Over the last few years we've seen an explosion of online music services. Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, Soundcloud and dozens of other platforms are touted as groundbreaking ways to deliver music to listeners. But this success is on the backs of the people who actually create the music; the performers, producers and engineers. These services are nothing without content generated by music creators and, at the very least, they need to finally give all these people credit on screen. Not only would it would enrich the user experience, it would also improve these music services by turning people on to new music. I've joined a crew of dedicated folks at NARAS (the Grammy people) that are tackling this issue, but we need your help to show there is a real demand. There are many obvious reasons why credit must be given to music creators, but here are a few important ones that I haven't heard discussed enough:

1) Providing credits (beyond simply "artist" and "title") makes for a far better user experience and would improve all music services. It's a win-win situation, and in most cases it costs nothing. It's one of the most obvious ways to turn people on to new music and it has thus far been a completely missed opportunity. For example: if a listener enjoys Radiohead or The Roots, wouldn't they want to know who performed on the recordings, who produced the albums and what other records these people might have worked on? Chances are the consumer might like their other work - and they might buy more music and explore back catalogs. Now that we have amazing products, like Apple's iPad, to experience music with, we should be demanding a much richer experience than what is currently offered; something deserving of the amazing new screens these music services are displayed on. We should have an improved and deeper experience than we used to have while perusing a CD booklet or a cassette insert - not a far worse experience. We need to be able to see who is performing on each song as it plays - but also everyone who produced, engineered and mastered it - all within the main screen and without having to ever leave the main page. This should go beyond merely displaying a data field with a name. We should be able to see what other work these music creators have been involved with, "like" them via Facebook, see what the producers and artists are currently working on, and be able to bookmark these albums to check out later. Of course we should also be able to link directly to their websites and Facebook pages by clicking on these names. But, for now, we'd settle on just having the credits we deserve in a simple data field with our names.

Let's also look at this from the perspective of another similar, slightly less damaged, industry so we can see how this issue should be handled. How long do you think Netflix or movie theaters would last (before being sued or shut down) if they stopped rolling the end credits of movies? The Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild and Writers Guild would never stand for it. If the credits were not there, the studios would sue. There would be so much bad press, and likely outcry from the general public. But this is the music business, and for some reason these music services think they don't need to bother crediting us. We've all seen iTunes and noticed their failure to credit music creators on screen. But go to the iTunes store and look up any movie. You'll see a list of actors, screenwriters, directors and producers right at the top of the screen, next to the movie poster. We must demand the same for the music industry. People outside of our field may assume this issue of not crediting music creators is a minor formality that merely irritates us, but this is not about stroking our egos. People need to understand that producers, engineers and musicians need these credits in order to survive in this business. We get our work by word of mouth. Without credits no one knows the work we've done, we don't get new work and pretty soon we don't have a career. Companies like Pandora or Spotify get a lot of credit for their achievements. It's time for them to give credit to the people who made their services even possible.

So far the issue of credits has been relegated to relatively closed discussions within the industry. This issue is far more straightforward than that. It's not a complicated tech issue for nerdy engineers and it's not something that should take more than a few minutes to resolve for all future music releases. Adding a data field on a site like iTunes or Pandora only takes a few seconds. All we need is for Internet distributors to simply require the following info for all releases: a list of all performers, producers, engineers, mixers and mastering engineers for each song - and to provide their preferred web link. No future releases should be accepted by distributors without this data. But even more importantly, distributors must demand that all music services display these credits! They are legally obligated (at least according to my contracts). And we should make sure this language is in all of our contracts.

If you think performers, producers and engineers should be credited on interactive music services like iTunes, Pandora and Spotify, please visit Facebook to "like" our campaign so we can show there is a real demand to change this: http://on.fb.me/yFaypf

Help us help you. Thanks!

Read the counterpoint to Count's article by Anu Kirk, who was - among other things - a key player in the invention of the Rhapsody online music service.

 

Tape Op is a free magazine exclusively devoted to
the art of record making.

