A few months ago, we were approached by the good people at The British Library who were looking for a partner to provide them infrastructure in modernising their music cataloguing processes for the digital age.
As you can imagine, we jumped at the opportunity of collaborating with such a revered and well-known institution! Shortly thereafter, we started working with the music department in developing a platform that would enable the British Library to take in digital feeds from rights-owners, augment this digital core data with third-party metadata from other sources and enable curators at the BL to interact with this content before feeding the results into the Library’s systems.
Beginning by taking digital feeds from labels and distributors, through industry standard DDEX XML, Metable reduced the huge amount of data entry that was required to previously catalogue products. Using our expertise in XML and knowledge of cataloguing standards in music, we worked closely with the curators at the library to map down the data received from labels to fit their standards.
We then looked at how we could enrich this data through taking data that is available elsewhere on the web. Looking at the different APIs that are available, we saw the best coverage and accuracy of data would be given through combining the Discogs, Musicbrainz and Decibel APIs. It was really interesting to see the breadth and depth of the data that was available through these APIs, and seeing how the different models of user generated vs. curated data provided different levels of information across the huge variety in products the library was receiving.
As our normal test record, Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones had a huge amount of in depth data, detailing exactly who played what, who transferred the tapes for digitisation and who came up with the concept for the front cover! But digging down into more obscure records, we were intrigued by the levels of coverage that was returned – some had great depth, and others were not available at all.
Since there is no legal deposit for music in the UK, it has been fascinating seeing how the British Library are keeping ahead of the curve in the digital age. Our ongoing work with the user group within the library has shown how a passion for music combined with a modern approach to cataloguing can really empower a new way of providing a service such as this.
After many months of working closely with the British Library, they are now receiving content that was previously not available to them, allowing them to continue building their amazing resource for future generations.
This is what Alex Wilson from the British Library had to say about the project:
“In these turbulent digital-music waters, the Metable@BL project has transformed the way in which we acquire, manage, process, catalogue, preserve and make sense of the ever-complex digital music supply chain. In a short space of time Metable have given us a system that can be used easily cross-directorate by all staff handling digital assets. As the British Library enters into a long transition of physical to digital media Metable@BL is the perfect platform to enable that to happen now and into the future”