Tunesat: A Revolution in Music Performance Tracking

The executives of TuneSat are on a mission: to accurately track the broadcast music performances of its clients and deliver that data to the proper rights recipients; to do so precisely by channel, time, title, usage, and duration of the music, and to report the data in virtual real time to TuneSat’s web-based subscribers, updated to the latest hour of broadcast, 24-7-365.

That’s quite an order, to be sure, but it’s exactly those capabilities that TuneSat advertises. The executives associated with TuneSat have considerable experience in the arena of waveform recognition technologies, going back over a decade when SESAC and Aris MusiCode announced their watermarking partnership. This was the first-ever PRO (performing rights organization) adoption of a watermarking technology and detection system deployed to automate the process of music performance reporting. Prior to the founding of TuneSat, these same execs were around and participating as Shazam, a fingerprinting solution, was unveiled and eventually implemented into BMI’s music tracking arsenal.

To differentiate watermarking and fingerprinting technologies, a unique and inaudible “watermark” is embedded into a music master so that the code and duration of the play may be detected and identified as the music is performed. In contrast, a “fingerprint” takes a picture, so to speak, of a piece of music that is then archived and matched to broadcast performances as they occur. For all their differences in methodology, watermarking and fingerprinting are BOTH waveform recognition technologies.

So in a technological age where a can of pork n’ beans can be tracked from coast-to-coast, or a bank card or telecom transaction can be reported back to the user within minutes or seconds, let’s have a look at music performance tracking in American broadcast television.

According to Chris Woods, executive vice president of TuneSat, there were approximately 432,000 automated detections of the FreePlay production music library within a 30-month period. Of those hundreds of thousands of documented plays, American PROs reported and paid the rights owners for only 28% of the actual performances. In this study, the PRO reporting was inaccurate or incomplete almost three-quarters of the time.

This statistic, while shocking and incomprehensible to many, may be emblematic of the fundamental disconnect between the reality of music performances on television and how ASCAP, and perhaps other performing rights organizations, track and distribute royalties for music usage. That is, the difference between the music actually played on television versus the statement of performances as reported by ASCAP to a composer, songwriter, or music publisher.

TuneSat wants to put an end to the credibility gap between discretion and reality.

Here’s essentially how TuneSat technology works. A “fingerprint” is taken of a digital audio file, essentially extracting and storing the “DNA” of that recording into the TuneSat archive. At a later time, particularly when that music is broadcast, TuneSat has the capability to recognize and log the broadcast activity of that scoring cue or song.

Additionally, TuneSat reports that its automated system can recognize the original audio subsequent to editing, sample and bit rate conversions, alternate digital codec formatting, high digital compression ratios, pitch shifting up or down, and time compression/expansion conversions.

All this precedes the really astonishing capabilities of this technology. According to TuneSat, detections of the fingerprinted music can still be identified AFTER additional audio elements are added to a media production. These include voiceovers, dialogue, sound effects, and outright noise. Further, it’s reported that the tolerance level of TuneSat technology is remarkably robust in “reaching through” overdubbed audio in order to detect and log the durations of the original waveform.

TuneSat monitoring is currently deployed for the east coast feeds of all networks, superstations, and basic and premium cable television—about 100 channels—but has the capability to expand into any number of local television and radio markets. From all indications and reports, this TuneSat tech represents a genuine innovation and a fundamental paradigm shift in music performance detection.

According to Chris Woods of TuneSat, “For us, the holy grail was the ability to identify music so buried under sound effects as to be barely audible, and to gather full durational information as well. With that capability, we offer quite a technology to our clients. And we can do it with durations down to 3 seconds.”

TuneSat’s Woods went on to specify that music detections, even in extremely “dirty” audio environments, may be accurately identified in durations as short as 5 to 7 seconds. Indeed, a stunning capability. As for identifying songs and score cues of median length as typically used in broadcast media, chock full of VO, dialogue and sfx, “No problem,” says Woods.

So how do we as composers, songwriters, and music publishers access this revolutionary service? It’s as simple as establishing a secure online subscription to TuneSat. You send a hard drive containing your digital audio files to the company, or an accepted digital storage media such as DVD-Rs. TuneSat then extracts and archives fingerprints of your catalogue (along with any accompanying metadata) and returns the hard disk to your door.

