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FX Nuttall (Quansic): ‘With Luminate we can finally manage to gather in one place all the music metadata in the world’

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data and analytics

French metadata expert FX Nuttall has been a data evangelist for the past 30 years or so, trying to help the music sector get the measure of the work that was need on the data front.

Very early on, Nuttall has tried to combine identifiers, from recordings (ISRC), compositions (ISWC) and artists (ISNI), into one repository that could be used by the industry to improve processes and royalty payments.

In 2019, Nuttall launched Quansic to build a database that would connect ISNIs with other identifiers in order to create a database with the most accurate and complete set of data relating to artists.

Nuttall has in the past worked as a consultant for 10 year for the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). He also founded in 1995 his first music metadata company, AudioSoft. Before launching Quansic, Nuttall worked for Google and YouTube, at their Publishing operations in charge of data quality, where he convinced YouTube to become an ISNI agency.

Nuttall announced on February 6, 2024 that he sold his company to Luminate, one of the world’s leading provider of music data (see story here). Creative Industries News talked to Nuttall about the sale and how he viewed the evolution of music data.

Quansic’s FX Nuttall

How long have you been in selling mode?

FX Nuttall: For quite a moment. We had some serious and some eccentric offers. There were deals that seemed to advance well and then hit the wall. Now, it’s come to fruition with the Luminate deal.

Did you know Luminate?

FX Nuttall: I certainly knew of them, their products and their history. They also share the same goal of delivering a database with global identifiers. I was in discussion directly with the CEO [Rob Jonas] and it was quite a smooth negotiation.

What are the benefits of combining the two companies?

FX Nuttall: It’s the perfect marriage in the sense that we can finally manage to gather in one place all the music metadata in the world. This has been my goal for a long time, but a large part of the ISRCs were missing, so having access to a database like the one Luminate has been developing fits perfectly with Quansic’s mission.

Will Quansic stay as a stand-alone entity?

FX Nuttall: For the time being, Quansic will stay as stand alone unit. It’s business as usual. We continue to serve customers like before and we will work on the integration of data and products. The team of six people stays in place. We are currently going through the administration procedure as it happens with all acquisitions.

How much is Luminate paying for your company?

FX Nuttall: Well, frankly, for a young French start-up, I am am quite happy. Actually, I am doubly happy because being a start-up founder and selling your company is an achievement but, for me, the industrial project remains the priority, and with this acquisition, it feels like a relaunch. We are really complementary.

What’s your assessment of the state of music data today?

FX Nuttall: There’s been progress, but not everywhere. Publishing has not moved much I have to say. ‘I’m good enough’ seems to be their motto. Where we’ve made progress is with artists’ identifiers. It has enormously evolved, in the sense that almost all DSPs are now artist data hungry. It’s a field riddled with problems. For example, there are so many issues with homonymy, with groups or people who have the same name, whose data gets mixed to a point that you will find on DSPs content from artists that are completely different, except for the name. DSPs have taken the bull by the horns and want identification for leading artists. Apple has been the precursor, followed by Amazon, but Spotify and Deezer are evolving in a positive way.

Why does it matter?

FX Nuttall: When you factor in that there are 100,000 new recordings per day by 2,500 different artists, mostly self-released, it has become an unmanageable volume in terms of artist identification. This is where ISNIs would find their place. I suspect that for CD Baby and Tunecore, there’s too much volume to invest in identifying all their clients with ISNIs. But all the majors have started working on artist identifiers.

You’ve been a pioneer in trying to match ISRCs with ISWCs. Is that still part of your mission?

FX Nuttall: Certainly and I am convinced that linking ISRCs with ISWCs will be a crucial part of the work with Luminate. We are going to be testing CISAC’s ISWC API. And at Quansic, we have set up a qualified scores scheme. We look at the coherence between recordings and works and we give it a confidence score based on what we believe is the quality of the data. Take The Beatles recording ‘Let It Be’. There’s an ISRC for the recording, there are ISNIs for Lennon and McCartney and for The Beatles, and the song is identified as a Lennon-McCartney song with its ISWC. So we can safely say with high confidence that the data is at a superior level of accuracy.. We are not saying that it’s the truth but there’s a high level of confidence that it’s right. We started this work at Quansic and we’re going to accelerate that with the new entity.

Three years ago you launched a new identifier named BOWI ( ‘Best Open Work Identifier’,) for musical works as an alternative and a complement to ISWCs. Is the project still alive?

FX Nuttall: Yes, but it has been moving forward slowly. We didn’t have the resources to do much promotion. There are some heavy users, though. It will be relaunched under new entity with Luminate but it needs promotional support. BOWI is the ideal candidate for identifying AI creations since they have nothing to do with the traditional context. BOWI’s open source responds to the problem of works generated by AI.

What do you make of pro-data projects such as Session?

FX Nuttall: These are good initiatives, but they are forward looking and concern new compositions. At the moement, we have so many problems with existing data. It does not help DSPs to promote the creators of the songs, and there is a need for it. Providing access to songwriters’ databases is crucial. This is what we are working on to build a future.

(Picture under license from AdobeStock)

Emmanuel is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist, blogger and media consultant, specialising in the entertainment business and cultural trends. He was the US editor for British music industry trade publication Music Week. Previously, he was the editor of Impact, a magazine for the music publishing community (2007-2009), the global editor of US trade publication Billboard (2003-2006), and the editor in chief of Billboard’s sister publication Music & Media (1997-2003).

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