Why lyrics are crucial metadata


Deezer announced last week their new feature: the ability to play synchronized lyrics while playing a song. As I worked on the feature, I’d like to emphasize the importance of it, and why I see it as a key feature for any music service provider.

Lyrics is data. As any data linked to a song, it enriches the user experience. Because it’s text data, you’re able to look into it, and provide a search tool base on lyrics (when you’re not sure about the exact title).

Lyrics and Digital Music

Lyrics and digital music are made to fit. Since the beginning of wide-spread music (the early 20th), listeners, fans, sang while the song was playing. It was impossible until television started to be able to read synchronized lyrics while listening. Only flat lyrics could be provided (in booklets, mainly). Not to mention we had to wait until we could play a desired song on TV as we did with record players. Lyrics were never really broadcasted that way – even video clips don’t display them.

Whereas the web quickly provided subtitles for movies, music did not came up easily with a sync standard format. Old-fashioned websites seems to lead the market for lyrics lovers.

Sans titre

Digital platforms are the perfect location to provide such a feature: no subtitle files to carry, no synchronization settings to set up, no time lost to look lyrics on a separate website.

Why did we wait so long

It’s seems amazing we waited so long to start including lyrics in such services (Spotify is also working on it). This can be explain by two mains issues:

– Rights management. Indeed, you must get the right to display lyrics. And these rights are not free, and are not the same as the tracks rights.

– Quality. It’s not easy to get lyrics automatically from the song. It means getting the lyrics, synchronizing them and matching them with songs has to be done mainly manually. Companies such as LyricFind just did that, and the more we wait, the more these services will provide quality content.

What’s next

Of course, enlarging the lyrics catalogue must be a priority. We can think about tools to look for songs, to help increase quality (sync problems) and most of all to make majors and any music provider to provide them when delivering music. After all, lyrics can be seen as a metadata as any other metadata.

And for music players, we could go further, providing (synchronized) scores or chords!





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