There’s a 50-cent fee for you to pay per unique title of music, and the aggregate cost of fingerprinting your catalog becomes a separate, annual membership fee. There’s an additional item in the pay structure—a small per-detection fee as “hits” of your music are reported to you via the personal console you or your company accesses online. On the hour, you’ll see updated stats of where, when, and how long your music was played.

Curious as to how that 10-second snippit of your epic tone poem, “Giganticus,” was used during Regis & Kelly, All My Children, Celebrities Run Amok, or NBA B-Ball? Just click the proper icon on the TuneSat interface to download the actual recording of your music gleaned from the airwaves. Or perhaps you’d prefer to have the data in spreadsheet format, exported to Excel as you gleefully chant, “ca-ching, CA-CHING!”

Industry pilot-programs using Tunesat reveal not only vast numbers of undetected performances, but significant numbers of unlicensed performances, where the production company or broadcaster had used music without the proper licenses in place from the copyright owners. This apparent copyright infringement may have wide-ranging ramifications for copyright owners, composers and songwriters.

Of course, your next step is to deliver (what you hope to be) voluminous pages of TuneSat usage data to ASCAP for purposes of receiving complete and accurate performance royalties for your musical works. At that time, you may hear a litany of phrases approximating “Sorry, it didn’t fall within our survey”, “Didn’t make the sample”, “There IS no HBO in Canada”, and my personal favorite, ‘Yes, that network is 100% census, but the cue sheet can’t be found. Better luck spinning our roulette wheel next quarter.’

Of course, you’ll be in a de facto state of negotiation from then on, trying to reconcile your known performances to what ASCAP insists is good and proper for you. But armed with TuneSat data, it would appear you’d be loaded for bear.

As for ASCAP’s obstinacy to even declare the WILL OR INTENTION to accurately track broadcast usages of its repertory, we’re all awaiting such an announcement should it ever come. It seems that certain ASCAP policy, designed to divert wealth from one member group to another, knows no bounds. And that a blind eye will continue to be turned to solutions such as TuneSat, as well as to others.

That is, until the membership decides they’ve had it with the feudalistic treatment and does something to purge all the longstanding problems and fundamental accuracy issues regarding ASCAP’s tracking and distribution.

TuneSat, as advertised, challenges the very efficacy of all the automated tracking technologies currently deployed by our performing rights societies. The service offers a number of fundamental innovations that provide composers and songwriters with immediate, verifiable access to detections of their music. This is a game-changer, in that detections are the basis for royalty payments that have become the lifeblood of many composers and songwriters. How the performing rights organizations respond to TuneSat, and their acceptance of Tunesat reports, has the potential to affect the income of all working composers, songwriters, and publishers.


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  • May 14, 2009 @ 8:45 am

    As a writer and producer who’s been getting tracks into movies such as American Pie 6, and numerous MTV shows, this is to be applauded. My one question is if the performances which are to be tracked generate more royalties for the writers (excellent), where is this extra money going to come from and will it not result in whoever is footing the bill requesting or forcing a lower rate of payment for usages?

  • […] to you, right on your computer’s desktop, within an hour of airplay. Fantasy? Not any more. Tunesat’s service delivers that and more, finally giving composers the ability to proactively track and document […]

  • Les Hurdle
    May 19, 2009 @ 8:15 am

    Hi OD,

    You ask My one question is if the performances which are to be tracked generate more royalties for the writers (excellent), where is this extra money going to come from and will it not result in whoever is footing the bill requesting or forcing a lower rate of payment for usages?

    Have you not been following the FMPro list re this very topic over the years……?

    The money is already ‘there’…….. it is currently being funneled to the wrong people……. maybe accuracy would increase payment for those who SHOULD be paid?

    Are you aware of the weighting formula?

    Please join the FMPro list


  • May 21, 2009 @ 9:15 am

    Want to have my catalog finger printed about 400 to 500,tunes,
    phone 404 396 0270
    Jimmy Ginn

  • Tobi Lee Billings
    May 21, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

    That’s really gonna screw up things for the composers and music libraries that do have music in libraries that rename. Renaming is a good way of being able to exploit your music and not having to be stuck with one publisher or library! Wake up people! This can be a huge mess for the composers that still want to be represented by multiple libraries.

