A piece I wrote has been featured in the current issue of Tape Op magazine.
Your magazine was not the first place I'd seen Count's "I Have a Credit Problem" essay [Tape Op #89], but I feel compelled to respond.
I agree with his general ideas - credits should be shown, and the current "album experience" in the digital realm is uninspiring. However, Count greatly oversimplifies the issue and has made several assumptions that must be addressed.
First, the tone of his piece implies these companies either have a cavalier attitude about credits or, worse, are deliberately leaving credits off of their services. This is unfair and incorrect.
Having worked at a number of the businesses mentioned, and knowing people who work at the others, I can safely say that every single service he mentions would love to show detailed, hyperlinked, searchable credits for every one of the millions of songs in their catalog. It's not some sort of conspiracy or evil plan. These places are run by people who are passionate music fans; many of them are musicians themselves, ranging from avid amateurs to performing professionals. They understand the moral and listener value of these credits. We all want to show credits. But it is not an easy problem to solve, even as a simple "data field with a name." Count says it's "not something that should take more than a few minutes to resolve for all future music releases," but that is as uninformed as claiming making records is a matter of just throwing a few mics out in a room and pushing "record."
Asking the companies to develop, build, and maintain their own credits database is inefficient and unreasonable. It's no different than asking each record store to have a credits database. This information needs to come from the labels, publishers, and artists. It should be delivered in the same feeds that provide the audio content, basic metadata, and the cover graphics. This allows each label to provide the definitive, correct, and canonical credit information.
So why doesn't it work like this today? Because the labels (and artists) don't have the information. Most haven't bothered to collect or document it. Filling in all that missing data is a difficult and expensive task. Even assuming someone was to find complete album covers for all of the music involved, sometimes there is no information about the record on the sleeve. Sometimes the information is incorrect (raise your hand if you've ever been left off of a credits list, or incorrectly credited). And there are some cases where credits are in dispute, or are deliberately anonymous.
Count's simple data field already exists: the "comments" field of ID3 tags (useful for purchased tracks, but not streaming services). Most artists and labels don't put anything in there. If the people who created the work can't do this properly, is it really reasonable to expect the retailers to do it?
Despite the erosion of credits in the digital world, the rest of the Internet provides incredibly detailed access to all sorts of recording minutia that didn't exist 20 years ago. We should all be grateful that Wikipedia provides lots of detail about some things (even if it's not always accurate). But Wikipedia is inappropriate and unsuited for canonical professional uses - though it (and similar sites) has no doubt facilitated the "word of mouth" that many professionals rely on.
Netflix shows credits and information because the Screen Actors Guild, for years, has required this information to be tracked, and provided in detail, as part of union productions. Digital providers, movie theaters, DVDs, and advertisements show this information, not because customers demand it, but because either the union demands it or the performers, directors, and other creative folks demanded it. Again, the difference here is the movie studios provide the information to the services and retailers. That is not currently the case in the world of Internet-distributed music. I agree that it must change.
I have also met with NARAS to discuss how to improve credits. But if you really want to help, start with your own work. Make sure you have complete documentation for all of your projects and deliver it to your labels and service providers. Use the comments field. Spend the extra pennies and put another page or two in your physical CD. Update your websites to include links as well.