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Closing the data gap: YouTube adopts ISNI IDs for creators

YouTube has become an ISNI registration agency, enabling the accurate identification of performers and songwriters whose work, be it recorded or live, is used on the site

By Jon Chapple on 23 Jan 2018

YouTube site

image © Christiaan Colen

The International Music Managers Forum (IMMF) has welcomed news YouTube is to assign an ISNI ID to all creators, including artists and songwriters, whose work is used on the video platform, saying the move “could be a significant step towards closing music’s data gap”.

Google-owned YouTube yesterday became the first registration agency for the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI), an ISO-certified standard used for uniquely identifying the public identities of contributors to creative works, including recording artists, songwriters, composers and publishers. By using a 16-digit ISNI number, rather than names, to identify creators, music and media distribution platforms can accurately determine which people were involved in creating any one piece of content (while there is only one Prince Rogers Nelson, for example, the myriad John Smiths would otherwise have more trouble getting paid).

Google-owned YouTube is the world’s largest video-hosting platform and the web’s second most popular site (after Google). It is also by far the most popular site for on-demand music streaming, although it is remains controversial for the royalties it pays, with the so-called ‘value gap’ – or the mismatch between the value YouTube extracts from music and the revenue given back to creators – regularly coming in for criticism from the recorded music industry.

“Authors of music are often also performers, and performers who make recordings also play live, take photographs, and many write books, appear in films, etc., etc. They need a single ID for all their activity, or for sector IDs to link together to a single point,” says IMMF, who discussed the issue at recent conferences including Tallinn Music Week and Eurosonic Noorderslag, in a statement.

“We view this as a transformative opportunity to offer the music industry a valuable identifier scheme”

YouTube, the association says, will now “drive adoption of ISNI from the B2C [business to consumer] end of the supply chain”, although it adds the music industry’s reaction to the news should be “less about YouTube and more about ISNI and solutions to music’s data gap”.

“By adopting ISNI, artists, songwriters and other creators will be unambiguously identified, enabling better visibility and tracking on YouTube,” says YouTube technical program manager FX Nuttall. “Bringing the ISNI open standard to music opens the door to more accurate credit for creators, discovery for fans and transparency for the industry.”

“We’re delighted to partner with YouTube on such an ambitious effort”, adds Tim Devenport, executive director of ISNI International Agency. “Many organisations active in the music sector have already shown interest in using ISNI identifiers as part of the infrastructure they need to manage rights and royalties effectively. Working closely with YouTube, ISNI is very pleased to contribute its experience and skillsets to these critical objectives.

“We view this as a transformative opportunity to offer the music industry a valuable identifier scheme and, in so doing, to deepen ISNI’s knowledge of this domain and improve its technical facilities and approaches.”


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