Next BIG Nashville Spotlight: Landmark Digital Services

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Nancy Merrill and Darren Briggs of Landmark Digital Services

In 2005, BMI acquired the technology and patents from Shazam Entertainment, a London-based company, and created a new company called Landmark Digital Services. You may recall the iPhone application Shazam that uses acoustic fingerprinting technology (called BlueArrow) to identify a song in a restaurant or on the radio. While the Shazam product still exists for the consumer market, BMI – through Landmark Digital – has applied the same technology to meet their needs in monitoring public performances in order to most accurately distribute royalties. We spoke with Nancy Merrill and Darren Briggs, who will attend the upcoming Next BIG Nashville and Leadership Music conference on September 28-29, about the importance of BlueArrow technology.

Describe what Landmark Digital Services and BlueArrow technology do?

Landmark creates music information technologies and provides music use data to companies including our parent, BMI. We provide music performance information to content owners and administrators. Our flagship technology is the patented audio recognition system that is licensed by dozens of companies ranging from Arbitron to Mediabase to Shazam. BlueArrow is used by over 75 Million people in 150 countries around the world. Since its launch, Landmark’s technology has recognized over 5 billion songs.

What do you think the future will bring for audio fingerprinting technology?

Landmark’s audio fingerprinting technology has already become a vital component of music tracking for BMI and our other customers. As music use and the need for that data expands, passive monitoring technologies will become more necessary. With BlueArrow, we’re positioned to identify the music played on a multitude of sources – radio, tv, online – and to adapt to new music technologies, devices and delivery methods.

How quickly does new music enter your database?

As soon as the recordings are made available they are added to our reference database. We add on average 8000 new fingerprints a day from various sources.

How does BlueArrow approach music – such as electronic, dance and remixes – that uses a lot of samples within song structures?

Landmark’s recognition technology differentiates between versions, remixes and other variations of original recordings. BlueArrow analyzes each recognized music segment using statistical methods such as coherency, forward-backward inference algorithms and other software intelligence. It is very analytical, but that’s what the songwriter or musician is relying on when it comes to recognizing the work. Accuracy is imperative and it is the principal objective of the BlueArrow technology.

How do you spot emerging musical trends?

Landmark collects data from the hundreds of millions of recognitions made each month. Trends such as emerging artists are evident in the real-time performance data Landmark collects. Because the localities of the recognitions are known, artists and songs can be tracked from the first spin. Additionally, penetration of music genres can be assessed at the song level.

What are the differences and challenges of monitoring terrestrial radio versus online radio and streaming?

The challenges with monitoring terrestrial radio are primarily related to signal coverage, weather and remote administration of multiple monitoring stations. The challenges with monitoring streaming radio include digital rights management, time synchronization, maintaining connectivity and, for simulcasts, variation between program content.

What was the transition like when BlueArrow was acquired from Shazam and BMI formed Landmark Digital Services?

The formation of Landmark was not as much a transition as an implementation. Shazam continues to service the consumer market through their license of BlueArrow. However, the Shazam model is not focused on continuous broadcast monitoring but individual, on-demand song identification. Landmark has built and implemented an advanced recognition system and an extensive monitoring network which delivers a comprehensive picture of music broadcast on a variety of media (radio, television, internet, etc.). This includes broadcasts of full length songs, partial plays of songs, production music and incidental uses.

How has the integration of BlueArrow and BMI’s existing radio airplay measurement system worked out?

The integration of Landmark data into BMI’s distribution has been extremely positive. BMI has been successfully utilizing Landmark data in radio distribution for the past several years. Landmark has provided BMI with more granular information about music performances than has ever been available before.

Do you ever see Landmark Digital Services developing a mobile and consumer market business, for which the Shazam technology was originally intended?

Landmark licenses the technology to Shazam for use in the consumer space. While mobile applications are being considered for development, Landmark’s focus is providing recognition services to businesses and content owners and administrators. This approach allows this exceptional technology to be utilized for the discovery and consumption of music as well as the comprehensive tracking and compensation for its use.


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  1. I have produced a good number of pieces of production music for 615 Music which have been fingerprinted with the Landmark technology. To this point I have received no reports of usage and I’m pretty sure the music has been used. When I pressed BMI on this issue at the end of last quarter I was told that Landmark is still in beta.

    If this is indeed the truth Landmark has been in beta for more than 3 years. I have several questions:

    1) Does the fingerprint really work?
    2) If it does, when will it come out of beta, and will it be retroactive for all usage of music going back over the past 3 plus years.

    Lindsey Williams

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