Product Innovation In Music

When we think of product innovation in the music industry, much of the focus centers on new ways to create music and new ways for fans to consume it.  As far back as piano rolls, the idea of having a machine play your favorite music in your own home was amazing, this iterated into piano rolls and player modules that better captured and reproduced the nuances of a better performance (eg. dynamics, attack, etc.). Welte-Mignon brought the public Debussy playing Debussy the way Debussy intended! This natural progression can be seen throughout the industry’s history with the phonograph, radio, film, television, cassette to cd, streaming, and so on.  As new technology brought us more music to listen to, the business and administration side has always reacted with ways to properly manage and exploit rights; mechanical royalties, performance rights societies, licensing of rights for new media just to name a few. However, with all of the progress on the macro level of the business side, there is still a lot of room for innovation. The challenge is how do we productize the business and administration side of the industry with the same level of innovation that the production and consumption of music has been given? Let us explore….

What is a Product in the first place?

For the sake of this piece, let’s call a product an aggregation of parts & commodities, packaged with a brand, in order to create a usable, productive, satisfying experience, which is then sold. Huh? Maybe this is better explained with an example:

A bunch of steel, 3rd party machined parts, tires, a computer, all wheel driving system, etc. is “an aggregation of parts and commodities”that could make an SUV.

The SUV “packaged with a brand,” say Subaru, could bring us one of several Subaru SUV models which are likely creating an image in your head of who buys it and where they drive it.

The ability to drive the car (usable), to your destination, through the woods with a mountain bike on the back, in the snow with skis on the roof, to the beach with a surfboard (productive), all the while remaining content because it never fails, and you didn’t pay the price of an Audi.

So for music, a product such as the Spotify® or Apple Music® app could be described as the aggregation of: licensed music (the commodity) delivered through graphical user interface that sits on a robust tech infrastructure (some parts) that gets people to the music they want, or never knew they wanted, with ease (the brand, usability, experience, etc.). Taking any product through the same exercise starts to reveal why one is chosen over the other, why some brands are more successful than others. During product development at Muserk, we use this exercise as a means to identify the real issues at hand and begin the process of building the solutions that address them head-on. So let’s now dive into what we can do about innovation in the music business.

Don’t confuse pain points with problems

At Muserk, we remain focused on the root of industry challenges.  We strive to stop identifying broad pain points and pretend they are the problem. They are, in fact, the symptom. Instead, we break them down and arrange them within a respective process. There is no shortage in our industry of pinpointing issues in copyright, royalty collections, lack of transparency and so on. Anyone who has attended a music industry panel knows we are great at identifying issues in the industry, and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, sometimes panels can be on parity with a New York City co-op shareholder meeting where people complain about the same things as last year and offer no practical solutions. At times solutions can even be met with ire as jaded individuals equally dread both their current circumstances and the change that could do them some good. Alternatively, taking the pile of identified pain points, breaking them down to their individual problems, and arranging them in an order to identify their place within a process will uncover their effect on a crucial dependency (i.e. a very important point of failure). It is a focus on these real issues that lead us to effective solutions. For example, with personal finance “I don’t have enough money” is a problem – really a symptom – we all face at one point or another.  When broken down it is because of an income problem or spending problem. If it’s an income problem, it could be because your gross pay rate is too low, or the number of hours/days to which the rate is applied are too low. Or maybe your net pay is being affected by a wage garnishment, or another withholding. Your problem may even pivot. You might find that a pre-tax retirement contribution is affecting your net income and doesn’t support your eating out/coffee habit. You decide the compound interest over 30 years is in fact better than the convenience of not making your lunch/coffee, and your perceived income problems are in fact a spending problem. Solution: make your own damn coffee and lunch!

