ASCAP’s MediaGuide: Will It Identify Your Music?

Let’s take a look at labeling your property. Whether it’s office machines, a vehicle identification number (VIN), the kids’ clothes at camp or a collar on your pet, being able to identify your property has a great upside should things get away from you.

Sure, we file copyright registrations to protect our musical works, but those are useless in detecting broadcast performances in film, television, radio, and the Internet. As with collars on our pets, a virtual tag on our recordings makes intrinsic sense should performances of those works be lost or even stolen.

There’s a correlation to be drawn between tagging our pets and our music. Going to a bit of effort is much more palatable than looking at your child’s face having just lost his or her puppy. Or, heartbreaking as well, if hundreds of network performances of your trailer music from The Matrix go undetected. Yes, putting a label on your property would seem to be a very good idea.

Indeed, it would be shocking if the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) discouraged you from tagging your pet. The policy would be deemed negligent, if not criminal—especially if the animal shelter refused to read the information you provided on the tag.

As intuitive as labeling seems to be, ASCAP is not advocating the tagging of your recordings. Instead, the Society plans to identify your property in another way. ASCAP will take virtual “fingerprints” of recordings and match broadcast detections back to you via a service and company called MediaGuide.

MediaGuide is co-owned by ASCAP and a group of private investors. Reportedly, ASCAP has a 50% stake in the corporation with an initial investment of $15 million of membership money. MediaGuide offers a variety of services to broadcasters, advertisers, content owners, and others. For purposes of this article, we’ll be referring to MediaGuide in terms of its broadcast detection technologies for ASCAP members.

As an alternative to “tagging” an audio recording, ASCAP’s MediaGuide is taking fingerprints of recorded music. To continue with the pet analogy, this is much like taking a paw print or DNA from your pet. Using either method, whether it’s with a tag or via a print, the intention is to match property to its rightful owners.

In the technological world of automated music performance detection, the taking of DNA or “paw prints” is known as fingerprinting, whereas the “labeling” or “tagging” is known as watermarking.

Despite a number of proven watermarking solutions over the past decade, ASCAP doesn’t at all encourage its membership to tag its recordings, and indeed, has no system deployed or announced to identify works via a tag should they get lost in the system.

As composers and songwriters, we want to keep tabs on our pets as well as our broadcast performances. We’re going to explore just that in this article, and examine why failing to accurately identify our works could well put most of us in the doghouse.

First, let’s get our digital terms in order. Fingerprinting and watermarking are both pattern recognition technologies as they apply to audio. However, the two systems are diametric opposites in approaching the job of identifying music played on the air. Each, in turn, possesses inherent strengths and weaknesses.

Fingerprinting refers to the process of taking and storing digital pictures, so to speak, of a music recording. Simply put, the system takes and stores “fingerprints” of sound recordings and monitors broadcasts looking to match those fingerprints with music performances occurring on the air.

When a match is detected, the system logs the broadcast data, such as the station, time of day and duration of play, tying that information to the title of the musical work. Such data, in turn, ties the work to its author, publisher, and PRO (performing rights organization) affiliation.

An inherent weakness of fingerprinting is that all such systems have limitations, to one degree or another, when it comes to recognizing recordings that have been modified since the time their fingerprint was taken. For example, if a voice-over is added or a sound effect employed, a particular system can lose its ability to match fingerprints to performances and the identification of the music is defeated.

One of the strengths of fingerprinting is its potential to recognize recordings created prior to the time the system was deployed.

In all known instances, the fingerprint cannot be taken by the music creator and must be delivered to a facility for processing. It is reported that a new system file is created consisting of one-half audio and one-half fingerprint.

In contrast, digital watermarking refers to the actual insertion of an inaudible code into a music master. The watermark is imbedded by the music creator or publisher via software running on a Mac or PC. It’s a virtual dog tag, and travels with that recording throughout its lifetime.

