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SoundExchange’s new royalties tool designed to help musicians get paid

A lot has been made about the dearth of music royalties for musicians in the digital music age. There are plenty of places to point the finger, but one of the most basic reasons musicians don’t get paid when they should is the sheer complexity of tracking them down to deliver royalty payments when their music is played across any of the wide array of Internet, satellite, and traditional radio platforms now on the open market.

SoundExchange wants to help change all that. The performance rights organization has added a new online tool that will allow music fans and industry members alike to get metadata for their favorite digital recordings, and the company to distribute millions of dollars in unpaid royalties to musicians worldwide.

Related: Tidal facing $5 million class action lawsuit over alleged unpaid royalties

SoundExchange collects and distributes royalties on behalf of rights holders like record labels and musicians. The company alone currently has tens of millions of dollars in undistributed royalties because of incomplete International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC) numbers, according to Billboard. The codes are comprised of a two number country code, three character code for the registrant, and two numbers for the year, and they’re overseen by the RIAA in the U.S.

That data can then be used to track down and deliver music royalties to the proper parties from sources like Internet streaming services and traditional radio, in addition to other commercial settings where music is played from digital files. The new tool allows anyone to look up recordings and attach the codes, and SoundExchange has included the IRSC codes for its entire catalog of 20 million songs online.

Giving music fans and industry members access to an easy search engine for the codes is the company’s first step in solving the royalties issue.

“I think this is another step in the positive journey toward providing better information for the industry,” said SoundExchange president Michael Huppe.

The new online tool is easy to use, allowing anyone to look up music by artist name, track title, or release name, and narrow their results from a list of releases. There is even an advanced option that includes searches for song version, year, and file type, as well as a way to look up a recording by its actual ISRC number — presumably to ensure it is accurate.

With it’s new search engine, SoundExchange hopes to slowly whittle away at its unpaid royalty payments, and to help move the digital playback world towards one which always has complete information as to who should be paid per play.