The Open Music Initiative was launched in 2016 by Berklee College of Music and the MIT Media Lab with the three-pronged mission of advancing open standards for musical rights owner identification; educating creators about intellectual property rights; and coordinating and promoting innovation across the music industry ecosystem.

Open Music believes that for the most accurate rights holder ecosystem to develop and flourish an open source foundation is needed in order to allow all participants in the ecosystem to develop new applications, ensure the best matching and dispute resolution systems and create new market opportunities in the music space.

The broad assembly of our members that spans the entire music industry value chain provides Open Music with the unique positioning of providing the open source implementations of technology components for identifying and matching musical work copyright ownership, based on good design principles and architectures, on standardized APIs and protocols and achieving a high degree of interoperability.


Following the passage of the Music Modernization Act into law, we seek to collaborate with the selected Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC) , and draw upon the expansive technical expertise from Open Music’s Technical Committee leads from MIT Connection Science to enable the use of open API specifications between parties in the entire music ecosystem.

In order for the MLC’s matching operations and related copyright solutions to be effective, accurate and scalable to the needs of the music industry globally, it will require a high degree of interoperability. With our industry membership, Open Music wishes to contribute our foundational, open source layer of APIs and protocols needed to ensure the industry-wide interoperability for the MLC matching services platform -- one that takes into account existing standards such as DDEX and that is responsive to any and all systems of rights holder data management, databases and clearinghouse technologies irrespective of vendor selected.

Several key members of Open Music have been leaders in the development of standardized APIs and open protocols in diverse product categories and businesses and possess decades of deep and unparalleled experience in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) which can and must be deployed in order for the MLC’s matching services platform to achieve the highest accuracy rate of matching, conflict resolution and expeditious and cost-effective distribution of musical works royalties. However, in order for these technologies to have maximal impact in matching and related functions they need to have access to data through standardized APIs and protocols.

The combined experience of Open Music’s broad membership and structure puts us in a unique position to coordinate and design the best possible approach to defining, developing and maintaining this proposed open source API and protocol layer.

Furthermore, the broad industry and higher education participation in Open Music will offer a unique conduit to coordinate and advance innovation in the implementation of an open source layer for the matching services platform.

Berklee is the preeminent institute of contemporary music, providing an unassailable, deep understanding of the music industry. The various MIT Faculty and research staff include not only several Nobel Laureates, but also inventors of the key technologies that underpin today’s Internet infrastructure. MIT itself has been at the forefront of technological development and open source software development for 50 years now; created the first open source project in 1986; and established the first open source license (called the “MIT License”) in the early 1990s. In the area of identity management, MIT Connection Science has also led the development of the open source software implementation of the OAuth2.0 Identity Authorization standard, used by Google, Facebook, Twitter, GitHub, Apple, Yahoo and many others to achieve interoperability of federated authentication.

defining the API / protocol layer for interoperabiLity

Open Music as a consortium seeks to define and develop the API and protocol layer and promote industry interoperability by defining several architectural standards that provide scale-up to service providers and end-users in the ecosystem (see Figure 1). Open Music seeks to make use of existing standards where possible such as DDEX, and extend these to new use-case scenarios.

  • Standard Application Programming Interfaces (APIs): Virtually all web-based services on the Internet today (e.g. social media, email services, trading platforms, etc) operate on the basis of common APIs and protocols that are standardized. By defining standard APIs and protocols, new innovations can be spearheaded by entrepreneurs, developers and students through their development of new Applications and Services built on top of these common APIs and protocols. Standards promote interoperability and innovation at higher layers of the “stack”.

  • Open Source Software Implementation: In order to prove the correctness of standard APIs and protocols, Open Music will implement reference open source software of these APIs and protocols that are based on other standards that already exist in industry (e.g. DDEX). This software will be freely available to anyone, which will accelerate industry-wide adoption of interoperable standards.