Typically, the watermark contains an ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) designation and runs throughout the recording. When that recording is broadcast, a monitoring station recognizes the watermark—much like the scan of a supermarket product containing a bar code—and subsequently logs the station, time of day, and duration of the play. The watermark additionally carries the title of the work, the artist performing it, the authors and publishers, the year of release, and just about anything else that may be entered at the outset. This retrievable data in the tag is commonly called the “payload.”

The inherent weakness of watermarking is that music masters containing no watermark will be ignored by the system. This is obviously a problem for legacy product—works released without a watermark. Given time, however, there are ample opportunities for retro-marking as described later in this article.

The inherent strength of digital watermarking is virtual 100% accuracy in detecting works carrying the code. Watermarking has been described as ideal for identifying new song releases, music in new films, series, recordings downloaded and streamed, and for all recorded music going forward.

The commonality between fingerprinting and watermarking technologies are in the monitoring stations required. These must be deployed in order to automate the detection of music performances in all segments of broadcasting nationwide. That’s fairly easy to execute in the monitoring of network feeds, superstations, basic and premium cable, as well as satellite radio.

However, the cost of going into local radio and television origination, syndicated programming, college radio, local cable origination and so forth can represent great expense for either system of detection, depending on the depth of coverage. This depth of accuracy is determined by the number of broadcast markets to be monitored and the number of workstations required in covering the media outlets in each area.

Finally, for all their differences, both fingerprinting and watermarking are pattern recognition technologies.

If there is a single universal truth that applies to America’s performing rights organizations (PROs), it is that nobody, writer or publisher inclusive, believes they’re being paid correctly for public performances of their works.

It’s a business-as-usual complaint made by writers and publishers of all ilks—that they’re simply not earning what they deserve. The general implication is that the dollar-figure on a royalty check and statement is insufficient in consideration of known performances and their relative value. It makes for superb parlor conversation and debate. Like death and taxes, it’s all inherently unfair. Perhaps even skewed in favor of one consideration or another in the great scheme of things.

This universal truth applies to groups of writers as well. Many songwriters most prevalent on the radio believe that the film composers get too large a slice of the TV pie. Many film composers are astonished by the royalty earnings of series television composers, especially if they write the theme. Series composers are aghast at how much money the strip-show composers earn. Virtually all of the above are contemptuous of music libraries on general principle, and further, they can’t believe that composers of music for advertising are earning royalties at all.

And let’s not exclude that most eternal of arguments between the writers—how sample and survey detections may or may not skew money disproportionately to today’s pop elite or to the writers of time-honored “standards,” whose music no longer fairly represents what is actually performed on television. Many writers claim that the detection systems punish “regional” writers who enjoy significant airplay in a particular area or medium, such as college radio or television news themes, but rarely break into the nationwide lists that are advantaged by the survey and sample systems currently in place.

These arguments between writers are endless and are mostly rhetorical, because there’s no proof available. Simply stated, our PROs have yet to evolve their monitoring systems to a level commensurate with the mainstream of American businesses, such as the banks, brokers, telecoms, and retailers.

Unfortunately, fundamental statistics about how music is used in media are forbidden to ASCAP members. Incredibly, composers and songwriters may not know the prevalence of theme, score, songs, and music for advertising on American television.

As a time-honored practice, the methodologies of monitoring music and monetizing those performances into royalties have been strenuously argued going back to ASCAP’s first distributions in the early 1920s, and continue unabated to this day. In that time, SESAC and BMI joined the fray as the 20th century produced new and better systems to deliver music to public ears—theatrical films, radio, network radio, local television, network television, cable, cable networks, pay-per-view, satellite television and radio, the Internet, and musical ringtones. And just as no one believes the PROs are paying them correctly, no one can accurately predict how music delivery systems will further evolve in the 21st century.

Only one thing is clear—that the increased use of automated detection systems by our PROs is crucial if accurate and timely distributions are to be made to rights participants in the ever-increasing media barrage.

We interviewed a number of industry executives and composers about music detection and MediaGuide. They spoke with us on the condition that their names would not be printed – clearly there is concern when it comes to the public discussion of how things work at certain PROs. We begin with a high-ranking executive with a successful music library.

Q: Is music tracking a problem in your area of the industry?

