Even the most casual music listener has experienced interaction with music metadata. When searching for music, we rely on data that describes the music we're looking for: artist, band, song title, album title, genre. Whether we're shopping online or at the record store, some of us go straight to our favorite genre to find new artists while others will go to their favorite artist to pick up their latest release. However we finally get to those consumable sounds and tunes, music metadata played a role in how we got there.
The Internet and computer technology has added significant sophistication to the process of music cataloging. With streaming radio stations like Pandora, listeners can now create a radio station based on an artist or song that they like, and through clever algorithms, the station will play similar tracks and artists. Called The Music Genome Project, every track is given distinct characteristics well beyond artist and genre in order to create a highly personalized experience.
Music listeners also have a number of new tools at their disposal when it comes to finding new music. There's 'liking' and rating items in order to generate additional recommendations. There's large databases, such as AllMusic as well as unique music exploration tools, such as Music-Map, which helps users find similar artists.
The Internet has also created a drastic increase in music availability, which in turn has influenced subsequent composers, musicians and other creatives. This ongoing binging of music, old and new, has created massive evolution in music creation, with large and complex webs of genres and subgenres being created to describe an increasing diversity of musical styles. Check this out to see just how complex the subgenre web of Electronic Music can get.
When it comes to sync licensing in the film, television and commercial world, music metadata plays a different role. Of most importance, publisher and composer information must accompany the track so that it can be properly entered into the program's cue sheet in order to assure that the composer(s) and publisher(s) get their share of performance royalties from their performing rights organization. The song title as it is registered with the PRO is important as well.
However, tracks being distributed for sync licensing placements often include a wide range of additional metadata in order to increase the chance of being used. This may include tempo, BPM, featured instruments, genres and most importantly, moods. This metadata is specifically designed to be useful to those who would be searching for it: directors, music supervisors, editors, music editors, etc.
Since those who are looking for tracks for licensing have considerably varied musical backgrounds (and are not necessarily full blown musicologists), the metadata should be easily accessible and optimized for quick searching. Not every editor is going to know what Drill'n'bass music is, which means it is unlikely that he/she would search for that genre. Instead, it is best to label within the realm of genres that are known to everybody, such as rock, electronic, hip-hop, country, alternative, etc., with perhaps a couple subgenres listed (but nothing overly obscure).
This is why mood labeling is so important, especially when synchronizing music to picture. Music is usually used to help create, support or disturb the emotional content of the visual and narrative. So it's much easier for a music supervisor, for example, to know that they need music that is sad, lonely, happy or scary and to then search using those kinds of keywords.
One thing is true: music is emotion. Every single piece of music conjures some kind of emotion in everybody (unless you're among the 5 percent). It's that emotional response that we're seeking, and sometimes searching by mood is the best way to find it. Now go discover some new music!
If you are a publisher, musician, composer, record label or other music industry professional and need music metadata services: Total Music Metadata.