BitDepth 667 - February 17

COTT turns to technology to count music use.
COTT goes high tech

COTT's Allison Demas and Josh Rudder take the performing rights organisation another step forward. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

While on a visit to ASCAP in 2007, COTT's Chief Executive Officer Allison Demas discovered Mediaguide, the leading US performing rights organisation's new technology for monitoring music use.
Demas asked for a Mediaguide sample from "one of our most popular local artistes." Surprised at the minimal output on that artiste, she then asked for a listing on Sean Paul and saw a massive difference.
In just seven weeks, COTT (The Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago) will be implementing its own Mediaguide installation, which Demas hopes will improve both the quality of the local organisation's monitoring of local music use and provide better data on local music to other organisations which subscribe to Mediaguide.

Manager, Documentation and Distribution, Josh Rudder is responsible for implementing the technology which he described as the digital fingerprinting of music. The music of COTT members is encoded in MP3 format and analysed by the Mediaguide technology, becoming part of its database.
This part is fairly hands-on, and COTT is in the process of logging the music of its members with the related file metadata that will identify it in future reports.

Making Mediaguide work
In action, the Mediaguide hardware and software monitors audio input for patterns that match files in its database, with identified matches logged for media use reports.
The system differs from the human ear in one crucial respect; it can listen to multiple channels of input simultaneously and the COTT implementation will "listen" to 25 channels of radio, all day, all night, including advertising.
"So," I asked, "it should be possible to just record a fete and play it back into Mediaguide for analysis?"
Demas and Rudder take a long look at each other on the other side of the long meeting table and then Demas bursts out laughing.
"Well, we can't tell you our whole business plan, now, can we?"

And a business plan was necessary to buy into ASCAP's technology, which clearly isn't cheap. Exact price? 
"That's confidential," said Demas.
COTT, which claims a good relationship with ASCAP going back to 2003 was able to negotiate a five year, interest-free loan from the organisation to buy the Mediaguide system, which it expects to repay from more accurate licensing fees.

The return on investment
"Our only source of income is licensing," explained Demas. "We are a nonprofit organisation, and we need to be very careful about how we spend money."
There are clearly high hopes for the value of the digital monitoring technology, both in terms of more accurate reporting and more pervasive reporting, since Mediaguide also monitors web-based radio stations.
Local radio stations that stream their own music are already covered under COTT's license, but independent broadcasters will now find themselves being monitored by technology that's capable of extending an electronic ear almost anywhere.
The extensive reporting is expected to be of value to anyone interested in the reach and frequency of not just music, but music powered media, such as advertising.

According to Rudder, the system can identify music that's played back faster than it was recorded, so using the product to record and monitor the actual playlist frequency of music played on the road by replaying the day's recording at a Carnival venue at 5X speed might be another uniquely local use for Mediaguide.
No doubt, COTT's members will greet improvements in license collection, but Demas warns against premature chicken counting.
"Monitoring and distribution will be more accurate," the COTT CEO noted, "but that doesn't necessarily mean more [money]."
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