Archiving System Saves Time and Money At Warner/Chappell
August 3, 2004 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Implementing a new PC-based archiving system is saving money and administrative time for Warner/Chappell Music. The music publishing company first substantially reduced the time required to access royalty reports by implementing a host-based system that archived reports from custom AS/400 applications, but the system was expensive to lease and difficult to administer. So Warner/Chappell pulled the plug on the old system and invested in a new system from Metafile Information Systems.
Warner/Chappell Music started as a storefront in London in the early 1800s and is now the second largest music publishing business in the world. Warner/Chappell has a catalog of more than a million copyrights worldwide. These range from standards like “Happy Birthday,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” “Winter Wonderland,” and the ballads of Cole Porter to the contemporary music of Madonna, Radiohead, R.E.M., Elton John, Sheryl Crow, and Smash Mouth, among others.
The company is often a first stop for music industry executives; record, feature film, and television producers; and others who need to acquire song rights. Warner/Chappell is a division of Warner Music Group, with operations in over 50 nations and an international workforce of more than 1,100 employees. The company’s Web site creates a high-tech, efficient, and user-friendly environment where users can search for music online, hear a song or composition, choose the music that best suits their project, and finish the process by securing the licenses at the same time.
THE MOVE FROM MANUAL DISTRIBUTION
The company’s primary business is collecting royalties for the use of songs in radio, television, or other media. The company uses a custom application on an AS/400 to compile reports on the hundreds of thousands of songs that it represents. This application generates well over 100 reports every quarter, which are used by the company’s staff to answer customer inquiries. These reports sometimes span more than 100,000 pages.
Originally the reports were printed and distributed to Warner-Chappell staff members around the world, which was expensive and time-consuming. It also took the regional offices considerable time and effort to store the reports and find the right information when needed.
The company decided to purchase a host-based system that archived the reports from the AS/400 and made them available to users over the company’s network. The new system provided major time-saving in locating information and eliminated most of the cost of printing and shipping the reports. The old host-based system was quite expensive and difficult to use and administer. And because of its complexity, special training was usually required to administer it. When the original vendor went out of business, the product line was taken over by another company that offered minimal support.
A PC-BASED ARCHIVING SYSTEM?
Warner/Chappell management gradually became disillusioned with the cost of the software and the effort required to maintain it. “We had just begun looking for a new system when we got a flyer from Metafile that offered a nearby seminar presenting their MetaViewer archiving system,” said Al Lukiman, who was Warner/Chappell’s computer operations manager when he took over the job to migrate its archiving system to Metafile.
Metafile was exactly what the company was looking for, Lukiman said. “The administration was dramatically simplified, compared with the system that we were using, and the user interface was much simpler as well,” he said. “The cost of the system was also so low that we could pay for it with a single year’s leasing expense on the old software. So we made the decision to move ahead with Metafile.”
Warner/Chappell’s IT staff set up Metafile’s Windows-based, menu-driven download software to manage downloading host spool files. Several standard output queues were established on the company’s AS/400 servers, and reports that were to be archived were placed in these queues. Standard file naming conventions were established to identify the reports. To add a new report, a staff member simply makes a request to the MetaViewer system administrator. The entire process takes about five minutes.
The program works by reading the spool file from the AS/400 and then full-text indexing it. No host code changes were necessary, and no host processing is required. The IT department specified which reports should be archived, when and how often downloads should occur, and what should be done with spool files once downloaded. The client software was installed on users’ desktops at headquarters; users at regional offices use the Web client.
The Web-based MetaViewer Remote Client lets users access information from any office around the world, or from their laptops when they are at home or traveling, Lukiman said. “The new software is much simpler to administer,” he said. “Instead of taking an hour or two to set up a new report, for example, it only takes a few minutes. It’s so simple to use that we were able to install it ourselves without any training, and the people who work on it daily don’t have special training, either.”
The software’s full-text search capability permits users to search for documents by entering words or numbers from anywhere in the document. If, for example, someone has forgotten the name of a song but remembers the name of the artist that recorded it, he can search on the artist’s name and find the documents related to the royalties. The full-text search capability decreased the time needed to find documents to only a few seconds. This has numerous benefits. For example, when someone calls with a question, Warner/Chappell representatives can search the database and get the answer while the person is still on the phone, rather than calling back later.
MetaViewer is much easier to administer and better at providing information the users need, Lukiman said. “The time required to administer the new system has been reduced from 80 to 20 hours per month, and we save additional time because users require much less support,” he said. “This system was clearly designed with the IT department in mind.”
The lower cost and easier maintenance of MetaViewer has reduced the burden of maintaining an archiving system, Lukiman said. “MetaViewer costs just a fraction of what we were paying for our host-based system and takes only about a quarter of the time to administer,” he said. “Our users love it because it is so simple. It is working so well for us that we are considering expanding the system by adding imaging.”
By consolidating the report archiving and imaging systems onto a single platform, Warner/Chappell could allow its users to pull up both reports and imaged documents from a single search, as well as further reducing its cost.
Jerry Fireman is president and founder of Structured Information in Lexington, Massachusetts. He has a journalism degree from Wayne State University and an MBA from the University of Michigan, and has written over 6,000 articles for more than 1,500 trade journals in 24 countries around the world.