May 4, 2006 10:50 AM PDT

New group to standardize digital music data

In an effort to better track digital music sales, several big-name record companies, digital music services and music rights agencies have founded a consortium called Digital Data Exchange.

The purpose of DDEX (pronounced "dee-dex") is to establish standards for the meta-data in digital music files, mainly for sales and rights-tracking purposes.

Founding members of the consortium include artists' rights group ASCAP, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and EMI Music, as well as several other music rights societies and agencies from the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Apple Computer, Microsoft and RealNetworks, which all provide digital music services, are also charter members.

"What we hope to accomplish is a foundation or baseline so that information about music and songs are going to be transmitted more efficiently," Chris Amenita, senior vice president of ASCAP, told CNET "Sort of like what the credit card industry did a number of years ago when they standardized their numerics."

As it stands now, content providers, publishing houses and digital music services have no standard way to deliver or receive information on the sales of music downloads. The record labels report to publishing houses when they release music files to music services in their own proprietary way. Each music service in turn reports the sales of specific digital music files to the publishing houses and content providers in their own format.

DDEX seeks to establish a standard format and tracking system for the meta-data attached to digital music files. Once the standard is established, identification of rights owners, sales and royalty information will be relayed in the same manner for all legally distributed music.

"Optimistically, it would be great if we could have something by the end of the year," Amenita said. "But with so many parties involved you have to be realistic."

In addition to streamlining rights reporting and sales, a long-term goal for DDEX is to eventually standardize the meta-data consumers use to digitally sort and organize their music.

That would mean that information such as artist name, track labels and other related content would appear in a standard format across devices and music programs.

Apple recently renewed its contracts with EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner to maintain its 99-cents-per-song pricing on iTunes. Last year at a press conference Apple CEO Steve Jobs publicly referred to record labels as "greedy."

See more CNET content tagged:
digital music, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp., consortium


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how about a standard format instead
this doesn't help consumers in the least. at worst it hurts us. why can't these companies come together and design, or agree upon, a standard set of audio and video formats that will be used for online and digital music sales.

for instance: i would love to buy a music subscription but i can't because i have an ipod. alternatively, i couldn't use a device that supports that function, because most of my music is encoded for my ipod, in formats that most players don't use.

this is what people care about, not helping music companies to better track the proliferation of music pirating (which is really what 'ddex' is all about)
Posted by mortis9 (370 comments )
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ddex is not about chasing pirates...
DDEX is about driving clear b2b XML standards for people in the music distribution commerce chain. There are dozens of audio formats out there and some Apple has chosen to support and others they have not. Its really up to them. And of course you when you choose to buy the iPod.
Posted by richlap (1 comment )
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all about priorities
The RIAA didn't seem to have a problem coming up with a standard on how to sue illegal downloaders, but I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that they are having a much harder time finding a standard when it comes to paying the artists... because protecting their intellectual property is a two-way street: they must maximize revenue coming in while minimizing expenses going out!
Posted by skeptik (590 comments )
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