International Standard Recording Codes – ISRCs
“The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which is assigned as its digital fingerprint.”
“The creation and first use of the ISRC began in 1986 and was introduced by the Recording Industry Association of America through their collaboration with the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). The ISO, by the way, sets international standards of identification for products across all industries, not just for the music business. With regards to the ISRC, it was their goal to come up with a uniform system for tracking record uses.”
Why do I need an ISRC?
If you are creating tracks and want to make them available online for streaming or download, then you need a code. Online streaming and download platforms will not accept tracks without them.
What does it do?
It is a unique identification code that must be digitally embedded in each track that you produce and release so anybody playing your track will know who owns the rights. It’s a bit like a barcode. When a barcode is scanned the item can be identified as a can of beans or a bottle of wine or whatever. Plus, there is information attached to the specific barcode. The price, what kind of beans or wine it is, who produced it. The same with your ISRC. From the code the user can tell who the rights holder is, who wrote and produced the track and who performed on it. Each version of each track should have its own unique code. So, if you do a different mix or you create a Radio Edit then each of them should be assigned its own code.
Do I need an ISRC if I have a barcode?
Yes. You will need both if you are selling your music. A barcode is used to identify a product, an album, an EP or a single track. An ISRC identifies and provides information on individual tracks. If you were to release your music on an album with 12 tracks on for instance, it would need just one barcode for the whole album but each of the 12 tracks would need their own ISRC embedded on them. And then any further mixes or radio edits that you might release would require further individual codes for each.
How do I get them?
In the UK it is Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) who are responsible for the allocation of ISRC’s:
“PPL is the appointed sole agency for ISRCs in the UK. You should request an ISRC ‘stem’ (or first registrant code) when you become a PPL recording rightsholder member. This stem is three letters allocated in sequence from PPL’s database that is specific to each recording rightsholder member.” www.ppluk.com
If you are going to release recordings on an ongoing basis it makes sense to join PPL. If you don’t want to join you can still apply to them for an ISRC. Also, online distribution companies like Ditto or CD Baby will automatically supply ISRCs for your use when you upload new music.
How it Works
An ISRC consists of 12 alphanumeric characters (letters and/or numbers). The first 2 denote the country of origin. In our case ‘UK’. The next 3 will be unique to you or your label and are issued by PPL – “first registrant code”. The next 2 numbers will be the year of issue for your track. Currently that would be ‘20’. Then the final 5 numbers will be assigned by yourself to identify the track you are releasing.
So we might get for example UK ZYX 20 00001.
Then a second track might be UK ZYX 20 00002 and so.