A: There’s a big disconnect between known broadcast performances and those that are actually paid. I’d characterize this as a major problem for the library industry. There are a number of areas where we do get paid and we certainly receive a lot of money, but the tracking is so antiquated and prone to error that it fails to deliver what it should.

Q: Is ASCAP and MediaGuide addressing the core problems of accurate tracking?

A: We work closely with ASCAP on many different levels, but we’re not doing anything with MediaGuide. As you may know, a voice-over or sound effect added to a track currently defeats MediaGuide’s ability to identify a piece of music. The system was brought into ASCAP for application to radio detections. Because most of our music is synchronized with other audio, MediaGuide doesn’t do us much good.

Q: It’s been widely reported that BMI’s BlueArrow technology has a threshold of identifying music that has been rerecorded with dialogue and sound effects— clearly a more intelligent capability in terms of detections. What has your experience been in testing?

A: BlueArrow was able to identify a significant number of music tracks that were in a program with other sounds.

Q: If you would, contrast the ASCAP and BMI methodologies.

A: ASCAP’s MediaGuide and BMI’s BlueArrow systems are different in design. While both are pattern recognition systems, MediaGuide is designed to recognize a piece of music once a fingerprint has been taken. BMI’s BlueArrow has that capability as well. Additionally, the BMI tech has the potential to identify a piece of music that’s playing with voice-over or with other things in the mix; a capability that MediaGuide was not designed to do.

Q: So you favor the BMI detection system over ASCAP’s?

A: BMI’s BlueArrow system, in my opinion, is robust enough to satisfy 80% of our tracking needs for our library that is registered at BMI. As for our ASCAP music and MediaGuide, the capability of detecting music with voice and other waveforms is going to be something they’ll do in their own time. There’s nothing much we can do about it. We look forward to the MediaGuide technology evolving.

With any fingerprinting system, the question of capacity comes into play—just how many audio-fingerprint files can be stored and accessed as new broadcasts are recorded and monitored? Remember, a recording must be stored as a fingerprint in the system before it can be recognized as a performance on the air. In other words, just how big is the job of fingerprinting and storing all the music that could wind-up on television and radio?

There are no publicly known statistics along those lines, but let’s take a quick look.

The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) reports that there were approximately 45,000 commercial CD releases produced in America last year. With a capacity of 80 minutes of music per CD, that’s a potential of 60,000 hours that could be fingerprinted. That’s a real time process from all accounts. Let’s be clear, that’s almost SEVEN YEARS worth of continuous play if you were going to fingerprint all of it in real time.

But hold on, that math isn’t representative of reality. For starters, lots of CD releases will contain less music than the 80-minute capacity – so we can shave quite a bit off that seven years of continuous play. Furthermore, the vast majority of all those commercial releases will never see airplay. So we wonder, who decides what gets fingerprinted and what will be ignored? But we’ll put that on hold for a moment.

Add to that workload the output of the nation’s production music library companies. For the sake of illustration, we’ll estimate 3500 CD releases per year. With approximately 80 minutes of music per CD, that will represent another 10,000 man-hours of fingerprinting, to which overhead costs, breaks, and benefits must be factored.

Then there are independent releases containing cuts that may see airplay in one form or another, in addition to the totality of original post scoring commissioned for film, television, and radio programming. Add to that a truly immense amount of music for advertising. All this sums to a vast repertory that must also be fingerprinted if it is to be detected and identified by MediaGuide.

And we’re only addressing, thus far, the musical output of a single calendar year. Now factor ALL the repertory of recorded material produced in the 20th and 21st centuries and put each cut in line for fingerprinting. An impossible task? Well, yes and no.

Interestingly, virtually ALL music broadcasts can be fingerprinted by MediaGuide, dependant on the depth of its monitoring stations. Whatever broadcast outlets are being monitored, the system can potentially record and fingerprint music 24/7/365.

The catch is this: not all the fingerprints will actually be identified. And depending on the medium, station, and what the system is tweaked to recognize, it may identify most or hardly any of the recordings. Almost anything can happen, based on the parameters of MediaGuide’s programming.

