Why Music Credits Matter / What You Need To Know

Back in the day, the main place to find the credits of an album was in the booklet of a CD or the back of the vinyl record sleeve. You could find the names of the musicians, the producers, engineers, mastering engineer… literally anyone involved in the making of that record. 

Collecting all that information was the task of the producer and it was stored by labels. It was an important step in the creation of the album. So much so, that the fact of not having the credits could delay its release due to the fact that the cover designer wouldn’t be able to finish the artwork on time.

With the advent of digital distribution and the increase of self-released artists, the practice of collecting credits and getting them to the general public has been diminished and become more complicated. 

Where do you find all the credits of an album nowadays? Why are credits so important? Let’s find out together.

Give Credit

Credits matter a lot in any artistic field. For starters, it acknowledges the contribution of anyone involved in the making of that piece of art. In the music industry, there are musicians, writers and producers, but also arrangers, conductors, engineers, studios… So many people just to get your favourite music to your ears. Their work matters and everybody should be able to know and acknowledge their contribution.

Credits are also important for tagging talent. By having the information available of who recorded a song or an album, it is possible for others to identify those people. Thanks to these, Labels’ A&R departments, independent artists and other creatives can easily find that talent and collaborate in future work.

Last but not least, credits help artists, producers and performers get paid the royalties that they deserve from the recording. Although they don’t guarantee the payment (that’s up to the publishing and labels) they help identify the albums and songs where the contribution was made and help make the splits. Credits relate directly to performance royalties. In the UK it can make it harder to claim royalties on PPL (UK’s music licensing company) without the relevant credits in place.

Where Are The Credits?

One could think that the digital era would have made it very easy to collect, store and find all the credits from past and newer records. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The different formats used by the labels to save their credits and sometimes the lack of tools to add credits to the digital distribution platforms have made the management of this information very difficult.

Bodies like the Recording Academy have created awareness of the importance of crediting the talent behind the scenes with their social media initiative #givecredit and #behindtherecord.

But fear not. Multiple efforts are ongoing to make sure that credit is given where credit is due. The most important part is the adoption of standards in the way the industry communicates credit information. It needs to be communicated in a common format and then delivered between companies so that each party receiving it can understand it. How? Easy. Using metadata.

What is Metadata?

Metadata can be defined as “data about the data”. It’s a digital file that stores descriptive, legal, administrative or statistical information from another file. Just like the catalogue cards from a library.  

In this scenario, the metadata from a record would store the names and identifiers of the producer, songwriters, engineers, performers as well as where and when it was recorded and then be shared across the different companies involved in the release. The format currently used for this metadata is called RIN.  It stands for Recording Information Notification. The RIN file contains the liner notes you’d expect on CDs, and it’s supported by major companies including Apple, Amazon, Pandora or Spotify.

The Allies 

The Music Producers Guild (MPG) is one of the organizations pushing forward the standardisation of this metadata to make sure that everyone in the industry receives the correct credit for their work. Over the last 10 years, MPG has been running the Credit Where Credit Is Due campaign supporting the latest efforts by companies like Sound Credit, Veva Sound and Session to ensure that credits data is properly gathered and delivered to industry organisations. Credits Due is raising awareness of the identifiers that can be used to identify an individual as the person they are…  and not someone else with the same name. 

Just like what IMDb does for the film industry, Jaxsta is a music credit database that uses this metadata and allows users to find all the information of a record in one place. But everything starts at the recording stage. By gathering all the information and creating a robust metadata structure we can help the audience to understand and be more aware of the work behind the records.

For more on this important topic, we recommend you familiarise yourself with the work of organisations mentioned above. And we’ll be sharing a how-to guide on our blog very soon.

Thank you to Cameron Craig, Executive Director from MPG, for sharing his knowledge and expertise during the creation of this blog. And to alumnus Carlos Bricio for his research and writing.