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Universal puts initial song list database live

By | Published on Thursday 4 September 2014

Universal Music Publishing

Universal Music’s publishing company has published a chunk of song data on its website, available to all, following a pledge back in June to make it easier for licensees to work out what songs the major controls, in part or in full.

Both licensees and political types have called on the music industry to make it easier to work out who owns and controls the copyrights in lyrics, compositions and sound recordings.

And while that call has gone out to both the record industry and music publishing sector, information from the latter is more sought after, partly because it’s generally easier to work out what label released a record than it is what publisher published a song, and partly because song copyrights are much more commonly co-owned between multiple entities.

Of course, the publishing sector’s collecting societies are generally sitting on that information already, but it’s not always easy for the world at large to access that data. The Global Repertoire Database project was aiming to pull all the info into one place and make it available to all, but that fell on its arse earlier this year, probably because of the “too many cooks” idiom.

In the US, where the big publishers are hoping to withdraw from the collective licensing system in the digital domain, there is another urgency to get better at data sharing, because the lack of decent catalogue information is often used by American digital services as a reason why collective licensing should continue.

To that end, both Sony/ATV and Universal Music Publishing, which are leading the ‘Let’s Not License Digital Collectively (We’ll Get More Cash Direct)’ campaign, have both pledged to make their song databases available online to all in a user-friendly easily-exportable fashion. And Universal began this process earlier this week by putting it’s ‘Song List’ live on its website

At launch the database only lists songs in the major’s catalogue whose writers are members of one of the main three American performing rights organisations, so ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, though the plan is to extend the list moving forward. For songs listed you can find out who wrote each work, what collecting societies they are affiliated to, which writers are signed to Universal, and what percentage of the copyright is controlled by the major.

So, for example, you might like to know that Universal controls 40% of Justin Bieber hit ‘Baby’, it repping three of the five writers that were required to create some a timeless masterpiece of shit pop music, ie BMI member Christine Flores and ASCAP members Christopher A Stewart and JB himself. Oh, and it’s International Standard Musical Work Code is T-904.874.539-7.

It sounds nerdy, and it is nerdy, but you might just find yourself getting lost in this data pile. Universal owns half of Mariah’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Who Knew? (T-070.007.067-2, in case any of you ISMWC fans were wondering).

Confirming the Song List was now live, Universal Music Publishing’s EVP Operations told reporters: “As promised, this launch continues our efforts as an industry leader in not only providing transparency but also making the most useful data accessible to all licensees and users. Our plan, going forward, is to continually enhance this Song List until it ultimately includes all UMPG international repertoire”.