What is metadata?
Put simply, metadata is information about music.
Simple pieces of information like artist, album and track names are metadata. Metadata also includes more technical information, used mainly by the people and companies selling music, which helps to identify music very accurately.
When a single or album is about to be released, metadata is sent to music services at the same time as the audio and artwork files.
We’ve made a guide to the 10 most common mistakes people make in their data:
Why is metadata so important?
Good metadata is key to a successful release.
Good metadata means the right people get paid and credited. Listeners will know who and what they are listening to and music services will know which artists and labels they should pay.
Missing or incorrect metadata can lead to delayed releases, delayed payments and your listeners seeing confusing or inaccurate information.
How this guide will help you get your metadata right
In this guide we’ll tell you what metadata you need to provide and how to provide it.
The Metadata Template we send to you may look a little daunting at first. So we’ll go through each of the fields and explain what you should put where and why. It will seem much easier quite quickly, we promise!
Before we start, it’s important that the basic formatting of the template remains intact. So please don’t delete rows or columns and only enter information where prompted. The first blank row is row 15, this is where you should put your data.
Download the Metadata Template. This is the template you should use for your releases.
Download the Metadata Example. This is a made up example of what your metadata should look like when completed.
Metadata must conform with the iTunes Style Guide:
The Metadata Guide
Product Level and Track Level
The Metadata Template has two main sections, “Product Level” and “Track Level”.
“Product Level” is the first 30 fields in the template (Columns A – AD). It is the data for the product as a whole (i.e. not individual track information). Each line of data for a product must be identical – and the amount of lines used by a product is decided by the number of tracks it contains.
“Track Level” is the last 22 fields in the template (Columns AE – AZ). It is where you specify data for the individual tracks. Each line of data will usually have differences for each track.
The Check Number column is used to differentiate between multiple releases in the metadata. Since we’re only working on one release per metadata sheet, you can put a ‘1’ in this field.
This is for labels who are using our Greedbag service. It’s how digital releases are bundled with physical releases on a product page. If you’re using Greedbag, then put the ‘root’ of your catalogue number here. If not, you can just leave this blank.
If you put CATNO123 in the grouping ID field on your digital, CD and LP metadata sheets, you can link CATNO123DIG, CATNO123CD and CATNO123LP into the same product page on Greedbag
This is the title of your release – the album title, EP or single title. If the title of your release is on the artwork, make sure what you put here matches that exactly. Also, be sure to check the Capitalisation Guidelines.
Please don’t use words such as ‘featuring’ or ‘feat.’ or ‘with’ in the title product field.
If this is a different version of a release, for example; exclusive to a certain territory, or a remastered edition you can specify that here. E.g., ‘Japanese Version’ or ‘Remastered’.
Leave this blank if it isn’t an alternative version of a release.
Artist & Display Artist
This is where the artist name goes.
If the artist name refers to just one person or band (eg. “Bruce Springsteen”, “Depeche Mode”), simply enter that artist name in the Artist(s) field. Enter nothing in the Display Artist field.
Multiple artists, ‘featuring’ and ‘with’
If the artist name refers to multiple artists (eg. “Bob Dylan and The Band”, “Massive Attack feat. Liz Fraser”), follow these steps:
- In the Artist(s) field, separate the multiple artist names with a pipe. A pipe looks like this: | (eg. “Bob Dylan|The Band”, “Massive Attack|Liz Fraser”).
- Enter the full title of the collaboration in the Display Artist field (eg. “Bob Dylan and The Band”, “Massive Attack feat. Liz Fraser”).
Please don’t put words such as ‘featuring’, ‘feat’, ‘&’ or ‘with’ in the Artist field. Only use these in the Display Artist column.
Guidelines for “Various Artists” compilations
If you have 4 or more artists on a release – for example on a compilation album – put Various Artists into the Artist Field and leave the Display Artist blank.
Please don’t use Various Artists for products featuring fewer than four artists.
Please also do not use variations of Various Artists, such as Various, V/A or V.A, and be careful of misspellings such as Various Artist or Varios Artists.
You can specify which artist performs each track at track level.
As with any other product you might buy, music releases need a barcode, even if they are to be released digitally only. If you don’t have barcodes then we can supply you with a batch.
Just let us know how many releases you have coming up and we’ll assign you with the relevant number of barcodes. You can do that by filling in the form here.
