As software eats more of the world, it becomes increasingly evident to people just how important it is to structure information correctly. It’s not just about finding and understanding stuff; in some cases lacking the right structure can be costly. One such case is that of music artists, which — according to an article on The Verge — are leaving billions of dollars on the table due to bad metadata:

Metadata sounds like one of the smallest, most boring things in music. But as it turns out, it’s one of the most important, complex, and broken, leaving many musicians unable to get paid for their work. “Every second that goes by and it’s not fixed, I’m dripping pennies,” said the musician, who asked to remain anonymous because of “the repercussions of even mentioning that this type of thing happens.”

Entering the correct information about a song sounds like it should be easy enough, but metadata problems have plagued the music industry for decades. Not only are there no standards for how music metadata is collected or displayed, there’s no need to verify the accuracy of a song’s metadata before it gets released, and there’s no one place where music metadata is stored. Instead, fractions of that data is kept in hundreds of different places across the world.

Although its description of what metadata is could be clearer (which I empathize with; this isn’t easy to describe to a general audience), the article does a pretty good job of highlighting some common issues that arise when organizations don’t deal with this stuff properly: a lack of standard frameworks, bad information, no clear mechanisms for collaboration, lack of agreement between the various parties involved, etc. It’s worth your attention:

Metadata is the Biggest Little Problem Plaguing the Music Industry

Learn information architecture

The next cohort of my IA: WTF? workshop starts November 29. Sign up now!