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Music Notes

Perspective, pings and other things relevant to our world

5 Reasons For Optimism

September 21, 2009

Our very own Mitch Bainwol explains "5 Reasons for Optimism in the Music Industry" as posted today on TheWrap.com.


Back To School

September 10, 2009

While I haven’t been “back to school” in years I still enjoy the phrase in a non-academic setting.  In the working world employees head “back” every Monday.  Here in D.C., members of Congress and their staffers who’ve left for August recess also head “back” in September.  Even my dry cleaner, who’s happily displayed a “Summer Hours” sign in her window for months, must return to longer working hours in the fall.  And although heading “back” means a little more work (and a little less play) for most of us, there’s something refreshing about it that I look forward to every year – the reminder that we all have something to learn.

In the music business, the marketplace continues to teem with experimentation and innovation, and every day we all discover new insights into how music and fans interact.  One of our jobs is to help provide fans of all ages with useful tools to help navigate this constantly-changing marketplace. 

That’s one reason our approach over the past few years has been to partner with curriculum specialists to engage students in nearly every grade (elementary school all the way through college) and include educational materials for parents.  One thing we’ve learned, especially for young music fans, is that there is a real opportunity to get students interested in discussions about what intellectual property is and how to respect creators in a digital age.  

This month specifically, we’re heading back to work (and back to school) by supporting the roll out of recently-updated (and absolutely free) Music Rules! classroom curriculum.  Music Rules! is an educational program designed to encourage respect for intellectual property and responsible use of the Internet among students in grades 3-8.   It was first developed in 2006 through our partnership with the award-winning curriculum specialists at Young Minds Inspired and has been a hit among students and teachers. The program has already reached more than 53,000 U.S. elementary and middle schools, and email and postcard invitations will ask an additional 30,000 teachers to visit www.music-rules.com this week.

The program is very easy to access.  Through www.music-rules.com, teachers can download program materials and activities.  The site also includes a separate section for parents where they can download a take-home booklet which explains the rules of copyright and the risks of illegal downloading and also provides families with a mini-poster they can opt to display near their home computer to remind everyone of the rules for responsible and safe use of the Internet.

We hope teachers, parents, and students will visit the website and find the program useful.  While just a step, it’s one step in the right direction towards helping music fans of all ages think critically about these issues and learn how to enjoy music the right way online. 

Liz Kennedy

Deputy Director, Communications, RIAA


That's My Name

September 08, 2009

Summer in Britain means music festivals and although the weather is always terrible, this middle-aged geek dragged himself to Glastonbury for the biggest festival of them all. I found myself watching The Ting Tings playing "That's Not My Name". For someone who generally thinks that music ended with Pink Floyd and Genesis, that was a pretty hip set to catch.

Anyway the song got me thinking about my day job -- something a weekend away is supposed to help you forget. I spend a lot of time working on systems to give names to recordings. Obviously you say, the name of that song is "That's Not My Name". True enough but the live version would also be called "That's Not My Name" and you'd better be sure you are talking about the right one.

So maybe the text that appears as the title of a track isn't the best name to use if you're trying to avoid confusion, though it's a good way to search for a track and a good way to promote it. What we do instead is to have each different track have a unique short string of letters and numbers as its "name". We call this the International Standard Recording Code or ISRC. It has been around since 1986 but has only become really important in the digital age. Almost every commercial track produced these days has an ISRC assigned and the ISRC is used to manage content, report usage and track royalties.

RIAA is the national organization that supports ISRC and does this for both its own members and US labels that are not associated with it -- without fear or favor. I run that operation -- as well as its international counterpart. After many years of reliance on the fax machine and US Postal Service, we now have a website (www.usisrc.org) where labels can get their "registrant code" – a prefix which allows them to assign their own ISRCs. My colleagues in Washington DC and London do a fantastic job answering queries and keeping everything running smoothly. We recently started charging for a registrant code, and the good news is that were able to keep the charge for each label down to $75 (for life).  We think it remains a great bargain because ISRC makes it so easy to manage your recordings and it’s so much cheaper than the identifiers in many other sectors.

Smaller labels that don't want to worry about ISRC can have this done for them by their distributors who have special permission from us. These distributors (we call them ISRC Managers) take a lot of strain off small labels so they can get on with what they are good at – making music.

We have been working closely with the people responsible for other identifiers – musical compositions for instance. Here the studio and the live versions of "That's Not My Name" would be associated with the same identifier of course. And there are new identifiers being developed for people as well. We hope that they will help to protect artists and writers from identity theft, while leaving them able to say "That Is My Name".

Paul Jessop
Chief Technology Adviser, RIAA
Executive Director, International ISRC Agency