Let’s identify and arrange

One major pain point in the industry that we, Muserk, alleviate is:

…having no idea how much a rights holder should be making but there is a strong feeling it should be more…

This pain point  is really a symptom of a whole bunch of underlying issues embedded in a ton of processes that span across the globe. The recording and publishing industries consist of many data pipelines, supply chains, royalty streams fragmented by rights types, mediums, platforms, and licensing configurations. These royalty streams are subject to the business practices, copyright laws, and capabilities of local markets. Constantly emerging music platforms create new royalty streams with new licensing configurations, which adds complexities to an already-complex industry. So, if we are to make meaningful products to fix this let’s start to list out these big little problems that make up the overarching issue:

  1. Music is on a DSP but not being played
  2. Music isn’t attached to my artist page
  3. Not getting paid for cover versions of your songs
  4. Having no way to find ISRCs linked to your compositions
  5. It’s been a year since a release and songwriter splits have not been decided
  6. Being able to collect PRO money for radio play, but no mechanicals from DSPs
  7. Being able to collect for U.S. activity but nothing internationally
  8. Being able to collect for all activity but the U.S.
  9. Having no idea how to register your works to receive publishing money
  10. Acquiring a catalog of masters but there is no useful metadata
  11. Not getting paid for remixes
  12. Unable to find 473 works in the 22 million rows of usage data provided by a music platform

 …we could go on forever before we even mention deal terms and royalty rates which is where most everyone looks first

Start arranging

As you arrange in the order of a process, you will begin to find that one problem may be a result of another before it or it may be creating a bigger issue further down the line. For example, there may be a solution for automated global delivery of works data to help with compiling and delivering data, but that ends up efficiently populating databases around the world with incorrect information. Oops! The challenge is anticipating the potential roadblocks that may appear when fixing things in one area only to uncover issues in another.  When developing solutions in this way you soon discover that the most complex of them can be solved one issue at a time.  It is this combined with an agile approach that so many software development teams use when building. Moving on….

Fix the stuff you know, take cues from other non-music industries for everything else

Everyone agrees that a fresh perspective can uncover new and innovative ways to approach problems. Anyone who has spoken with me about this knows I am a broken record when it comes to finding solutions outside of our industry (pun kind of intended). So, with the example from above, there is a data input issue and a delivery issue; 2 steps of a much longer process. Normally, we look for solutions within our industry. However, Muserk has found that looking at industries that have great success in fixing similar issues can be quite helpful. With the data input issue think about ecommerce and the checkout process. If you have ever purchased an item online, you navigate to your shopping cart, entered an address, CC info, shipping, etc, you have completed a process that companies spend a lot of resources and money tweaking and figuring out. Companies hate abandoned shopping carts and do whatever they can to ensure you complete your purchase. If we want to ensure music metadata is accurate going into our systems, perhaps the eCom shopping cart industry is on to something in terms of design, UX/UI, information gathering, etc.. There are solutions to countless problems already solved in other industries.

Building something truly useful, and constant iteration

By now, we can all agree that rights administration consists of many linear processes that are each subject to many points of failure. It is important to always know that one improvement somewhere can amplify a deficiency elsewhere. Or that a high performance feature in one area can be rendered useless by a weak link down the chain. There’s no reason to put a jet engine in a small prop plane if it is just going to tear the whole plane apart on takeoff. At Muserk, we realize building a single feature is useless without the infrastructure to support it, a workflow in which it integrates, or the personnel to use it. MMatch, Muserk’s AI matching technology that discovers sound recording/musical work links, at proof-of-concept required a Sr. developer and a tech savvy rights manager to run; not what we would call a scalable solution. Not until there was a UI for a rights manager to input various data formats and automated steps that made MMatch’s output data usable was the technology more accessible to everyone on the team and therefore used more often. Now that productivity shot through the roof, do we stop there? No. At this point we are ready to iterate and not be outpaced by industry demand. The tech world can be harsh in this regard. A product version or feature  can go from “beta” to “deprecated/obsolete” in a handful of years or less. Once MMatch became more widely used by the team, the rights management cheered the sudden ability to complete days of work in under an hour, but understood this vast improvement shifted the bottleneck from usage discovery to staging data and the subsequent analysis that followed MMatch. It is true that days of work were gone, but why stop there? Why not apply MMatch to other use cases? Or better yet, why not make this one incredible product, one of several “parts & commodities, packaged with a brand, in order to create a usable, productive, satisfying experience?” It is at this point where product development resembles a continuous cycle or even an expansive spiral. Innovation in one area of an industry or other industry that once served as an effective stand-alone solution then becomes a lynchpin for a larger, future product.  

So let’s review. We have gone from simply airing grievances to identifying problems. From understanding these problems’ effect on the bigger picture to ideation of real solutions, and so on. The music business side of the industry has a long way to go in terms of technology, but I personally look forward to Muserk being a part of the massive amount of innovation we will see in the future and helping modernize the music industry.

