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I had to include the word “Sex” in the title or you’d never read this terrific article about APIs and music tech, and that’s a problem. Why? Well, music tech is the music industry now, and just like you learned to email your fans, or how to post a concert event, or even why stage volume is important, you must learn more about music tech to survive going forward.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to unpack everything about music tech here, my editor would kill me (YAWN!). But I am going to breakdown what may be the most important and widely used tool, and why you should care.
API is an acronym for Application Programming Interface. It’s a software or script that communicates by delivering requests to another system and then returning results automatically based on rules and protocols. The reason for this is that humans couldn’t possibly take every request as a ticket item, search the database, and then email back the information requested. I can see your eyes glazing over.▼ Article continues below ▼
Here’s a dead simple example of an API. At a restaurant (software developer), you have a limited menu offering (rules). You and your table guests (clients) order burgers, some with extra cheese, some without onions (options), and the waiter goes to the kitchen (database server) and then delivers that burger to you, as ordered. The waiter, who took your order, wrote it in a way the kitchen can understand, delivered those directives, and then returned it back to you, is the API. Got it yet?
Another: If you are viewing this on the web, you will see “Like this? Share this!” under the article and the option to share on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Each one of those buttons are based on an API by each one of those developers, making it easy for you to indirectly access their service. When you click that button, the API automatically fills in the post box based on structure and rules, connects to those services, checks to see that you are logged in, then allows the system to post on your behalf, conforming to the rules of the platform you are sending to.
That’s pretty freakin’ Rockstar to me. So, let’s go further. When you upload your song or album to DistroKid or CD Baby, they do not forward an email with your songs attached to Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play and the countless other services. No, they use an enterprise-level API to connect and populate using rules and specifications for things such as artwork, file format, names, titles, metadata, and more. In fact, DistroKid uses many external APIs to automate much of the process. In this way, a service like Spotify or Apple Music can “interact” with many clients at once, while keeping a streamlined structure.
The same API also reports back information such as number of plays or purchases. This is how parties know who owns a song, who gets paid what, and how your songs are tracked in a billion-plays-a-minute world.
Here’s a deep example: Loudr is a company that licenses cover songs and provides payment and tracking for mechanical royalties. It matches sound recordings and metadata, and is used by distributors as way to track royalties and manage other information. How? By API, of course. They have just updated their API and it is the company’s latest step in advancing the “once quiet music business niche of mechanical licensing.” For a long time, compulsory licensing of mechanicals relied on hugely inefficient Notice of Intents (NOIs) being sent to possible rights holders. This version adds features that make it easier to find, manage, and link musical compositions and their owners. It even calculates royalties for clients based on their specific parameters, automatically.
Loudr is also making an impressive move into machine learning by pulling together the disparate pieces of music ownership data and tuning a system to intelligently parse, categorize, and organize that data so that it can be returned as usable metadata to clients who then share it with you in your CD Baby or DistroKid dashboard.
If you’re confused, don’t worry, I’m going to simplify it further for you.
APIs save you time, money, and streamline your music career.
APIs mean money (royalty and sales payments) to you, your publisher, PROs, and your co-writers.
APIs are how you know you got 1,000,000 plays, which songs got more, and from what countries.
APIs enable you to quickly and legally cover a song, and distribute it to the world in the same week.
APIs are the Rockstars doing the hard work for you and those who are repping your music; they are on the frontlines counting, collecting, reporting, and sharing.
Which leaves you more time for music…and sex, of course.
–Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.