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The METAlliance Report: Where We Are

By Ed Cherney. Legendary producer/engineer and METAlliance member Ed Cherney (Iggy Pop, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan) explores the struggle to bring album credits back into the limelight in the age of streaming—and how that effort may be starting to pay off.

One of my great joys when listening to music when I was younger was reading the liner notes on the album package. I was really interested in who played, who wrote, who produced, who engineered, what studios were used and any artwork or photos. I could listen and imagine to the point of where, when and with whom it was happening. It was all a big part of the experience.

Well, that all went away, as many good things do, with the passage of time and changes in our culture, technology and how we consume our music today.

As a studio professional and music lover, losing the story of how the music that I love was made has diminished the listening experience for me and many of my peers. As the founder of the Recording Academy’s Producers and Engineers Wing, I figured this would be a great topic we could tackle, as a group, and perhaps devise a remedy. For a long time that solution proved to be pretty elusive. I despaired that there would never be a solution—that it was just the way things were going to be.

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I would be remiss if I did not mention that many professionals’ work comes from the credits that appeared on albums we played on, recorded, produced and mixed. Those credits also informed my parents (and my wife) about where I had been and what I had been doing, mostly all night.

Although there is still a lot of work to be done, we’re excited to say that there is good news on the credit issue. YouTube announced last May that it is going to show full credits, and it’s going to register artists and performers on YouTube artist channels with a standard unique international identifier (ISNI) that will make people and payments easier to track.

Spotify has also agreed to start showing songwriter and producer credits. We’re seeing examples of full credits on Tidal. At recent music conferences, Amazon and Apple have been starting to say what we have been talking about for years. They need and want to show credits. Artists speaking out on crediting have also been instrumental in raising awareness.

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I am encouraged that the industry as a whole is beginning to recognize the importance of displaying credits, and almost everyone has acknowledged the added value that credits and notes bring.

Unfortunately, the way a lot of music is made and distributed today, it is not always easy to identify and credit every person who contributed work. To this end, many now recognize that the people in the studio (or spare room, or garage, et cetera) at the point of creation are the ones who know who did what, where and when. The labels and distributors see the value in tracking this information and want that data from the studio.

For the moment, it may be up to engineers and producers to make this work. There is currently software that will run on Pro Tools, Logic and other digital production platforms and workstations that can be used to collect studio data in a simple way while the work is being done or after the fact. One example is Soundways’ Sound Credit Tracker plug-in, which offers a free version.

Everybody in this ecosystem has a role to play—DSPs, labels and distributors. The studio professional’s role is to collect and document as much of the credit and song data as we have access to so it can be passed forward into the digital supply chain. For now, this is the role that producers and engineers have to take on.

[With a tip of the hat to Maureen Droney]

METAlliance •

The METAlliance—Al Schmitt, Chuck Ainlay, Ed Cherney, Elliot Scheiner, Frank Filipetti and George Massenburg—has the dual goals of mentoring through “In Session” events, and conveying to audio professionals and semi-professionals our choices for the highest quality hardware and software by shining a light on products worthy of consideration through a certification process and product reviews in this column. Its mission is to promote the highest quality in the art and science of recording music.