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Max Martin, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus, and songwriter and producer Niclas Mollinder say they’ve invented the solution to the music industry’s ‘black box’. And it’s free.

Each year, royalties worth an estimated $655 million (£500m) globally are not paid to the correct rightsholders due to bad data.

To address the issue of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of royalties landing in the industry’s so-called ‘black box’, rather than in the bank accounts of rightsholders, ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus launched the ‘Credits Due’ campaign in 2021 to get creators paid for their work.

BMG became one of the first international music companies to commit to the initiativeand the likes of SoundCloud, Hipgnosis and Kobalt Music Publishing are also listed amongst the campaign’s supporters.

Now, with Credits Due having caught the attention of the music business, Ulvaeus is going one step further to fix music’s missing data problem.

The superstar artist has teamed up with his fellow Swedish producer/songwriters Max Martin and Niclas Mollinder to develop technology that aims to directly combat inadequate creator data collection.

The trio’s new data tool is called Session Studio.

It’s already secured over £1 million ($1.3m) in funding from two notable investors – Spotify and YouTube – while its other supporters include ProTools-maker Avid, Universal Music Group, and DDEX.

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Niclas Molinder tells MBW that incorrect metadata is a big problem for the modern music business, for both music’s creators and its investors.

“The vast amount of new songs released on a daily basis, many with very little metadata and missing linked identifiers causes enormous problems for the music industry,” he says.

Mollinder adds: “These problems are the reason why so much royalty money each year is unidentified and not paid out to the people who created the music..”

Session is an evolution of Auddly, which was launched by Max Martin, Niclas Mollinder and Björn Ulvaeus a few years back to “fill the gap in the music industry’s data and money flow”.

“The vast amount of new songs released on a daily basis, many with very little metadata and missing linked identifiers causes enormous problems for the music industry.”

Niclas Molander

With Session and its free Session Studio app, Martin, Mollinder and Ulvaeus are aiming to take this idea global, enabling music-makers to capture accurate song data at the point of creation.

Cleverly, Session Studio is actually embedded within Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) to capture authoritative song information and data as soon as creators get to work.

The platform enables songwriters/producers to assign credit to multiple creators in the studio via its unique ‘Creator Credits’ system – and to set the splits of royalties for each of these creators will receive in future.

Explains Molander: “Every creator that has a Session profile, can ensure all the information is captured. When it’s time to release a track, Session can send releases downstream in the music ecosystem to labels, publishers and societies in the necessary format with all the correct information attached.”

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In a joint statement, Mollinder, Martin, and Ulvaeus say: “By using innovative technology and working with industry partners, we’re creating a trusted reference point, open to everyone who needs to register, credit and pay the right people.

“This saves time, effort and money for all those involved – from song idea to release and beyond – making music work better for everyone.

“We do it for the love of the music and passion for those who make it. That’s why Session Studio is free of charge for creators and always will be, we will never charge for the collection and management of credits and metadata. ,

Here, Mollinder tells MBW why Session was founded, how it is tackling the issue of so-called ‘black box’ revenues in the music business, and how it hopes “to transform the industry’s ability to create and reward creators”.


TELL US ABOUT SESSION’S ORIGINS. WHY WAS IT FOUNDED?

I’ve been a producer and songwriter for over 15 years, and I know there are so many amazing initiatives to help fellow music creators succeed. But years ago, I realized there was something important missing: a technology that ensured that creators are always fairly credited and compensated.

The problem became particularly evident when I was running a publishing company, as I came face-to-face with the enormous issue of incorrect or missing song and recording information, and metadata. The artists and creators I was working with made incredible music, but I couldn’t get the correct data I needed to make sure everyone was credited and paid. Especially if the information came days, weeks, months or even years after the music was recorded.

“I founded Session alongside Bjorn Ulvaeus and Max Martin, to provide free collaboration tools for creators that silently captured all the necessary song and recording information in the background.”

That’s when I knew, we have to capture the song and recording information at the point of creation, from the creators themselves. But of course, creators want to focus on the music and not boring admin and metadata, so we needed technology to capture this information.

Thus, I founded Session alongside Björn Ulvaeus and Max Martin, to provide free collaboration tools for creators that silently captured all the necessary song and recording information in the background.


HOW DOES SESSION WORK?

We know that creators want to spend time making music, and want to avoid admin. However, we also know that in order for all creators to get fairly credited and paid, we need five pieces of information. IPI for songwriters and publishers, ISWC for the musical work, ISRC for recordings, IPN for the performer and the ISNI.

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So we created a web, desktop and mobile app, Session Studio, to provide creators with free collaboration tools, which then also collects all the necessary information in the background.

Session Studio gives creators the tools to collaborate on lyrics, voice memos, notes and more, but is also fully integrated with all the DAWs, like ProTools and Ableton, to capture any recording contributions.

When any artist or performer provides a contribution to a track (in person or remotely), they simply ‘scan in’ on their phone, using Session’s Studio Check-in feature directly on the DAW, and that ensures that their credits are added to the track.


