Metadata is Crucial to Getting Your Music & Mixes Broadcast

This is a Public Service Announcement for musical artists.

For radio people, your metadata is like your book cover: if it looks bad, no one picks it up for a closer look (or listen).

If you want to get aired, make sure your metadata is complete and correct. Follow the below concise advice to maximize your chances of getting your music on air… Well, honestly, if you don’t follow the advice below, your submissions aren’t even likely to be listened to for broadcast consideration. Many broadcasters just delete submissions that don’t have proper metadata before even giving it a listen.

I host an internationally-syndicated radio show and I play unsigned and indie label bands. I also know a lot of other show hosts, DJs, and program directors. We tend to talk, and one of our biggest pet peeves about your submissions is your metadata. In fact, I’m writing this blog post because of several recent discussions on Facebook among radio people in which we discussed metadata pet peeves, and in which several of the participants–people who choose whether your music gets on the air or not (or Net, it’s all air)–said things like “no metadata = no air,” “if the metadata is wrong or incomplete, I just delete the tracks,” “Mama’s done spending the day fixing music, I pay to play it and I don’t get paid to fix it,” and “ain’t no one got time to fix some wannabe’s metadata, even if he is the next Dr Dre.”

Many radio people will simply reject your music if the metadata isn’t correct and complete.

Do yourself a favor and do it right. A visual example of right and wrong is below the Dos list.

Do Your Metadata Right

Make sure that:

  • Title, Artist, Album Name, Album Artist, and Track No. fields are complete and correct exactly as they should be broadcast on air (again, “air” means FM, AM, XM, and Internet).
  • Title, Artist, Album Name, Album Artist, and Track No. fields contain only the one piece of information. A title that includes the artist, track number, and then song title is often rejected out of hand (see Wicked Garden’s tracks in the image below).
  • A correct Genre field is also usually required, though to some broadcasters it’s not crucial.
  • Other metadata fields like Date, Original Date, Composers, Lyricists, Comments, etc. are usually not required, but they are often very helpful because they give on-air talent (hosts like me and DJs) and live presenters (DJs and MCs) information to talk about when playing your tracks, e.g. “That was New Band with ‘That Song’ featuring Old Band’s Bobby Smith on guitars and Mary James from Other Band on vocals. It was produced by the famed Robert Jones who has worked with Led Zeppelin, Skid Row, and Godsmack.” Your EPK may cover this, but at air time, we see metadata onscreen, not EPKs. Metadata is always part of, and with, a track, whereas an EPK assumes we busy/lazy radio people will have/take time to look it up along with the EPKs for the other 40 songs during our timeslots. (Read: probably won’t happen.)
  • Remove version numbers from all fields. Many of your submitted music is one of several variations and mixes, we get that, but listeners don’t and they don’t want to see “My Song v1.3” or “[Mix 1.0] Mega Track Mix”. Some systems ([cough]iTunes[cough]) can put such version numbers in the metadata, so check your tracks’ metadata before sending them to a broadcaster.
  • Make sure all metadata fields use PROPER case and no special symbols. You may think it’s cute to list your band name as “IhASl33tCaMeLcAsE!” but broadcasters and charts don’t. Neither do the PROs who monitor so you get paid; if case doesn’t match their catalog, you won’t get paid for the play! List your band name as it is legally written on your incorporation papers, on your Trademark application, on your label contract, or, in the absence of those, the way a normal, functioning non-musician would write the band name (and song and album titles).
  • AND, DON’T SET YOUR TITLE OR OTHER FIELDS IN ALL CAPS. It will not get your track more attention in our track management systems or on radio or ‘Net player displays. More often, it gets your music ignored because broadcasters are often too busy to fix your goofy and tired text tricks to make your tracks broadcast-ready.

A Visual Example

In this screenshot from my own submissions folder–and I’m sorry to call out these artists–only Midnight Bullet and some of Scythe for Sore Eyes sent complete metadata. The others have various problems that make me (and whomever elese they sent their music to) have to choose to either manually fix the problems or not play them. So far, I just haven’t had the time to fix the metadata, so I haven’t played them on my show; I haven’t even bothered to listen to them because they’re not broadcast-ready while others–like Midnight Bullet–are broadcast-ready.

Screenshot of various metadata problems shown in a broadcaster's music management system.

Public Service Announcement

I wrote this blog post to help you, whether you’re an artist, indie label, or distribution service. Metadata matters a lot.

For radio people, your metadata is like your book cover: if it looks bad, no one picks it up for a closer look (or listen).

If you want to know why metadata is such a big deal to us… Well, it’s a long answer. The short answer is: we’re legally required to have it, broadcast it, and track it by the FCC, for artist payment purposes, and a few other reasons. So this post isn’t about radio people being lazy or nitpicky; it’s about you making sure you give us what we need so that we can consider airing your music and mixes.