A guide on the best practices for indexing musical content using metadata


Welcome to MetaMusic, a guide to indexing musical content using metadata destined to the rights holders of the musical value chain. It describes the process and best practices to follow and it introduces a shared metadata model for the indexation of musical 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 record that information.

Some of the metadata fields in MetaMusic are identified as mandatory (*). This means they are essential to allow all rights holders to receive the royalties stemming from the use of their music. Other fields are identified as recommended. A third category of field is useful only for a single type of stakeholder—those fields are called specific or proprietary.

Mandatory, recommended or specific—regardless of their status, the metadata fields included in this guide are all critical in activating your music’s discoverability.

The reader will notice that the rights management and other organizations we refer to are local ones since this guide was conceived to be used by local musical content creators and producers.

Currently, in Québec, the practices for indexing musical content using metadata are quite variable. Musical works and sound recording are, sadly, too often badly indexed. As a result, the work of rights management organizations, whose mission it is to distribute to the various rights holders the royalties they have rightly earned, is complicated and slowed down, not to mention the fact that the discoverability of those contents is greatly diminished.

Adopting the best content indexation practices using exhaustive and standardized metadata is critical to the existence of digital content. It is the prerequisite step before any commercialization strategy.

Moreover, adopting the best practices for the indexation of musical content will become the difference between professional and amateur content.

This guide was born out of the desire of Québec’s music ecosystem to benefit from a professional collective tool to improve the quality of the metadata used to describe our musical content and activate the discoverability of our entire musical heritage.

Producing exhaustive and standardized metadata following MetaMusic’s proposed process is critical to achieve two crucial objectives:

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

Consulting the Process

The information is organized along a temporal line in order to simplify the consultation of the information contained in MetaMusic. This is a relatively standardized chronology of the creation, production and commercialization stages of a sound recording in order to link the actions required for indexing that content using metadata.


Consulting the Toolkit

The reference document, or toolkit, defines the various MetaMusic fields, their use and how to record the information, it is complementary to the process itself and is available to download.


Metadata 101

What is metadata?

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

Metadata did not appear with the advent of the digital era—the fields collected by MetaMusic used to be included in an album’s cover! The difference between the credits printed on an album’s cover and metadata is that the latter ca also be read by a computer.

Who should index content using metadata?

All the stakeholders of a work of music (author, composer, publisher) or sound recording (preforming artists, musicians, producers, arrangers, etc.) share the responsibility of indexing their content using metadata.

Certain fields can be indexed or modified without a special authorization while others can only be entered by the stakeholder with the required authority to do so.

When should musical content be indexed using metadata?

As soon as a piece of music is created, it becomes relevant for its author or composer to document it. The lyricist, for example, should record their text using a word processing software.

During the recording (in a studio, for example), the technical staff should also record the metadata.

Following the record stage, the people in charge of its exploitation also have an indexation duty.

Important note: if the sound recording is transmitted to the platforms before the indexation process is complete, it will be impossible to fix it down the line.

Who uses metadata?

Metadata is used by all traditional and digital music services. Commercial radio and television stations and services such as Stingray Musique, SiriusXM, Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube as well as search engines all use metadata.

They are also required by certain stakeholders in the marketing chain of music such as distributors.

Finally, the rights management organizations need them to be able to pay the rights holders. To do this, they use unique identifiers such as the ISRC, among others.

Defining Shared Metadata (Mandatory and Recommended) and Specific Metadata

MetaMusic includes all of the metadata shared by all users (music services, distributors, etc.).

The mandatory metadata fields are indicated by an asterisk (*), the recommended ones do not have a mention, and the specific ones are indicated by (S).

It is important to note that all the metadata inventoried by MetaMusic is crucial.

Mandatory (*):

This metadata is required for the exploitation of a musical work and sound recording. They are essential in allowing rights holders to receive the royalties stemming from their use.


This metadata is required to activate the discoverability of musical works and sound recordings.

Specific (S):

There are data that are specific to certain recipients, users or rights management organizations and required for the exploitation or the conduct of the operations of a content.

What are the best practices when it comes to metadata?

The existence and integrity of musical content rely on exhaustive, standardized and professional metadata. This is why MetaMusic proposes a shared model.

Concretely, adopting best content indexing practices requires, among other things:

  • documenting musical content throughout the value chain, from creation to exploitation;
  • being rigorous and thorough and exact, including accurate spelling, when recording metadata;
  • provide metadata adapted to the needs of the various stakeholders who are sometimes outside of the shared model proposed by MetaMusic;
  • that all contributors of a musical content take ownership when it comes to its indexation.

What is content discoverability?

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

What does metadata have to do with it? Metadata is what is used by discovery tools (computers, search engines, algorithms, smart speakers, etc.).

Team and Acknowledgements

This guide was developed with the contribution of a team of representatives from the sound recording ecosystem.

MetaMusic benefited from the financial participation of the Government of 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.

The revision of the guide was done by Marie-Julie Desrochers, ADISQ.

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

Web site design: MamboMambo.

Thank you to the following people for their active participation in this 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 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 needs to be recorded and transmitted at each step of the creation and exploitation

Activate the discoverability of your musical content