WHAT DIFFERENTIATES SESSION FROM OTHER PLAYERS IN THE MARKET?

There are companies that provide forms for creators to fill in, in order to get the credit they need. But, as I’ve said, creators don’t want to spend hours filling in forms, and they may not always know what to include.

“Creators don’t want to spend hours filling in forms, and they may not always know what to include.”

Session streamlines the process for creators, but the other key differentiator is that we’re leading the way in ensuring that identifiers are linked early, at the point of creation, not weeks, months or years later.


WHAT ARE ALL THE CHALLENGES THAT SESSION SOLVES FOR MUSIC CREATORS?

Creators want to and should focus on music production. We want to take the burden of data capture, injection (into the music ecosystem) and credits off the creators’ shoulders.


WHAT CHALLENGES DOES SESSION SOLVE FOR COLLECTING SOCIETIES?

With Session’s unique creator ID verification process, songwriters, publishers, artists, producers and performers are identified at the point of creation, so everyone involved refers to the same musical work and recording at the point of registration.


HOW CLOSELY DOES SESSION WORK WITH COLLECTING SOCIETIES?

Session is working closely with CISAC and SCAPR and their members on the creator ID verification process.


DO YOU HAVE OTHER PLANS OR LAUNCHES IN THE PIPELINE FOR SESSION IN 2022?

We have a huge number of partnerships with stakeholders across the whole industry to solve the issue of capturing and injecting the correct creator data downstream into the music ecosystem.

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SESSION WAS CO-FOUNDED BY THREE PROMINENT MUSIC INDUSTRY FIGURES – BJÖRN ULVAEUS, MAX MARTIN AND yourself. TELL US ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANCE FOR THE COMPANY AND ITS MISSION OF HAVING THESE CO-FOUNDERS INVOLVED?

We are incredibly lucky because Björn and Max joined Session for one reason, and one reason only : they share our vision to make sure all music creators are fairly credited and rewarded for their work.

In order for our app to be a success, it requires a certain amount of cooperation from the wider music industry.

Of course, having such respected creators does help us along our way. In order for our app to be a success, it requires a certain amount of cooperation from the wider music industry.


Björn ULVAEUS LAUNCHED ‘CREDITS DUE’ IN SEPTEMBER WHICH ALSO FOCUSES ON METADATA. HOW MUCH SUPPORT HAS THE CAMPAIGN HAD FROM THE MUSIC INDUSTRY SO FAR?

The response has been entirely positive. Session is of course a big supporter of the Credits Due campaign, as Credits Due is focused on educating the industry on the five identifiers that are necessary to ensure creators are fairly credited and rewarded.

Whilst Credits Due tackles industry awareness and cooperation, Session is laser focused on achieving this vision through its free Session Studio app.


SESSION RECEIVED A GBP £1 MILLION GRANT FROM SPOTIFY AND YOUTUBE IN NOVEMBER. What was THE SIGNIFICANCE OF GETTING SUPPORT FROM THESE TWO COMPANIES AND WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE FUNDS?

Spotify and YouTube provided a grant in support of Session’s mission to make sure that creators are always fairly recognized and rewarded for their work.

The DSPs want to help creators, and recognized that Session’s innovative mobile, desktop and web apps will provide the ultimate companion tool for music creators to seamlessly collaborate, log who did what-where-when and distribute the vital information to industry partners across the global ecosystem, facilitating unparalleled accuracy for royalty distributors.


OTHER THAN METADATA, WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR WRITERS, PRODUCERS, LABELS AND PUBLISHERS TODAY?

One of the big issues is the access, the communication and the transparency of authoritative data and information. No one in the industry is to blame for this, but the siloed nature of industry data, and information has created inaccuracy at a huge scale.

“The siloed nature of industry data, and information has created inaccuracy at a huge scale.”

Remote collaboration as a result of the pandemic has exacerbated the issue of capturing authoritative data, as creators are even more spread out. Session is set to enable the sharing of authoritative data across the industry, from the creator to the release.

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WHAT TECHNOLOGIES DO YOU FORESEE HAVING THE BIGGEST POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE MUSIC BUSINESS IN YEARS TO COME?

Without a doubt, the Cloud is the ultimate tool kit.

New great technologies will come and go, but the Cloud’s ability to process massive amounts of data at scale remains unrivalled in terms of positive contribution to the industry.


WHAT one thing above any other WOULD YOU CHANGE ABOUT Today’s MUSIC BUSINESS AND WHY?

The music business is fabulous in so many ways, but one thing that could be improved is the efficiency and effectiveness of communication and data sharing.

“Where there’s a lack of standardization, there’s a tsunami of data, which can lead to confusion.”

Where there’s a lack of standardization, there’s a tsunami of data, which can lead to confusion.


WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO CREATORS SO THAT THEY CAN ENSURE THEY GET THE CREDIT THEY DESERVE?

I am of course biased, but I would encourage creators to sign up to Session. It’s completely free.Music Business Worldwide

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