  • May 21, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

    If anyone would like to discuss TuneSat in further detail, please contact me at:
    Thanks! Melissa Goodman – VP – Business Development

  • May 22, 2009 @ 9:52 am

    Tobi is correct in that this will create a bit of a nightmare not only the composers and libraries who rename tracks and have them scattered with multiple library companies, but just think of the headaches this will cause for BMI/ASCAP and SESAC as they try to decipher which company is deserving of which detection. At Groove Addicts we’ve always made sure that the music cues we commission for our libraries are exclusive to us. I also believe that composers having multiple licensing situations for the same music cues are hurting the long term value of their own catalogues. Who will want to purchase that catalogue down the road when it’s out there with multiple library companies under different titles? Dain Blair, President Groove Addicts

  • Tobi Lee Billings
    May 22, 2009 @ 10:57 am

    For people that like to live in the moment and get their credibility now and while they are alive, it makes sense to rename. Now, if you are Mick Jagger or the Rolling Stones, then it makes sense to stay with an exclusive Publisher to have them rep your catalog and handle all of the admin. Different strokes for different folks. For the production side of things, I think many composers are interested in having their music exploited through various outlets that will get their music placed and whomever makes the placement, is deserving of their commissions/publishing, etc…

  • May 25, 2009 @ 7:36 am

    Digital Watermarking is the only way to get paid for all performances. We are all playing by the antiquated rules & regulations of PRO’s though some are certainly better than others for specific types of compositions,(songs commercials, underscore, promos, id’s.
    As far as re-title,all composers should add a single element to differentiate their re-titled compositions. That’s the only way to get by that mess it will cause.

  • Tobi Lee Billings
    May 26, 2009 @ 8:53 am

    That’s a good idea Alan – for the people that work digitally. Live bands/artists are going to figure out how to do that in a way so that they don’t have to enter into the recording studio every time they want a new version for a music library or licensing company…

  • Les Hurdle
    June 1, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    By Tobi Lee Billings on May 22nd, 2009 at 10:57 am

    For people that like to live in the moment and get their credibility now and while they are alive, it makes sense to rename

    Hi Tobi

    Isn’t renaming fraudulent or at least misrepresentation?


  • June 1, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

    and what if you are not informed of the new name?

  • Tobi Lee Billings
    June 3, 2009 @ 7:15 am

    No, it’s not fraudulent when the writers know about it ahead of time. They copyright their own music. It would be different if they had no idea that their music was being copyrighted under different titles and had no idea that that had been done. I have no problem with my music being renamed, obviously, because nobody is pulling the wool over my eyes. Vikki, the people I deal with have no problems telling me what the new name is if I ask, but I usually find out when I get a statement from BMI.

  • Les Hurdle
    July 27, 2009 @ 7:09 am

    Hi Tobi,

    If someone other than you is handling your re-named music, then the wool will be pulled way past your eyes.

    How would BMI know if your music was re-titled in e.g. South Africa ?


  • September 25, 2010 @ 5:36 am

    Only a fool would sign songs to an exclusive music library on 2010!

    The argument against non-exclusive retitle libraries is only made by exclusive libraries. These companies are losing money to retitle libraries and are scared that the exclusive libraries will soon be coming to an end. The exclusive libraries are correct; their days are numbered and rightfully so.

    Every legal and ethical argument made against non-exclusive libraries are actively practiced by exclusive libraries. Exclusive libraries get control for a song into perpetuity. This means that the library has the right to use the song however it wants. Many exclusive libraries enter into deals with foreign publishers where the library collects fees that they do not have to pay to the writer of the song.

    Non-exclusive libraries only retitle for the sole purpose of splitting up the revenue streams from music. Sending the same song to different libraries makes perfect sense because your songs compete against one another instead of competing against songs from other composers. It is a win-win situation.

  • November 18, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    I like your take on ASCAP. I think you may have been a bit too complimentary though…

Comments are closed.