Jaxsta Aims to Bring Back Liner Notes, and Create an IMDB for Music – Variety6 min read
An IMDB for music, crossed with LinkedIn: That’s basically the elevator pitch for Jaxsta, a Sydney, Australia-based tech company that aims to be the go-to source for music credits, serving both the curiosity of fans and the needs of musicians and industry professionals. While currently free and in its beta phase, the site will provide chart information and more for professionals with its Pro service.
The platform is the brainchild of Jacqui Louez Schoorl, a music and film industry professional whose husband, Louis, is a producer and songwriter with 5 Seconds of Summer, Backstreet Boys and Kesha credits on his resume. She says the album “jackets” (covers) of the vinyl and CD era, which included a bounty of songwriting, production and other credits, inspired the couple to coin the name Jaxsta.
Websites such as AllMusic and Discogs, as well as the Tidal streaming service, connect many of the dots on music credits, but Jaxsta seeks to provide a broader array of information, including current chart data from around the world, industry awards, a calendar of industry events and other info on the world’s top 20 music markets. Jaxsta is still in beta, but Schoorl aims to be fully operational no later than the first quarter of next year — and in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the company is providing the service for free for the next few months.
“We’re giving it to the industry for free until the end of this year at least, and then next year we’ll probably move part of the product behind a pay wall,” says Schoorl. “It was originally priced at $150 dollars U.S. per year plus tax, but obviously because of the circumstances we find ourselves in, we wanted to do something to help.”
While it’s not uncommon to find tech plays that seek to capitalize on music’s popularity, Schoorl made a conscious effort to build the site in partnership with industry stakeholders over the course of Jaxsta’s seven-year development, getting direct feeds of metadata from the three major labels, the Merlin network of independent music companies and unions including the American Federation of Musicians and SAG-AFTRA.
The initiative has also procured the endorsement and partnership of a wide swath of music trade associations, including the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the Recording Academy, American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the Music Business Association (Music Biz), the UK’s Association of Independent Music (AIM), and several Australian organizations. Officials from SoundExchange, ARIA, Music Biz and Merlin were among those quoted in a recent Jaxsta press release, along with endorsements from Questlove, Rita Wilson and Grammy-winning engineers John Hanes and Emily Lazar.
“To have industry peers pushing it out and sharing their appreciation of the product meant a lot to us,” Schoorl adds. “It also validates the existence of what we’ve built and why official data is so critically important.”
While she cites the economic impact of the coronavirus as the impetus to waive Pro-level fees, it isn’t unusual for a new industry service to prime the pump with free trials. SoundScan, the sales tracking platform that was one of the seeds for what is now called Nielsen Music/MRC Data, offered free trials to distributors and labels when it launched in 1991. BuzzAngle, the service recently rechristened as Alpha Data, played the same card when it began seeking subscribers in 2013.
When the free window for Jaxsta Pro ends, the service will offer enterprise licenses for companies with multiple users in addition to the individual subscriptions.
Music Biz president Portia Sabin and A2IM president/CEO Richard James Burgess — himself a music producer — are among the industry leaders who cheer Jaxsta’s development.
“Jaxsta is something that the music industry actually needs,” Sabin notes. “Credits used to be a big part of our lives when [CDs and vinyl were dominant]. When I was a teenager, the records I was listening to came with a whole lot of information. That was fun for a music nerd like me — you’d see the same names from album to album, ‘Oh, the same person played bass on this album and this album.’ It was a way of connecting and making music really personal — a world you felt like you could be a part of.”
Burgess adds, “When analog works are digitized, the result usually is more functionality and more information — but for some reason, digitized music got the increased functionality but less information. Now, featured artists are almost always credited, but musicians, singers, and producers disappeared from the digitized versions of their creations. Speaking as someone who earned a living from most of these roles, the credits on those album sleeves resulted in momentum for my career.”
In Jaxsta, every creative associated with a project, from percussionist to producer, has a profile listing all of their all credits; like IMDB Pro, Jaxsta Pro members can claim their sites to ensure that his or her profile is accurate and complete. Participants can also provide their contact information if they choose to.
The challenge is that with data flowing in from multiple sources, the same individual or company can initially end up with multiple profiles. A major item on the Jaxsta team’s to-do list has been to consolidate those duplicates.
“We de-duplicated 25 million profiles down to 2.3 million,” says Schoorl. “It’s something we will do every single day, because up to 40,000 new songs are released every day to the DSPs, and we get the bulk of those coming in to our platform. Once we get around the 2 million mark, I think that will probably be the time when our CIO Phil Morgan and I will feel most comfortable to bring the product out of beta — late this year or early 2021.”
If a Pro user notices an error, they fill out a ticket, which Jaxsta’s tech team explores. Schoorl says legitimate corrections are usually implemented within 48 hours.
While Jacksta’s Pro service will eventually bear a cost, she says the “free tier will always exist.” That’s where both die-hard and casual fans can mine details about favorite music to their hearts’ content.
“The pro side is really more for industry professionals to have a tool that they need on a day-to-day basis,” she adds. “That really saves them a minimum of 30 minutes in their day.”
Aside from the ability to make sure their credits are complete, Pro members can set up chart alerts for projects with which they are affiliated, mine current chart data from around the world, and, when business shifts back into gear, a calendar of industry events.
Under each profile, titles can be sorted by type of release, most popular (determined by combined current plays from Spotify and Apple Music), and laid out in either a grid or a lined list. Charts can be sorted by provider or territory, and results appear within seconds.
With tens of thousands of songs being added to streaming services every day, keeping current can be challenge, but a spot check by Variety suggests the company is up to the task. Last Monday (May 11), new releases from Kehlani, Nav, Lil Durk and Lil Tjay were all loaded in Jaxsta’s system with complete details, even with each of the first three mentioned spreading credits among more than 20 songwriters and 20-plus producers.
Schoorl says the team in Australia scours the system on Saturday — which is still Friday in the U.S. — for missing titles. That enables a full array of data by the time Monday rolls around.
“Being able to have all those pieces of information at your fingertips makes it a vital industry tool, so it has been built for the niche market of the music industry,” she says. “We’ve got lots of other features and improvements that we’re going to roll out on the platform in the coming weeks and months.”