Thrash Hits

December 19th, 2011

Metal and Metadata: An abominable meeting of science and art?

David Keevill works for Decibel. They make huge spreadsheets filled with data about the music that you listen to. He’s here to explain why it’s more important than ever to label your shit correctly.

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Is heavy metal and metadata an abominable meeting of science and art? The short answer is no. The long answer is detailed below.

“What the fuck is metadata?” I hear that one guy at the back ask. Well, consider that music itself is data, its very existence being information. Metadata is data about this information. This includes everything from the instruments played, the date it was recorded, the type of baby oil that Michael Starr of Steel Panther uses… it’s everything around the music that isn’t actually the music itself.

“Decibel use Artificial Intelligence technology to correct, normalize, enhance, and inter-relate metadata on music and create a 3D matrix of rich metadata for the music and media industries. We have created a feasible alternative to the CD sleeve notes for the digital world. We supplement music with the most dense, informative, and pedantically detailed data that exists, and use this information to re-establish channels between all aspects of the music industry.”

Although metadata is essential to the survival and vitality of the music industry as a whole (which I will explain more shortly), it’s a fact that still rubs with some of the most convinced lovers of music. Trying to convince the most adamant muso that something as intangible, convincing and transcendental as music requires data for it to survive is like trying to push a substantial boulder up a very large hill.

Considering that the metal community is one of the most severely passionate sets of people to grace this floating rock, trying to equate these two seemingly disparate entities becomes almost impossible.

However, what people fail to appreciate, metal fans included, is that data is the lifeblood of the music industry and in these rapidly changing times, not being able to access information will be a death-knoll to the music that people know and love. Without metadata, labels don’t have the ability to find out, let alone pay, all of the people in the creation chain who contributed to the making of a track – this affects metal music as much as any other.

The significance of tonality in breakout genres such as metalcore and deathcore, means that production values have become a far more instrumental part of creation process for bands under the metal ‘umbrella’. As a result, participants in the more overlooked part of the recording process (balance engineers, mastering engineers, etc) appear more commonly and deserve credit and a proportion of the revenue stream. Without proper information, these little-known personnel will start to lose out on royalties that are owed to them.

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Still not convinced? Well, it’s clear that piracy is still a huge problem. No matter how many streaming services are set up and however many governmental edicts are issued blocking websites, services are persistently springing up all over the internet that facilitate the illegal access to music, and a large majority of the population are accessing it. Is this proof of a mass criminal mindset? Is it bollocks. People steal music because a) there is no accountability, and b) the digital product has no perceived worth.

Not only does metadata give a blatant and insistent reminder of who this music belongs to, and all the affiliated personnel who suffer from a decision to steal it, but it also boosts the value of the digital product itself. Saturate the digital product with images, information and create the digital equivalent of the CD liner note, and you’ll start to see appreciation of a currently disregarded medium.

The issue of metadata is more current and relevant than you would ever want to acknowledge and it affects the music you & I love, so it’s clearly important. If digital music is a run-away train, then metadata is the thing that jams on the brakes before everything becomes derailed. If it takes metadata to be the unwitting saviour of metal music, then it’s a little price to pay to admit that you appreciate music and data in the same breath.


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