  • Federated Access to Open and Unified Metadata: Open Music plans to define and develop with relevant partners and Open Music members, a new unified metadata layer that allows data (e.g. license data) to be accessed via authenticated entities in a uniform manner. This allows the user to obtain a unified view of metadata independent of where the underlying data is physically located. As an example of this approach is the Open Data Platform initiative (ODPI) Egeria project. Egeria creates a set of open APIs, types and interchange protocols for open sharing, exchange and governance of metadata. This is akin to the Sabre passenger reservations database in the Airline industry, which is uniformly accessed by numerous travel agents and applications.

Figure 1

Key to a scalable rights ownership ecosystem is the ability of each stakeholder to obtain data and services independently from the baseline service. There are several core values underlying this scalable model (see Figure 1):

  • Modularity of Services: The notion of “modular” unit of service is crucial for scalability purposes because the approach allows for technological improvements to evolve on a per-module basis, with independence between modules. This allows one business logic (e.g. Identification of a Rightsholder) to be implemented as a separate module from another business logic (e.g. Invoicing or Payment Processing). As a whole, technological improvements can be made with minimal disruption to other business processes (i.e other modules).

  • Module Level Interfaces: A key enabler of modular services for business logic is the consistent standard interfaces for accessing a given module and for module-to-module interaction. Thus, for example, a Reconciliation module should interact via standard protocols and interface to an Invoicing module. So long as the interface definitions and behavior definition remains unchanged, one or both of these modules can be upgraded over time with minimal impact to the rest of the business processes.

  • Opaque Internal Processing: This is also called “opaque box processing” model in which the internal implementation of processes (business logic) is hidden from the caller of the service. Most web application and services operate in this manner today (e.g. Amazon AWS cloud services, etc). The entity using the service should not care how the internal “opaque box” is implemented as long it provides a consistent service over standardized APIs and standardized data formats. For example, the Set-Top-Box (STB) units in home Cable TV communicates via the Television unit over the HDMI standard. The Television does not care how the STB is implemented (an opaque box) as long as it communicates with the TV consistently using the HDMI standard. 

Based on the open source structure and methodology outlined above, any vendor should be able to easily implement its architecture, functions and services using Open Music standard APIs and protocols. A solution that deploys services using our standard APIs and protocols guarantees itself longevity and cost efficiency because while the APIs and protocol standards remain stable over time, the “opaque box” implementation behind these APIs can evolve and improve over time.

Figure 2

An example of a scalable platform is that of the URights platform from Open Music members SACEM and IBM (Figure 2). The URights Platform is implemented using the industry best practices based on the core values mentioned above. By implementing Open Music standard APIs and Protocols, the URights Platform and others like it can provide a consistent service to the users of the MLC while at the same time improve their internal modules implementing the matching algorithms. This in turn provides stability and longevity of infrastructure investments on the part of the MLC.


Our collective membership’s experience spans the entire supply chain of the music industry giving the initiative the only entity of its kind with an ecumenical view of the entire music ecosystem. This gives Open Music, as a partner to the industry, a unique reach and position to coordinate and advance the best pan-industry open source solution possible.

Berklee is home to 6,000 of the next generation creators on our Boston campus and graduates 1,000 artists, producers, sound engineers, film scorers, sound designers and songwriters every year. We have an alumni base of nearly 68,000 and an annual reach of over 2 million music creators through our open courses. Our alumni have won 283 Grammy Awards, 95 Latin Grammys; as well as Oscar Awards, Emmy’s and Tony awards. Our renown alumni include Quincy Jones, John Mayer, Melissa Etheridge, Charlie Puth, Paula Cole, St Vincent, Aimee Mann, Diana Krall and countless others. The rich and deep experience of the Berklee faculty and community puts us in a unique position to influence and advance the music industry in a way that no other institution does.

Likewise, MIT’s Connection Science team -- which leads Open Music’s Technical Steering Committee -- has decades of experience, and are the global leaders in convening cross-industry consortia across fields. MIT has been a leader in technological and open source software development for over 50 years, having developed the first open source project in 1986; and pioneering the first open source license, the “MIT License”. Its client-base includes Fortune 500 companies like Microsoft and Wall Street companies such as Goldman-Sachs; Government organizations including the Department of Defense, NSA and NASA; and network vendors such as Cisco. These learnings and experience are now being applied to convening the Open Music membership, resulting in the next wave of working group meetings, goals and deliverables. Their involvement will drive decision making methods and platforms, and will guide the reference implementations, testing and ultimate adoption of the open source protocols that Open Music aims to develop and promote.


