WHAT IS AN ISRC CODE?
The ‘International Standard Recording Code’ (or ISRC code) is a unique identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC code identifies a specific unique recording and can be permanently encoded into a product as a kind of digital fingerprint. It can then used for sales tracking by the music download and streaming platforms. So whether your music is being played in Skegness or Sweden, it will be instantly recognised, all thanks to your ISRC code.
Is an ISRC code the same as a barcode?
No. ISRCs are for individual tracks/recordings. Barcodes are for the complete product (album/ep/single) that the tracks come together to make.
What does an ISRC code look like?
An ISRC Code follows a standard template and looks like this:
Let’s break that down:
GB is the country (US for United States / IE for Ireland / AU for Australia)
LFP is the unique letters assigned to your record label (at Ditto Music our code is LFP)
16 is the year
12345 is a unique number assigned by the label themselves. Most record labels assign them sequentially so their first recording of 2016 would be GB-LFP-16-00001.
Pretty straightforward so far, right?
HOW DO I GET AN ISRC CODE?
You can get an ISRC code from the PPL or similar IFPI organisation when you sign up as a label. Alternatively, Ditto Music will give you ISRC codes for free for every track you release through us – because we are nice like that!
Actually, you should never pay for ISRCs. They are always free, which is why Ditto Music gives you them for no extra cost with every release.
Can’t I just make up or generate an ISRC code myself?
No. An international organisation called the IFPI oversee ISRCs with 46 agencies worldwide. Ditto Music is UK-based, so we’re label members of PPL and give out free ISRCs with every release.
Stores or upload systems will not accept it your code if it’s not a valid ISRC. To generate your own ISRC you need to be a member of your local IFPI organisation, e.g. PPL. You can join the PPL as a label member and they will give you the 3-character code to generate an ISRC.
WHY DO I NEED AN ISRC CODE?
Thinking of skipping the ISRC code? Think again! Digital stores will NOT put any track on sale without an ISRC code – they need it for sales tracking.
Also remember, each individual track needs to have a different ISRC code. It’s the recording not the track that it’s attached to. Same applies to releasing music physically. So if you want to release a single online with a couple of remixes, a live version and a b-side, each track will need its own code.
Is my song chart eligible if it has an ISRC ?
Not unless it’s registered with the PPL/Charts Company – which Ditto can sort for you. The retailer will report the sale to the Chart Company, but if it’s not registered it won’t count.
Ditto Music specialise in digital music distribution and enable thousands of unsigned artists to sell their music in stores like iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and hundreds more. ISRC codes are completely free of charge with your release.
If you have any questions about ISRC codes or online music distribution, let us know in the comments below and we’ll get back to you!
An ISRC is made up of four parts, example: ZA-B42-14-00002.
ZA – Country Code — two characters issued by the ISRC Agency. In South Africa this is always ZA B42 – Registrant Code — a three character alphanumeric code issued by the ISRC Agency. Each production company is assigned its very own registrant code. 14 – Year of Reference — the last two digits of the year in which the ISRC is assigned to the track. In this case the song was assigned an ISRC in the year 2014. This is allocated by the production company. 00002 – Designation Code — a five digit unique code assigned by the production company. These numbers must not be repeated in the same calendar year.
In this example, the song is the 2nd song to be assigned an ISRC in 2014 for the South African based production company Rabona Music.
How do I encode an ISRC onto a CD?Compact Disc: The ISRC codes and the relevant point of sale code (such as UPC) should be inserted on the Pre-Master during the mastering process. Speak to the company mastering your music to ensure this is done.
Electronically Distributed Music: Most formats for electronically distributed music allow the inclusion of an ISRC, which can be inserted by authoring software. Where electronically distributed formats include several tracks, the ISRC of each track should be associated with it in the metadata of the file.
MP3: The MP3 format does allow rights management information like ISRC to be included however it is rarely used. What is used is the ID3 system of tags, which is not part of the international standard, but does enable ISRC to be encoded. It is therefore recommended that an ISRC be encoded into the ID3 tag.
Other important factors to note about ISRC are that: Once assigned, an ISRC must not be re-used under any circumstances ISRCs can be applied to promotional material such as 30-second clips and hidden tracks particularly if at any time in the future the asset may be separately. ISRC are assigned to videos as well. If a song exists in audio and in video format, a separate ISRC should be created for the video as well. Unlike ring tones, ring sounds are digitized audio and should be assigned an ISRC.
How do I apply for an ISRC?Contact the National ISRC Agency for your territory, In South Africa this is RISA. Elsewhere use IFPI. Alternatively, get your publisher to do this on your behalf.
The bottom line is, if your tracks broadcast on radio or played in public then you need to invest in an ISRC code.