Here’s how it works. In an attempt to recognize the great American catalog of current output and legacy recordings that cannot be fingerprinted before they’re broadcast, it is reported that MediaGuide has employed a subsystem called TuneFarmer. Simply stated, the system isn’t just matching known fingerprints to current broadcasts—each monitoring hub is continually recording new and unknown fingerprints as well. According to our sources, there will be a point where a sufficient number of plays of a sound recording may trigger a human being to research and identify that recording along with its writers and publishers. That is, if a fingerprint was not taken prior to release.

The immense output of American composers and songwriters leads to a quandary in the efficacy of MediaGuide detections—there is no practical way for a single company to take a fingerprint of every commercially released recording ever produced and identify each print with metadata (writer/publisher info). The more efficient method is to let the recording owners tag their releases with a watermark. Besides, those owners will understand the prioritization of what musical works to watermark first, as well as having a vested interest in seeing their product properly labeled.

In the aggregate, most US recording releases going back to Edison will not enjoy airplay—so why fingerprint them in the first place? * Unless the fingerprint AND identification databases are complete and accurate, the majority of cuts in the totality of airplay will not be identified by MediaGuide. *

What is not known at this time is what the line of demarcation is with regard to an unknown fingerprint being matched to a work title with metadata about its author, publisher, and PRO. Will ten plays within a 13-week period on a single radio station trigger an employee to identify an unknown fingerprint? Or will it be fifty plays, or perhaps a hundred performances on multiple stations before a work hits the radar at MediaGuide? The threshold of recognition can be a movable point programmed with potentially shifting criteria of factors.

The point is, MediaGuide can be programmed to ignore performances as effectively as it can detect them. The system is not designed to be a register at a supermarket—it’s dealing with vastly more complicated parameters. It could be used to cherry-pick feature performances out of mainstream broadcasts and essentially ignore vast numbers of performances in other usage categories. It could potentially be used to faithfully capture and identify network feeds only to ignore local programming such as news themes, movies carried only by local affiliates and the music for advertising that supports such programming.

“You have to understand these systems,” said one technology executive. “Audio fingerprint recognition is not a counter like a cash register, or a turnstile at the ballpark. It’s more like a filter, separating one thing from another depending on the programmed parameters of what will be accepted, what will be placed on hold, and what will be discarded.”

How MediaGuide’s capabilities will actually be deployed remains to be seen. But if the lack of basic disclosure thus far is any indication of the future, detection and distribution will remain a thing kept very much under wraps. Composers, songwriters, and publishers will continue to have ample ammunition to fuel their time-honored conversations about the fairness and accuracy of royalty distribution.

We spoke with additional executives and asked if ASCAP and MediaGuide had approached their companies pursuant to fingerprinting. “Perhaps two years ago,” said one executive. “We sent our entire library to ASCAP. We don’t know if any or all of it was fingerprinted in point of fact. They asked for it, we sent it, but there hasn’t been any follow-through since that time. I’m not expecting to see any fruits of the process anytime soon. No matter what ASCAP says, fingerprinting is not meant for us in the library and post scoring business.”

We interviewed a veteran composer and senior music library executive on the subject of MediaGuide. Again, we did so on the stipulation that they would remain anonymous.

Q: What is the purpose of MediaGuide, in your opinion?

Executive: Recognizing songs on the radio and in other media.

Q: That’s apparently true – MediaGuide monitors of 2500 radio stations across the country. MediaGuide also monitors twenty or so television networks and stations.

Composer: With all the tracking problems in radio and TV, spending millions of dollars belonging to all ASCAP members in order to benefit only a portion of the membership is patently unfair. From our perspective, it’s a waste of money. There’s much better technology available.

Q: You mean in recognizing a work that’s been modified, such as an added voice-over?

Composer: Yes. Or with sound effects added, or containing signal or time compression. Any audio modification that can defeat MediaGuide as it is. I have personal knowledge that the technology acquired by BMI is much more effective.

Q: Short of better music detection services by ASCAP, how is this being handled currently?