The Open Music Initiative and its members are well positioned today to enhance the rights management ecosystem in the following ways:


  • Creation of new standard APIs and protocols for the identification and tracking of music rights and rights holders, using existing metadata standards (e.g. DDEX) and contribution of open source software implementation of these APIs and protocols.

  • Exploration of new metadata management and conflict resolution models that enhance existing standards and provide a unified view of rights metadata regardless of location, based on federated access technologies

  • Interoperability with any vendor to the MLC through a federated data approach ensuring maximum matching.


  • Deep experience among members such as MIT Connection Science, IBM and Intel in new technologies such as Blockchain to manage and authenticate transactions and links between music recordings (ISRC) and musical works (ISWC); perform dispute resolution; reduce costs through smart contracts; explore creation of new trusted business networks; and new business models anticipating the proliferation of user generated content distribution.

  • Deep experience by MIT Media Lab, and Open Music members IBM and IDEO in the creation and coordination of “safe” laboratory platforms and conditions to enable MLC and industry to access top level academic researchers, PhD students, faculty, creators and entrepreneurs to develop new business models, products and services for the music industry based on open standards.

  • Coordinating the harnessing of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to explore predictive analytics, reduce cost structures and more

  • Exploration of new analytical methods that yields insights into the consumption of music based on social connections and other individual data in a privacy-preserving manner, allowing better trend and success predictions of new music or new blended genres.


  • Berklee College of Music’s unparalleled reach though its 10,000 on-campus and online students; 68,000 world class alumni; and over 2 million creators through its open courses, offer the MLC a unique way of advancing its objectives and ensuring the successful rollout of the Music Modernization Act.


The problems the music industry has experienced in rights ownership identification and digital royalties distribution are multi-faceted across businesses, technologies, partnerships and data management processes. The solution also needs to be multi-faceted.

Open Music’s efforts -- led by music industry and technology industry deep subject matter experts who also represent value chain-wide participation -- will add tremendous insights in the development of a new system for managing mechanical rights. This system will benefit from open and shared protocols that will establish interoperability with third party processes, resulting in successful implementations, deployment, and ongoing maintenance of rights owner data for both the new MLC-administered database and the global creative industry as a whole. In fact we believe interoperability and open source tools, will be vital to the longevity and deep reaching impact of the Music Modernization Act.

Open standards are critical for the proper identification and remuneration of the very people that are the lifeblood of our industry: the music creators. Open Music’s structure is modeled around how other industries such as aviation, telecommunications, global positioning systems and the Internet itself have dramatically benefited from open standards. According to a 2013 report by McKinsey Institute, open data can help unlock over $3-$5 trillion in annual economic value across multiple sectors of the global economy. We firmly believe that the music sector will directly benefit financially as well as operationally by reducing duplication of efforts and using modern technology to collaborate and cleanse data with others.

Furthermore, as markets, society and the music industry itself increasingly become data-driven and consumers acquire music through different social engagements with other consumers, the fragmentation of rights data will only increase. It is crucial that the music industry employ advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Social Physics in order to provide better predictive capabilities and insights into the future trends in music consumption as well as capabilities to manage the distribution of royalties after usage. However, in order for these technologies to have a network effect of improved efficiency and effectiveness in matching and related functions they need to have access to data through standardized APIs and protocols.

The next generation of artists, composers and entrepreneurs will face a global market that has user experiences we cannot even contemplate today, and underlying systems that are likely enabled by Blockchain and emerging technology systems. It is incumbent upon our current industry to prepare for all kinds of new uses and expressions of music. Music compositions will increasingly include mashups shared across social media or remixes experienced within Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) environments. Decentralized and shared global tracking will provide true scaling capabilities of matching services to global participants. New economic incentive models need to be devised and explored in order to empower artists to reach their creative best.