Music Encoding Issues, March 1999

My friends,

Once again, I come to you for your opinion.

It seems to me we have TWO viable "creator" camps that need to marry. The "computer" faction, who create encoding, and the "music" faction, who create the art. Forgive me if I offend, but any of you who believe that the Internet is irrelevant in the future of music are sorely mistaken. By the same token, those of you who think putting your music on the Internet will make it competitive on a "broadcast" level (today, literally), need to rethink.

I can only tell you where I am in my projects, and what my needs are... but I do know, in reading the feedback on this issue, that I AM FAR FROM ALONE in this position.

I have written and published for Film and Television (on a song basis mostly, though I have scored a couple of segments) and have been represented by a traditional PRO. I have received payments for airings, though, considering the huge amount of material broadcast worldwide, I am sure a few of my airings were missed. Ok, at the time it was still better than no one to collect anything for me. For the last few years, I have been watching and waiting for the PRO's, Record Companies, and/or Broadcasters to pick an encoding system. ("We are in communication with XYZ about their system.") I need a decision. I am also running a business, which, as in any other business with "inventory" MUST be able to be tracked for it's use and profit.

A new frontier (and the only one left I know of, except perhaps Space) has offered us input and output of immeasurable means. We have today been offered a system for the Internet that will not only encode the Author, Publisher, date of Copyright, etc., but also a link to your website, provide all artist and liner notes, extra room for extra credits, history, advertising, and existing numbers or information to identify the work, OR ANYTHING ELSE THE AUTHOR CHOOSES TO ADD. The Process and Numbering remain in the Creator's hands. Not only is the system available to track one's airings on the Net, but they are capable of giving a music "sample", asking if the listener wants to buy it, taking their money, allowing a total download and sale RIGHT THEN (music is an impulse buy, after all), tracking any Internet usage of that by the Downloader, etc.

NOW. The traditionalists are shaking their heads, saying this doesn't address airplay. In my opinion, all it would take is for the "computer" sector to (without that much effort) hook up a couple systems to monitor broadcasts and pull the encoding to show what was used, allowing the writer to file their own cue sheet or play list with their PRO. I do not advocate the replacement of PRO's, but I guarantee the automatic monitoring is coming. The computer companies already have Internet monitoring for encoding in place... it is only one more step to monitoring outside the Internet, VIA the computer. And certainly will have this in place as easily as the PRO's will have their monitoring encoding inplace, and probably much faster and easier.

Oh, no! Now everyone is screaming. If somebody picks a non-PRO sanction code NOW, it will be mishmoshed in ten years when all the PROs and Broadcasters agree (oh, please.) I know hundreds of publishing and sub-publishing deals that are mishmoshed because of reassignments, etc., and it is a HUGE pain, but again, the best we have for following the path. If one encoding emerges, I'm sure we will be able to reassign, even if painfully, which system a work ends up with, or perhaps easily have numbers cross-referenced automatically.

Here are the FACTS that are relevant to me today. I have a project that is unique, respectable in a traditional sense, independent in that it is not Major Label supported, perfect in a marketing aspect, that I am mastering in the next two weeks. Because of the above mentioned nature, it is the perfect Internet project. Because of what it is, it is possible that it is something that usable by broadcasters a bit down the line. WHAT IS IT THAT YOU THINK I SHOULD DO?? Wait?? Or go with what is available that actually applies to my need TODAY?

One does not encode a master. You encode a master copy. What is the conflict here? Unless the broadcaster downloads directly from the Internet (not likely, at least in my case, they have always wanted the dat or CD master in their hand), I still have the capability to send them a CD with the encoding of their choice. If they finally do make up their minds as to what they want, (give me an honest date of when that might be, please) I am sure there will be a "reassignment" availability if it means that "they" still get to collect the royalties. What if there is one master that produces credit on the Jriver code (Internet), and one that does on the ARIS code (Broadcast) ... won't the royalties be credited the same way, only from different sources? Just because one says ARIS, and one says Jriver, the credit goes to what is read, so if the receiver is the same person, song or publisher, what is the difference? As long as one protects the actual master, and anything you submit has a code, is there a conflict? At least for me, and my small company, at this time, I cannot see one. (Haven't master records been created by one label, then sold to another? I this an unmanageable situation for them? Once product is encoded, will that keep you from re-assigning it to another publisher or label? I think not.)

Someone give me some answers, I have two weeks before I press, and please, not just arguments AGAINST one or the other.) Give me a path of action.

Janet Fisher
Goodnight Kiss Music (BMI)
Scene Stealer Music (ASCAP)