Executive: Often painfully. Lack of accurate tracking gives rise to the only thing we currently have, which is the survey. And the unidentified music they send us on CDs.

Q: You’re referring to ASCAP’s Special Library Survey?

Executive: That’s right. We in the library industry are sent hours and hours of music ASCAP can’t identify, and we have the opportunity to sift through them looking for cuts we produced.

Q: That was a Doug Wood initiative, before he was elected to the ASCAP board. Right?

Executive: Yes. Because at that time, it was a real improvement over what we were getting. But stacks of CDs containing unidentified music that must be manually processed is not a permanent solution. There’s no secret about that.

Q: What’s your solution?

Executive: A complement of fingerprinting AND watermarking technologies that will address both sides of detection. But there doesn’t seem to be the will at ASCAP to do it.

Q: You’re looking at inferior pattern recognition with MediaGuide and no watermarking strategy?

Executive: Yes. I can’t pretend it’s not a problem.

Q: Even if ASCAP and MediaGuide adapt to more reliant detection technology, what about the process of actually fingerprinting repertory?

Composer: It was a real time process when I saw it demonstrated. It all depends on how many people are employed to do the work. With fingerprinting, you have to send it in. Considering all new record releases in addition to the total output of libraries, jingle houses, and all the new film and television music broadcast in a year, I would imagine the bottleneck would be enormous. And that’s before legacy product comes into the mix.

Q: Have you heard anything from ASCAP regarding this immense task and the bottleneck effect?

Composer: Not a word. But it seems to me that the gatekeepers will have to implement a means for content owners to take the fingerprint themselves, and submit it with data.

Q: Of course, there would be security issues.

Executive: Sure. Perhaps make fingerprinting available to the high-volume record companies, the larger libraries and ad houses.

Q: Wouldn’t that create the same effect as a sample or survey of performances? Many, even most of them could go unidentified.

Executive: Maybe, maybe not. But the thing’s got to move towards automation and greater accuracy. I think that’s what most people want. One way or another, the work needs to be done.

Q: Yet, as you say, there appears to be no will at ASCAP to do it.

Executive: Sadly true. It’s like that scene in The Wizard of Oz—“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

Q: (laughing)

Executive: Let’s keep quotes like that off the record, shall we?

Q: As we discussed, it’s all off the record in terms of attributing quotes. There’s so much stigma about even constructive criticism of the Great and Powerful Oz that we’re not going to identify anyone by name. There’ll be no way for anyone to know unless you tell.

Executive: Mum’s the word.

Q: Okay, if there’s no collective will at ASCAP to track broadcast performances of the repertory to a level commensurate with how the banks, retailers, and telecoms conduct their transactions—there’s a reason for it. Who does that benefit?

Executive: Clearly those in power at ASCAP.

Q: It’s been whispered that those pulling the strings at ASCAP are actually sacrificing their legacies in the form of leveraging one member-group over another, loss of member rights, entrenching shoddy performance detection, slight-of-hand distribution, weighting the works broadcasters use the most into the ground, tying those artificially imposed weightings to voting powers, suppressing critics, stifling open communication—the list goes on—all to slice that distribution pie like the leadership wants it.

Executive: That’s about it. But you said that, not me.

Q: Clearly.

Composer: One aspect I’ll address is that whatever leveraging has left us with little or no industrial representation or even advocacy. And MediaGuide, as I see it, is just one more form of leveraging. There’s no voice for film & television composers in Congress, with the studios, producers, big publishing, or anywhere else. Therefore, MediaGuide wasn’t designed to deliver instrumental score detections.

Q: Do you think this was intentionally maneuvered?

Composer: Partially yes, mostly no. Maybe as an unintentional effect of controlling distribution, this has left millions of American music copyrights twisting in the wind when it comes to continuing benefit to the people who actually wrote the music. Composers under work-for-hire agreements may be cut out of the income stream entirely when it comes to a digital world. Of course, that remains to be seen. But from where I sit, it doesn’t bode well at all for media composers.

Executive: Perhaps even for our PROs and their ability to license work-for-hire music in the future. And that body of music represents what the broadcasters use the most.