Remember: each format needs its own unique barcode.
The catalogue number is something you get to decide. You can choose whatever you like.
It is a good way for you to keep track of your releases. Usually a catalogue number will be alpha-numeric and signify the number of each release in the label’s catalogue. For example, if my label is called Red Wine Records my first release may have the cat no. RED001
It is often helpful to separate digital and physical releases with a format identifier. For example RED001CD for the version of the release available on CD and RED001LP for the vinyl version.
Release Format Type
In this section you need to put whether your release is an album, single or EP.
If your release is digital only, use the following as a basis for selecting your format:
1-3 Tracks – Single
4-6 Tracks – EP
7+ Tracks – Album
Some services might override your selection here if they have their own criteria for describing releases.
If you’re releasing digital only, you can leave this blank. If this metadata sheet relates to a physical release, enter which of the following best suits your release from the dropdown menu:
CD, Cassette, 7″ Vinyl, 10″ Vinyl, 12″ Vinyl
The digital services have ultimate control over the pricing of releases.
For those services which allow variable pricing, we can choose from the following price bands – Premium, Full, Mid & Budget.
Select from the drop down box, with the following in mind. A price band of ‘Full’ will make the release available for the standard full price of similar formats on each service. A price band of Premium will make the release more expensive, and Mid and Budget cheaper respectively. For most releases we’d recommend selecting Full.
Note: for Greedbag releases, the price is set in the dashboard, so select Full.
Licensed Territories to Include / Exclude
If you have rights to release worldwide, simply put World in column 12 and move on.
If you have rights for selected territories only, use the two letter territory ISO code, separated by pipes. You can find the list with all these codes in here.
An example: if you want your release to be available in the UK, France, Germany and America, you should include the following in column 12: GB|FR|DE|US.
If you want the release to be made available worldwide apart from small number of territories, enter WORLD in column 12 then list the territories to exclude in 13.
Note: if just a Greedbag release, enter WORLD.
Release Start Date / End Date
In release start date, enter the date you’d like your release to be made available on the digital services.
We’d recommend choosing a release date in at least two weeks time, or if we’re assisting with promotion, six weeks.
If this release has already been made available, you must put the original release date here.
Bear in mind, you can choose whichever day you like for your release but the new global release day is Friday. If we’re assisting with promotion, you must select a Friday. We’d recommend this as best practice for all releases.
If you’d like your release to be taken down on a specific date, you can enter this in Release End Date.
However, not all services are able to make this effective so you must email us four weeks ahead of the date you’d like the release to be taken down to make sure this happens everywhere.
This stands for ‘Global Release Identifier.’
You can leave this blank as this will be assigned for you.
The Global Release Identifier, which you can read more about on the IFPI website, is a system to identify releases of digital sound recordings (and other digital data) for electronic distribution. It is designed to be integrated with identification systems used by lots of the businesses involved in making music available commercially.
(P) and (C) Information
- (P) Year
- (P) Holder
(P) Year is the year of first publication of the sound recording(s) in YYYY format.
(P) Holder is the holder of the sound recording(s) copyright. Usually this is the label name.
So, if the release has never been released before enter the release date year in (P) Year and your label name in (P) Holder.
- (C) Year
- (C) Holder
(C) Year is the year of first publication of the underlying copyrighted work. Follow the same rules as (P) for these fields.
You can leave this field blank. It is for the digital services’ reference only.
This is your label name.
Use the same label name here that you signed to us with.
You can use a different label name here if you let us know if advance so we can link that label name to your account with us.
If the label name doesn’t match with the label we have on your account it is possible that royalty payments will be delayed. Don’t forget, your label doesn’t need to be a registered company.
Use the drop-down menus on the Primary genre fields to select the most relevant genre to your release. You can be more specific in the Sub genre fields.
MainGenre Primary: This field is mandatory. Choose a primary genre from the fixed list provided in the drop-down menu.
MainGenre Sub: This field is optional. MainGenre Sub is free text, meaning you can enter any genre you wish.
AlternateGenre Primary: This field is optional. If you want, you can put an optional second genre from the fixed list provided in the drop-down menu.
AlternateGenre Sub: This field is optional. AlternateGenre Sub is free text, meaning you can enter any genre you wish.
Please note: if the genre “Classical” is entered in any of these fields, iTunes require that the Composer metadata field is filled in for all tracks.
