A guide to best practices for indexing music content using metadata


Welcome to MetaMusic, a guide to indexing music content using metadata intended for all rights holders of the music value chain. It outlines the procedure and best practices to follow and establishes a common metadata model for indexing any music content.

An accompanying reference document acts as a toolkit containing the definitions of the various metadata fields included in MetaMusic as well as the specific instructions on how to enter that information.

Some of the metadata fields in MetaMusic are identified as mandatory (*). This means they are necessary to allow all rights holders to receive the royalties arising from the use of their music. Other fields are identified as recommended. Finally, some fields are useful only to one type of party: those fields are identified as specific or proprietary.

Mandatory, recommended or specific: regardless of their status, the metadata fields included in this guide are all essential in enabling the discoverability of your music.

Since the guide was conceived to be used by the actors of music content in Québec, it is to be noted that the Collective Management Organizations and other associations we refer to are local.

Currently, in Québec, the practice of indexing music content using metadata is highly variable. Too often, musical works and sound recordings are poorly indexed. As a result, the work of Collective Management Organizations, whose mission is to distribute to rights holders the royalties they have rightly earned, is increased and slowed down and the discoverability of these contents is considerably reduced.

Adopting content indexing practices using exhaustive and standardized metadata is necessary to ensure the existence of digital content. It is a prerequisite prior to any marketing strategy.

Moreover, the adoption of best practices for indexing music content will distinguish professional content from amateur content.

This guide was born out of the desire of Québec’s music community to develop a professional collective tool to improve the quality of the metadata used to describe our music content. To enable the discoverability of our entire musical heritage!

Producing exhaustive and standardized metadata following the MetaMusic procedure is essential to achieve two crucial objectives:

  • to allow all rights holders of a musical project to receive the royalties they are owed;
  • to enable the discoverability of your music on digital and traditional platforms.

Follow the Procedure

To facilitate the consultation of the information contained in Metamusic, the information is organized in the manner of a timeline. The latter presents a relatively standardized chronology of the stages of creation, production and marketing of a sound recording in order to link the actions to be taken in indexing the content using metadata.


Consulting the Toolkit

The reference document, or toolkit, that defines the various MetaMusic fields, specifies their use and how to enter the information, is complementary to the use of the procedure and is available for download.


Metadata 101

What is metadata?

Simply put, metadata is data that is used to document or describe digital content. For example, the date of a recording session, the title of a musical work or the name of a producer.

Metadata are not new to the digital era: the fields compiled by MetaMusic used to be found on our good old album covers! The difference between the credits printed on an album cover and metadata is that the latter can also be read by a computer.

Who should index content using metadata?

Everyone involved in the creation of a musical work (authors, composers, publishers) or a sound recording (performers, musicians, makers, record labels, other creative participants) share the responsibility of indexing their content using metadata.

Some fields can be indexed or modified without requiring special authorization, while others may only be entered by the contributor with the authority to do so.

When should music content be indexed using metadata?

As soon as a musical work is created, it becomes relevant for its author or composer to document it. For example, the lyricist should enter their text with a word processing software.

Then, during the recording (in a studio, for example), the technical staff should also enter the metadata.

Finally, following the recording stage, the people in charge of its exploitation also have indexing responsabilites.

Important note: if the sound recording is transmitted to the platforms before the indexing process is completed, it will be too late to go back.

Who uses metadata?

Metadata are used by all music services, whether traditional and digital. Thus, commercial radios, tv broadcasters, services such as Stingray Musique, SiriusXM, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube as well as search engines all use metadata.

They are also required by certain intermediaries in the music marketing chain, such as distributors.

Finally, Collective Management Organizations need them to be able to pay their rights holders. To do this, they use unique identifiers (for example, the ISRC).

Common Metadata (mandatory and recommended) and Specific Metadata: Definitions

MetaMusic presents the metadata common to all users (music services, distributors, etc.).

The fields of these common metadata are accompanied by the symbol (*) when mandatory, no mention when recommended, or (S) when specific.

Remember: despite the distinction all metadata identified by MetaMusic are very important.

Mandatory (*):

These metadata are required for the exploitation of a musical work and a sound recording. They are essential to allow rights holders to receive the royalties arising from their use.


These metadata are required to enable the discoverability of musical works and sound recordings.

Specific (S):

These metadata are specific to a recipient, user or Collective Management Organization. They are necessary for the exploitation of content or conduct of its operations.

Best practices for metadata: what is it?

The existence of music content and its integrity is based on exhaustive and standardized metadata, i.e. professional quality metadata. To this end, MetaMusic presents a common model.

Concretely, adopting best practices for indexing content requires, in particular:

  • documenting music content throughout the value chain, from creation to exploitation;
  • being rigorous and thorough, with emphasis on accurate spelling when entering metadata;
  • providing metadata adapted to the needs of different intermediaries sometimes beyond the common model proposed by MetaMusic;
  • that all contributors to a music content be responsible for its indexation.

What is content discoverability?

According to the Observatoire de la Culture et des Communications du Québec (OCCQ), discoverability is the ability for a cultural content to be discovered easily by a consumer looking for it and to be offered to those who did not know about it.

What does this have to do with metadata? Well, metadata are used by all discovery tools (computers, search engines, algorithms, smart speakers, etc.).

Team and Acknowledgements

This guide was developed thanks to the contribution of a group of representatives from the sound recording community.

MetaMusic benefited from the financial participation of the Gouvernment du Québec through the Plan d’action pour la musique 2017–2019 of the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications. This project is part of the implementation of a measure of the Plan culturel numérique du Québec.


This project would not have been possible without the invaluable contribution of two collaborators:

  • Jacynthe Plamondon-Émond, InTempo Musique, Project Coordinator and Editor;
  • Jean-Robert Bisaillon, Iconoclaste, Research Consultant and Editor.

For the revision of the guide: Marie-Julie Desrochers, ADISQ.

The project was under the direction of Thomas Jolicoeur and Lyette Bouchard, Soproq.

Website design: MamboMambo.

Thank you to the following people for their active participation in the project:

  • Solange Drouin, Annie Provencher and Philippe Leblanc, ADISQ
  • Jean-François Denis and Jérôme Payette, APEM
  • Annie Morin, Ali Mafi and Julien Gagnon, ARTISTI
  • Luc Fortin and Éric Lefebvre, GMMQ
  • Stéphanie Grimard and Hubert Léveillé Gauvin, Soproq
  • Eric Baptiste, Geneviève Côté, Janice Scott,Terry Boissonneault and Joël Martin, SOCAN
  • Alain Lauzon, SODRAC
  • Marie-Josée Dupré, SPACQ
  • Pierre Blanchet and Gilbert Bélanger, UDA

Thank you also to:

  • Patrick Binette, Stingray
  • Dorothée Parent-Roy, Distribution SELECT
  • Georges Tremblay, Believe Digital
  • Martin Tremblay, Jean-Pascal Lemelin and Emmanuel Villarson, Bell Media,
  • Francine Touchette and Marie-Pierre Brunelle, Société Radio-Canada
  • Jean-Philippe Villemure, mastering technician
  • Maureen Clapperton, Héléna Beaupré, Danielle Poirier and Mireille Laforce, BAnQ
  • Clément Laberge, Consultant
  • Johanne Lafontaine, Denis Bouchard and Caroline Poirier, CRTC
  • Marie-Pier Pilote and Manuel Bouchard, RIDEAU

Metadata need to be entered and transmitted at each stage of creation and exploitation

Enable the discoverability of your music content