Music Business

Watermarking vs Fingerprinting audio files

Digital audio production not only enables practially anyone to record their own tracks at home (and on a budget), but it also comes with plenty of features to help secure your revenue by monitoring your song placements and making sure you get paid.

In today´s post we´ll discuss the processes of watermarking and fingerprinting with regard to audio tracks and which benefits these digital “markers” bring. But before you jump to conclusions, beware that this is not just for the tech-savy readers, but for anyone trying to monitor their song placements and making sure that royalties are collected.


What is Watermarking?

Visually speaking a watermark is much like a tattoo, a permanent mark incorporated into the audio file. It is a piece of information that is being embedded into your track! It can be perceptible or non-perceptible to the human ear. Mostly you will want to use non-perceptible watermarks, which can be included by ways of defining frames which are but 90 milliseconds in duration and then performing a spectral analyses of the sounds in those frames, so to find low frequency spots that allow for the embedded signal to remain hidden.

Since watermarking means adding pieces of data to an existing file, you can create various watermarks for various copies of your song files. This way the watermark will help you identify which song file was used in a certain placement.. This may also help find out if someone used a ripped version, that would´t have the watermark. That may sound a bit confusing. Let´s look into an actual example: If you were placing one of your songs in various music libraries, for it to be pitched to music supervisors or A&R managers, then you could send this same song with different signature watermarks to each library. If one of your songs ever got placed somewhere, you could then source which library was responsible for the placement, because the watermark was exclusively embedded in the song file you had passed on to that library.

What is Fingerprinting

Generating a fingerprint works much like a human fingerprint! The idea is to isolate certain innate charcteristics of your files to create a data file, which can later be matched against your song files. These characteristics would be found in certain waveforms. Fingerprinting does not add anything to your song at all! Instead it is a thought-through way of analyzing and identifying your song´s “DNA”. Much like a fingerprint!

But what makes up that kind of DNA? In order to not have to store entire song files in public or private databases (which would take up much storage and would make searches really slow), the fingerprinting technology basically only extracts a couple of samples every 1/10 th of a second or so and stores these data files in a database (much like a unique code). This ensures a super fast and relyable match, when the data is compared against the original song. Pretty smart, right?

So what are the benefits of Watermarking?

  • Tracking individual assets
  • Sourcing the owner/content provider
  • Spotting copyright infringements

So what are the benefits of Fingerprinting?

  • Spotting and avoiding Copyright infringements
  • Retroactive detection possible (meaning you can detect songs that have already been placed and distributed).

Where to get it done? 

You can watermark your songs before or after the Mastering process. A lot of Mastering Engineers offer this. But there are also services like  “Source Audio Detect” or Trusted Audio who will watermark your songs.

Services for Fingerprinting and Monitoring include: Tunesat and ACRCloud

Hope this post was helpful!



Please follow us on Instagram and sign up to our Newsletter below!