 
Thu, Jul 24, 2014 - 10:24AM
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Wed, May 23, 2012 - 10:55PM
BJ Omalley said about this:

You are giving people way too much credit IMO. Musicians, engineers, writers, etc might want to know the nitty gritty but sadly... the average listener has lost interest. It used to be so fun to buy an album and read the jacket while it played. I still like it when I can actually get my hands on the artwork. Now most people have a gazillion songs on their ipod or smartphone and they just don't care who wrote or recorded the songs. Very sad but pretty true.

 
Wed, May 23, 2012 - 11:18PM
Sherman said about this:

I disagree BJ. Lotsa people care. Music fans (and I'm not just talking about musicians here) are really into details.

 
Thu, May 24, 2012 - 4:29AM
Christopher Kemp said about this:

I agree, I think this is a great idea. It used to be done to a degree on albums (back when you could actually read what they came in) and people noticed. It doesn't matter if every listene pores over every list - the ones that care will read it, and the ones that don't will at least see that there were many people involved and perhaps appreciate how much went into making the song they love.

To be fair, I think that the comment about adding a single data field is a bit off. What you're saying is true, but to accomplish some of the other things you're talking about, like links, other works, etc. you're talking about several tables worth of data that has to be linked together, not to mention populated - even that one field has to eventually be filled in for millions of recordings. It's a fair bit of work, but not at all insurmountable and well worth doing.

I've been saying for years now that, in order to help people understand the monetary worth of the music they love, the industry needs to do far more to educate the public about what we actually do to produce it. This seems like a good step in that direction.

 
Thu, May 24, 2012 - 8:27AM
RBiggs said about this:

Here's an example of what Larry's talking about that drives me crazy and totally gets in the way of how I want to browse a music collection:

On iTunes and especially on Spotify (and presumably on other services too), album dates are always some arbitrary, meaningless re-release date. How about a date telling us when an album was RECORDED!?

For example, when the great Levon Helm passed away, my friends and I wanted to listen to The Band's discography. On Spotify:

- Jubilation (1998)
- The Band (2000)
- Stage Fright (2000)
- Music From Big Pink (2000)
- Northern Lights-Southern Cross (2001)
- Rock of Ages (2009)
etc.

Hmmm...that's not really how I remember it! But there are no other dates available. OK, maybe there are situations where a listener might want to differentiate between an original release and a remastered release. If that's the case, just give us that information, not just a date.

Larry's right. Artists' organizations like the RIAA and others should have been involved in advocating for this stuff a long time ago.

 
Thu, May 24, 2012 - 11:36AM
Nik said about this:

Excellent editorial, I absolutely agree with the things Larry has said here.

Is there any way to show support for the campaign, that isn't tied to facebook?

 
Thu, May 24, 2012 - 12:09PM
John Neff said about this:

Spot on, Mr. Crane! It also would help us get more gigs, as artists and/or labels (what are labels?) would take notice of a record they really like the sound of. It could help us sell more studio time, engineering services, etc. But on the dark side, look at what TV has done to movie credits. Pushed them an accelerated side bar in tiny type while they push their next show...

 
Thu, May 24, 2012 - 12:33PM
Sarah Jones said about this:

Well said, Larry.

As a NARAS governor, I encourage anyone who makes music for a living to join the Recording Academy. They really do work tirelessly to advocate for the music community at the local, state and national level. You can learn more about their efforts (and get involved, even as a non-member) here: http://www.grammy.org/recording-academy/advocacy.

NOW is the time to make your voice heard.

Thanks from your fellow musicians and engineers over here at Electronic Musician : )

 
Thu, May 24, 2012 - 9:58PM
Al said about this:

As a music fanatic and musician I think it's a great idea. the fact that we don't have access to that information in digital format is ridiculous.

I too would like to "like" it as well, but i refuse to use facebook... is there any other way to support this?