Q: Dick Wolf, veteran television producer of Law & Order and many other series has stated, “There’s a potential that in 5 or 10 years, the only real television revenue streams may be downloading.” That’s a very scary picture for many composers.

Composer: You bet. Of course, I’m hoping to be proved wrong about that. I don’t want to see score composers get clobbered in a digital world.

Q: Do you have any advice for writers performing under work-for-hire agreements?

Composer: Have your lawyer or agent negotiate as many rights as possible to be granted back to you via your contract. These would be rights that present no threat to the company in controlling the work, but would preserve some modicum of royalty participation.

Q: That didn’t work, for the most part, with composer negotiations regarding laserdiscs, videocassettes, or DVD releases. Or, with many composers retaining participation in mechanical income in the library industry.

Executive: True. But the dynamics of digital supply and demand have presented a great many new challenges. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that. The worry for everyone could be – what happens to the copyright of a score today may adversely affect a song tomorrow. Personally, I think it may ultimately become a Constitutional issue with regard to the framer’s intent about copyright.

Analysis: Will it Identify Your Music?

At some point – and as a permanent solution- one must decide to tag the pets and recordings in the first place so that they can be identified. Clearly, it’s better than paw-printing them after they’re lost and tracing them back to you.

Sure, MediaGuide can take a fingerprint, but that’s not an effective thing until the fingerprint has been identified. The system will be burdened with the time-consuming and expensive job of researching to whom many or even most of the prints belong.

As there will always be new dogs and new music, it’s infinitely better to affix the tag from the start. Let music running through broadcast and other systems be recognized and attributed as easily as a “Payday” candy bar through the scanner at your local convenience store. Just like a tag on your beloved pet, it will be recognized and not forever lost.

As it is, fingerprinting as stand-alone automation for music performance detection is a lost dog & pony show, to a very great degree. That’s especially true television, ASCAP’s single greatest source of licensing revenues. MediaGuide is a dazzling, complicated, and costly production that may keep our eyes off the real subject: accurate and complete performance detection.

Using fingerprinting alone, only the biggest dogs will be identified in the scheme of things, leaving most unidentified in the aggregate. It makes no sense to design a permanent system to fingerprint millions of lost dogs and then go about manually finding their owners. The opportunity exists to permanently tag them all within a workable timeframe.

Since the time of SESAC’s bold watermarking initiative with Aris/Verance/ConfirMedia in 1998, recordings and films have continually been restored, re-mastered and re-released. I refer specifically to the DVD medium that didn’t exist ten years ago. Imagine the opportunity to watermark the entirety of DVD releases (and their commercial soundtracks) being lost. And with each and every release requiring mastering at a lab. An amazingly opportune moment to watermark sadly squandered. Not to mention every CD release, television series, and film produced since 1998 that could’ve benefited from an identifying watermark, but didn’t.

Moreover, audio and video lawfully posted on the Internet could’ve been watermarked from the outset as a condition of licensing from as far back as ten years ago when such things were barely in the offing, if at all. Most all of those digital cats are out of the bag as well, and without their tags.

From the time when film and episodic television in syndication was delivered on video or even film stock, it has become routine for stations to take delivery via satellite and other means of digital delivery from a common source—another centralized opportunity to watermark legacy product.

Happily, however, CDs and DVDs will certainly not be the last digital formats to contain recorded content. There will always be opportunity to watermark musical content.

But an “identify-it-later” system such as fingerprinting makes no sense in the long run. That is, unless it’s your intention to value one kind of dog over another to the bitter end. Unless the ASCAP leadership grasps that concept, and soon, their role in the 21st century may prove to be irrelevant in upholding the rights of most authors, composers, and songwriters.

Then again, a portion of that threat could be removed if the tracking and detection of all categories of broadcast music was implemented with equal zeal. If ASCAP could answer “YES!” to the question: Will MediaGuide Identify My Music? —what a marketing bonanza it would be. Therefore, why not add watermarking detection services to the array of products available through MediaGuide?

