embedding metadata in MIDI?

Kevin Shrieve kevin at lumiere.net
Wed Jul 2 20:18:23 EDT 2003

John Kwasnik wrote:
>>      [Maybe it's not so much of a problem ... MIDI is waning in 
>>popularity.  The tiny files (<<100KB) were most popular 8 years ago 
>>when bandwidth was small.]

Mike Linksvayer wrote:
>I guess that MIDI will be around forever, and it's kind of 
>interesting from a reuse perspective as, if I understand correctly, 
>it should be far easier for an average user to create derivative 
>MIDI works than it is for an average user to do anything meaningful 
>with raw audio.  So I think it's worthwhile do recommend embedding 
>license info in MIDI files.

I'd like to enthusiastically endorse that perspective.  MIDI has 
great un-tapped potential as a platform for collaborative culture 
building, and for making music from one culture available for 
re-use/re-purposing/re-creation by people from other cultures.  It is 
uniquely useful for sharing "unfinished" background arrangements that 
can be customized (key, tempo, instrumentation, order and length of 
sections) for use by live musicians and singers.  And because of the 
tiny file sizes very inexpensive computers can work with them.

Some other characteristics of MIDI file sharing might lead one to 
cheer for its demise, such as the likelihood of the playback sounding 
very different than what the composer intended,  the bad electric 
guitar sounds in the MIDI sound generators, and the fact that MIDI 
file generation programs (such as Band-In-A-Box) are so willing and 
able to tirelessly crank out heartless renditions of pop tunes. 
(Don't get me wrong, I think BIAB is an amazing tool when used with 

I, for one, am investing a lot of thought and energy into defining 
how I might use "open source" MIDI files to help build the foundation 
for systems of popular creative collaboration, and I anticipate 
defining ways to use the defined metadata fields to embed info that 
would only be of interest within these systems (e.g., the dominant 
musical mode, dominant ethnicity of the style, etc.).

And of course clarifying the licensing terms would be very important 
for something like that.

I do vote for using the already-defined copyright field, even if one 
has to repeat the info in a track field so that people are more 
likely to see it.

I guess the copyright field is unformatted text -- would you use it 
in such a way that it could be machine-readable, say by a search 


Kevin Shrieve


More information about the cc-metadata mailing list