 
Fri, May 25, 2012 - 2:29PM
Jim Sam said about this:

The recently published AES60 metadata standard includes a "Creator" section (4.2.2) where recordists and producers can be listed. A similar "Contributor" section (4.2.6) exists for the musicians.

This all ends up being an XML file, which can be neatly stuffed into a Broadcast Wave File using the also-recently-published open-source program BWFMetaEdit if you're into doing things DIY. (This is probably easier for mix and mastering folks to do that recordists.)

So... you might want to give Avid, Steinberg, et al. a shout for them to support this standard.

 
Sat, May 26, 2012 - 7:57AM
Chris said about this:

One side of me agree with BJ but hopefully they will discover how fun it can be to read all the credits.

One other thing i wish was mentioned was sampling credits that was one of the fun parts of listening to early rap.

 
Mon, Jun 4, 2012 - 1:47PM
Justin Colletti said about this:

In the interest of proper credit, this "End Rant" wasn't by Larry Crane as many have written here, but rather by producer Mikael Eldridge aka Count.

His website can be found here: http://www.vertebraeproductions.com/

I support this cause too, and hope that more people read album credits than bylines. :D

 
Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - 10:00AM
Rbiggs said about this:

oops...I just assumed that "Count" Larry Crane was finally getting recognized for the aristocratic nobleman we all know him to be.

Sorry, "Count" Mikael Eldridge - great post.

 
Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - 3:31PM
Jerome Harris said about this:

I heartily applaud Count's "End Rant". I spent three semesters teaching courses in blues and jazz history at a college that wanted the assigned listening to take the form of MP3 files on the school's server, accessed via a course website. I dutifully entered various appropriate credits as I uploaded files (mainly leader and bandmember names, and location and years of recording or release); that information was often relevant to the core concerns of the course. Thanks to liner notes, entering credits was not much of a problem for the songs that came from CDs and LPs that I owned (aside from all the typing), but finding data for the files I purchased from iTunes and other online purveyors was a bunch of extra work (Allmusic.com helped). This was the case for performer data--getting production credits would have been even more of a headache.

Having ready access to the names of those responsible is a key part of spreading awareness that music is conceived, built, captured and delivered by the efforts of flesh-and-blood *people*--awareness that, sadly, seems to be diminishing in many parts of society.

 
Sun, Jul 1, 2012 - 10:00AM
Eric Lanzillotta said about this:

Unfortunately the truth is that a lot of people do walk out on movie credits and never read the credits on records. But it is fascinating to some of us. The best place tracking this stuff is http://www.discogs.com/ which is a user run database so you can update your own credits there. Everything is linked so if you see an engineer or mixing credit on one release, you can click their name and see what else they have worked on. The big issue is getting someone to put all the info in, so have a look at your page there and set about adding your credits.
Of course the problem remains that even on physical releases, a lot of people weren't credited.

 
Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - 12:46PM
Be Hussey said about this:

It wouldn't be too hard for online services to tap into the already existing database of All Music Guide.

But AMG would need to include vinyl and mp3 only albums in their database.

 
Tue, Jul 17, 2012 - 2:23PM
Jim Allen said about this:

"Adding a data field on a site like iTunes or Pandora only takes a few seconds."

Alternately, looking up credits on the internets takes only a few seconds.

 
Mon, Jul 23, 2012 - 11:27AM
Dean Williams said about this:

Enjoyed your haughty dismissal of the 'nerdy engineers' that would make the technical innovations YOU'RE asking for possible, and suggestion that it would take 'a couple seconds' to add 'fields' to a site. Nevermind the underlying technical architecture, design components, usability concerns.

Like mastering or mixing, the 'features' you're demanding require specialized knowledge to even function, and in particular to be implemented properly. Saying that what you're after is just fields that could be added to sites in seconds is akin to saying that producing and engineering is just hitting the record button.

Consider how dismissively you've regarded the folks who would implement these changes you're demanding, and you might gain a small sliver of understanding why those in your profession are experiencing the same treatment. Kinda stinks huh?

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