Select from the options in the drop-down menu to indicate Explicit Content:
- Y = Yes
- N = No
- C = Cleaned (swear words have been bleeped or removed)
Please note: If any track on a product has Y for Explicit Content, then the entire product needs to be marked as having Explicit Content at Product Level in the template. That means all lines at Product Level must have Y for Explicit Content if one or more tracks have Explicit Content at Track Level.
If Explicit Content is present on a product, ensure that the Genre is not “Children’s”.
Volume No. / Total
If your metadata relates to a digital only release, put a ‘1’ in both fields on all lines.
If your release is a 2 CD set, the Volume Total would be 2 so ‘2’ should be on all lines in this column.
Enter ‘1’ for all lines on volume 1 (CD 1) of the product, 2′ for all lines on volume 2 of the product in the Volume No column.
You can leave this field blank. We use this to determine where your releases will be delivered.
Don’t forget, every line at product level should be identical. The total number of lines used will be determined by the number of tracks.
This one’s fairly self explanatory!
Don’t forget to follow the capitalisation guidelines when putting your track titles in here.
We suggest that every track on a product be given a unique title – no two tracks should share the exact same name.
For a single track that is a medley or mix of several songs, please separate the names with a slash. For example: ‘Stars On 45 / When I’m Cleaning Windows / Any Old Iron / Run, Rabbit Run’.
If one of the tracks on your release is a special version or mix, don’t refer to this in it’s title.
For example, don’t include in a track title wording such as “Album Version”, “LP Version” or “Clean Version”, “Explicit Version”, “Previously Unreleased”. You’ll be able to add this information in the following field.
Further, please don’t include words such as ‘featuring’, ‘feat.’ or ‘with’ in the title field.
Mix / Version
This field is optional and should only be used if the track is a ‘special’ mix or version. E.g. ‘Goldie’s Darkside Remix’, ‘Live’, ‘Remastered’, ‘Radio Edit’ or ‘Extended Version’
Do not use brackets in this field. These will be added automatically.
Artist / Display Artist
Follow the guidelines as per Product Level here.
If you put Various Artists at Product Level, remember to list all artists alongside the corresponding track, here. Please don’t put Various Artists in the track level ‘Artist(s)’ or ‘Display Artist’ fields.
The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings.
An ISRC means that recordings can be uniquely and permanently identified.
Once an ISRC is assigned to a sound recording, it is a fixed reference for that sound recording.
This simplifies the management of rights when recordings are used across different formats, products, services, borders or under different licensing deals.
If you don’t have ISRCs we can assigned these for you too. Just get fill out the following form and we’ll send some straight over.
It’s important to give a recording an ISRC and not change it unless the sound recording is re-worked. Read these FAQ if you aren’t sure about ISRCs:
See above at Product Level for more information on GRid (you can leave this blank).
This is where you choose whether your tracks will be available to purchase and stream individually.
If you’d like your tracks to be available on streaming services (such as Spotify, Apple Music etc) then you must select ‘Y’.
(P) and (C) Information
Follow the guideline’s outlined above at Product Level. You can now be more specific about individual track rights holders however.
At Product Level the genre information related to the releases as whole. Here you can fill out genre information specific to each track.
Follow the instructions at Product Level here. You can now provide specific information about each track.
Producer(s) / Mixer(s)
This is where you specify the producer and mixing engineer of the sound recording.
In the Metadata Template, enter names using Firstname Lastname order – i.e. “Rupert Parkes”, not “Parkes, Rupert”.
Separate multiple Producer names with pipes “|”. If the track is a remix, enter the remix producer here.
The composer of the musical arrangement of the underlying work. This field is optional, although some Services may require it for reporting purposes.
Note: if the product genre is “Classical”, then the Composer field is required by iTunes. Enter names using Firstname Lastname order – i.e. “Kim Deal”, not “Deal, Kim”. Separate multiple Composer names with pipes “|”.
This is where you identify the author of the lyrics contained in the underlying work.
This is where you put the publisher of the musical work. This field is optional, although some services may require it for reporting purposes (Boundee for example)
E.g. ‘Sony/ATV’, ‘Copyright Control’, ‘Famous Music Publishing’
Separate multiple publisher names with pipes, which look like this: |
Once you’ve got the metadata prepared, it’s time to learn how to name your files for the server and assign barcodes here.