A big problem for songwriters and publishers is that there’s no one place to go to find out who owns the all rights to a song and who the songwriters are. With some digging around the ASCAP and BMI sites will usually lead to the needed info, it becomes a lot tougher to do that outside of the United States where proper metadata is much less available. That’s why the recent announcement of a joint song database by both ASCAP and BMI provides some hope for the future. The database is expected to be launched at the end of 2018.
While the press release states that work on the project began more than a year ago, some speculate that it was rushed along as a preemptive strike against Congressional legislation for copyright reform which may not turn out favorable to the PROs. Still, this could be the beginning of a universal database of musical works, which would make the lives of anyone trying to license a song so much easier than it is now.
Of course, it’s never a problem if there’s only one songwriter and one publisher, especially if the publisher is a major. The problem comes with a song written by committee, with multiple writers, each with a different publishing company and signed to different PRO, and/or administered by another publisher. That is the nightmare scenario for anyone using music for television or film, and one that frequently keeps a song from being licensed. This joint database aims to take a step in the direction of solving the issue of at least identifying the entities involved in the musical work.
The announcement is great, of course, but the tentative launch date is more than a year away and much can happen in that length of time. The good thing is that the music world has been clamoring for a central song database for a long time, and now it may finally be coming to pass.