Tornadoes, Rescue Dogs and Rights Management; Why this New Yorker made the move to Nashville

I grew up singing; theaters, retirement communities, Monday night open mic’s, and anywhere that would have me. As I got older, I learned that I was pretty good at being a musician, but terrible at being an artist so I moved to New York City to pursue a career in songwriting. Of course, this meant waiting tables during the day and going to shows/writing at night. Before I lived in New York, I had attended Berklee College of Music where I ended up learning a lot about royalty collection, so I soon became the go-to for all my musician friends who didn’t understand how to get paid for their music. 

New York makes you feel like you are part of a club, there is an energy to it. As great as it is, I always knew that I wouldn’t stay in NY forever, I knew it wasn’t a good fit for me, but I landed a job working with Muserk as a Music Supervisor where I was tasked with building a music library of pre-cleared music that I could then pitch for tv shows and commercials. When you are building a music library you learn a lot about communicating with artists and seeing things from their perspective. There is a lot of explaining the basics of sync licensing and also the differences between exclusive and non-exclusive contracts. This was working well for me so I ended up living in New York for 10 years. As the company grew we focused our business on royalty collection rather than licensing so Nashville naturally became our main hub. I started to feel a little disconnected from all the innovation happening in the Nashville office, so I decided to make a move. When it came time to leave for Nashville, I told my friends and family “don’t worry I will see you all the time… there’s nothing that could keep me from getting on a plane and seeing you (except maybe a global pandemic)…” I bought a car, figured out that I could save 15% on my car insurance and packed up my little apartment in Queens to head west. You’d be surprised just how much you can fit in the back of a Subaru!


Living in Nashville, as you can imagine, has been completely different than NYC. The pace of life is slower and the cost of living is like the 1950’s compared to NY. My place in Nashville looks out onto a forest rather than a busy street and I even have laundry inside… what’ll they think of next?! Just like New York, I do (or should I say, did) go see local bands and songwriter rounds. I have even found time for hobbies that would be impossible in NY like mountain biking which, turns out, is pretty fun! 

The music scene here is great. It has a distinct personality from New York’s where the emphasis tends to be on the song rather than the spectacle of performing it. In New York the picture of success is being famous, but in Nashville it’s owning your own publishing. Whenever I get asked what I do, the conversation always goes towards publishing. It has been interesting to see how many performers have a general understanding of royalty flow in Nashville. That being said, there is still a disconnect on the “how” when it comes to collecting for these rights. 

Knowing the importance of owning your copyrights is a good start, but that won’t do you much good if you don’t understand how those rights translate to revenue. I’ve seen too many musicians get hung up on only collecting for their master recordings. In an eco-system where per stream payout is…uh…pretty low, it’s important you collect as much as you possibly can for your works. Luckily, many of our clients know the importance of having a strong digital publishing presence and trust us to take care of this for them. I could have never known just how important proper monetization was about to become for all artists.


Right before the pandemic hit, Nashville experienced a terrible weather event that leveled homes and businesses. It truly terrified this city boy. I’ve always lived on the East coast, so I’ve never lived through a “tornado season.” The thing about a tornado is that you don’t have much time to prepare for it. It happens, and you pick up the pieces when it’s done. Muserk and its employees were lucky to not have been personally affected by the storm, but in the days following we saw the devastation and donated essential supplies while also volunteering to help clean up debris from the worst hit neighborhoods. Watching the community come together to help those who were affected reminded me of that energy I felt in NYC where some stranger will not hesitate to lend a hand when it is needed…they might grumble about it…but they’ll still help you out. Amongst the literal rubble was a local venue called The Basement East. Not only was the venue itself someone’s livelihood, it also served as a hub for touring and local bands that depended on it as an outlet to make a living. Just a couple months prior I had been there to see The Milk Carton Kids who are among a list of many musicians who no longer receive revenue from playing live shows. This makes what we do at Muserk even more personal and important…

In many ways our company has been fortunate. We’ve been able to gain momentum through this time, signing many more deals and expanding our skill sets while also allowing more time for family. For me, this meant being able to adopt a dog I named Freddie Blue after the late great Freddie King. He’s a hound/lab mix. In NYC, this would have never been possible. Nashville has given me a new family member and the team a new Zoom distraction. I think he may even have inspired our CEO, Paul Goldman, to get a dog too. The world really does work in mysterious ways….