It should be stated that ASCAP and MediaGuide were contacted by this magazine to obtain their perspectives for this article and to address questions. We received no responses to our calls and e-mails. That’s regrettable, in that this publication has interviewed ASCAP personnel going back to 1998 without incident, complaint, or misunderstanding.

ASCAP’s Phil Crosland released a general statement. “Mediaguide’s first priority has been to establish competitive advantage in radio tracking. ASCAP is now benefiting from these advantages in our radio distributions. Tracking other media is in development and we will inform members how it will impact the distribution process as it develops.”

Donald A. Jasko, formerly of ASCAP and currently an executive at Digital Economics, LLC, a rights management firm wrote: “Television composers complain that the performing rights organizations are not as far along as they should be in using digital technologies to credit performances. They’re right—television composers are simply not getting paid the royalties to which they’re entitled. But that’s no excuse for composers luxuriating in their status as victims; all of the PROs pay royalties on various kinds of digital fingerprint and/or digital watermark detection data. While each PRO’s rules vary, there are real, current opportunities for composers to use these technologies to increase their royalty payments. Composers need to be aggressive in leveraging the value of these technologies with the PROs.”

Said Marc Morgenstern, Senior VP of New Media & Strategic Planning at ASCAP in 1998, “Watermarking is one technology that we will need to use to track performances in traditional media and new media. It’s not a be-all, end-all [solution] by itself. Watermarking has to be seen as part of a complementary group of technologies.”

Wrote ASCAP board member Doug Wood in 2006, “For almost two years I have asked every member I know to make it known to ASCAP that they want MediaGuide used to track all performances of music in all media. I have brought the issue up at almost every Board meeting for the past two years.” From another statement: “I am working on this issue inside and outside of the Board, and am currently lobbying to have MediaGuide extended to all media.”

Perhaps it’s time for the ASCAP leadership to listen to its own people.


  • July 17, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

    Congratulations on a really fine article. I have been an active television and film composer for more than 40 years and a writer and publisher member of ASCAP for as long. My music is published by a large European music library and because of this, I am also a member of GEMA and MCPS. My music is used in television and film both here and in the rest of the world and I must say, ASCAP picks up virtually none of my American performances, whereas my “foreign distribution” is always much larger. Why can’t ASCAP find a way to credit us composers of background music as well as the foreign societies?

  • Rick Austin
    April 4, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

    As an ASCAP member who writes a lot of TV music, im shocked that the antiquated cue sheet system is still in place. Soooo much of music is not credited, and when it is, the predetermined ‘weights’ are rediculous. ASCAP execs hide behind the veil and operate how they see fit, clearly spending money for a system to benefit songwriters leaving those that compose TV and Film music in the dust.

    Im convinced there MUST be a way to break through and that their wall will crumble. In my eyes, and that of many other ASCAP members i know, the board is a disgrace and the company is run like a private criminal enterprise….

    Something needs to be done…

  • […] and the much smaller SESAC (formerly the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers). Using digital fingerprinting techniques, these organizations collect royalties on behalf of artists whose works are performed in […]

  • John Schick
    February 9, 2011 @ 5:03 pm

    How will this new technology affect the re-titling issue? I was surprised this wasn’t covered in your article. There are hundreds of non-exclusive libraries that re-title tracks. Are these publishers going to be left out in the cold?

  • February 18, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

    Hi John– the article above was written before non-exclusivity and retitling was being practiced so widely in the library business.

    Your point is well taken in that fingerprinting isn’t capable of detecting contextual usages and assigning publisher shares to a variety of entities. In theory, however, a fingerprint detection tied to a cue sheet would override the metadata and default to the info on the sheet. Still a pretty “iffy” prospect.

    To my knowledge, only a unique watermark designation per master recording per unique publisher will yield the results you may be looking for. And ASCAP doesn’t seem to be terribly interested in watermarking.

    Perhaps your question would best be posed to a knowledgeable ASCAP representative. And we’d love it if you’d share what you learn in this forum.

    Thanks for posting!

    Mark Holden

  • John Schick
    February 20, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    Thanks Mark! I’ll be sure to post any new info on this issue.

    Best, John

Comments are closed.