What Is Metadata and Why Is It Important For Music Discovery?

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What is Metadata?

This is what we found on Merriam-Webster.

meta·da·ta : data that provides information about other data.”

Huh?  Okay, us too. Let’s read further.

“It’s easy to find data on the source of “metadata”: the word was formed by combining “data” with “meta-,” which means “transcending” and is often used to describe a new but related discipline designed to deal critically with the original one. “Meta-” was first used in that way in “metaphysics” and has been extended to a number of other disciplines, giving us such words as “metapsychology” and “metamathematics.” “Metadata” takes the “transcending” aspect a step further, applying it to the concept of pure information instead of a discipline. “Metadata” is a fairly new word (it first appeared in print in 1983), whereas “data” can be traced back to the middle of the 17th century.”

Okay, awesome. But what does this mean in real terms?
It’s actually something we already use all the time.

‘Hashtags’, ‘keywords’, ‘genres’, ‘moods’, ‘tags’ are all different ways of saying metadata.

There are several types and subsets of metadata. Here is a crude outline just to help us understand some of the basic differences:

  • Administrative Metadata is information that helps manage a resource, when and how a file was created, file type, who has access and other technical information.
  • Structural Metadata enables the presentation and navigation of electronic elements including information about the internal structure (page, section, chapters, table of contents), the relationship among materials (Graph A is in Manuscript B) and binds related files (Jpeg A originates from Archive B)
  • Descriptive Metadata is used as a resource for discovery and identification. In a music sense, Descriptive Metadata includes title, author, keywords, moods, genres, instruments, similar artists, etc. and as it’s one of the key elements of music to be discovered, this is where we’ll focus.


Why is Metadata important?

If you’ve ever browsed Youtube (and who hasn’t), specific search terms will produce videos customized from the data you have entered. Many factors affect what videos populate, including past search history, the number of views and popularity, but the main reason these videos show up is because of the magic ‘m’ word…no, not the Matrix, the other ‘m’ word. ‘Metadata’! We’re looking at title, tags, keywords, description, that kind of thing. It’s the same for Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon…anywhere a search bar can be utilized for that matter. Metadata’s everywhere and how we discover content. We even tagged this article to make it discoverable!

Uploading your song onto platforms like RLP, TuneCore, Songtradr, BandCamp or ReverbNation is only a first step to getting your music discovered. You may have produced what could be a compelling main theme for the next Chris Pratt movie, but if it isn’t properly embedded with metadata, it will be next to impossible to find unless the exact song title or artist name is typed in the search.

On RLP our straightforward, comprehensive tools make entering metadata a simple process. Enter tags, genres, descriptions, keywords, style similar to and more in the clearly-designated fields on the song edit pages.

Here are a couple of great resources to get you started or keep you moving to increased discoverability!

Songtradr’s Tagging Cheat Sheet – Search commonly used keywords, adjectives, moods and tagging terms.

https://www.music-map.com/  – One of our favorite resources for finding a style/artist similar to.

And finally, a few tricks of the trade!

  • Don’t ‘over-tag’ your music
    • More tags do not lead to higher discoverability.
    • Attempting to maximize the number of searches your songs appear in by tagging with terms that cover the entire spectrum may not help discoverability and subsequent exploitation of your songs e.g. ‘happy’, ‘sad’ – unless your song title is something like, “I’m Only Happy When You’re Sad”.
  • Accurate tagging
    • It’s most beneficial for your music to show up specifically when it’s needed and this is where tagging your songs as accurately as you can help. Let’s say you’re searching for a cherry red shoulder tote on Amazon. You may find it frustrating when surfboards pop up in your search. In music terms, if you’re seeking a bouncy hip hop track, you most likely don’t want a slew of aggressive death metal.
  • Don’t duplicate
    • On RLP, as with most sites, search engines grab from multiple places, so duplicating tags is unnecessary and inefficient.

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