Thoughts from a Working Musician In Nashville

“Nashville has a long history of songwriting.”

This was something that I heard over and over when I moved here in the fall of 2017. At the time, I didn’t understand that this statement was actually an insight into how the music industry operates. To me, the word “songwriter” wasn’t much different from the word “artist” or “musician.” I had grown up playing songs by my favorite artists as well as writing and performing my own songs. It was all music to me. It wasn’t until later that I realized the music industry operates on some very clear distinctions – particularly in Nashville.

One of the first shows I went to in Nashville was at a down home type venue called Belcourt Taps. The show was an “in the round” style showcase where four different songwriters sat on stage side by side and took turns playing a song they had recently written. I had never encountered this type of show in Austin where I had moved from, but I got the sense it was standard practice here. To my surprise, one of the songwriters, in particular, was a very bad musician. His guitar playing was filled with missed notes and he struggled to sing in tune. But what was fascinating, was he didn’t seem to care at all. He was more interested in the audience, trying to gauge their reaction to his songs. I quickly realized that he had no interest in performing these songs on his own. His goal was to refine his songs down to their most entertaining form – that three-and-a-half-minute gem. It reminded me of how a comedian works on a joke over and over until he or she gets it just right. This was my first insight into how the music industry makes a clear distinction between artists and songwriters.

About a year later, I began working for Muserk as a software developer. Muserk is a global rights administrator that leverages technology to perform its duties with an exceptional level of speed and scale. I was intrigued by the opportunity to combine my tech career with my love of music. Furthermore, it was a chance to learn more about the business side of the music industry, something I thought would be useful in my own music endeavors.

As soon as I started, I was thrown into (sink or swim as the saying goes) the very complicated world of rights management. One of my first projects was developing what would later be known as M-Match — our proprietary AI technology used for finding works in the vast ocean of DSP data. Through this I then learned the intricacies of one way the music industry makes money.

The music industry makes money from two copyrights: one for the underlying work or composition and the other for a sound recording. In practice, there are two types of businesses that form around this: publishers (songwriter/work) and labels (artist/sound recording). So, if you have a song playing on Spotify, let’s say, a portion of the money that is generated from that song should find its way to the label/artist and a portion should find its way to the publisher/songwriter/s. You may think (as I did) that a company like Spotify would know all of this in advance and take care of it. That is not the case.

One of the big problems is that the label and publishing worlds don’t really talk to each other. So, a label will push a song to Spotify and not provide (and in some cases even know) any information about the underlying songwriters. Therefore, Spotify won’t know where to send the publisher/songwriter portion of the money. This is a fairly simplified but accurate account of what happens.

This is where Muserk shines. We spend most of our time matching songwriter related metadata to sound recordings so that we can collect and distribute the appropriate royalties. In the age of digital music this isn’t an easy task. We use all kinds of technology, processes, and insight to match as much data as possible. We’re constantly trying to innovate so that we can match works fast, accurately and at scale. I spend most of my time building this technology and creating ways to convey its results. I feel proud knowing that the work I do contributes to getting musicians paid what they’re owed.

As a musician, my time at Muserk thus far has opened my eyes to how the music world really works. I’ve learned that businesses dedicate themselves entirely to very small pieces of the industry. In Nashville, for instance, there are networks of people that are just trying to write the next hit song and could care less about recording or performing it. Concurrently, there are networks of people trying to be the next big artist and could care less about writing their own songs. For me, I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in. But having a broader understanding of the industry as a whole I know will help me navigate my own musical journey. And, of course, my metadata will be correct.

the next hit song and could care less about recording or performing it. Concurrently, there are networks of people trying to be the next big artist and could care less about writing their own songs. For me, I’m still trying to figure out where I fit in. But having a broader understanding of the industry as a whole I know will help me navigate my own musical journey. And, of course, my metadata will be correct.

Muserk VID

Announcing Muserk VID, A Joint Venture With Japan’s Video Research to Tackle Japanese Rights Management


Paul Goldman
CEO & Founder

With this joint venture and the creation of Muserk V.I.D., we expect to see less piracy of Japanese content on all platforms and an opportunity for our customers to monetize their content online through royalty collection,” said Video Research president Wataru Mochizuki in a statement. “We knew we needed a company that offered something unique to match the power of our scale for this joint venture. The passionate team at Muserk and their propriety technology M-PACTM and M-Match® make this a perfect match.

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