Chapter 11:What are ISRC Codes / Barcodes?

ISRC Codes

ISRC codes are a clever way of keeping tabs on recorded tracks and are usually added to songs when they are mastered. Each 12 character code is completely unique to the song and stays with the track as a form of digital fingerprint indefinitely; they are a way of detecting illegal piracy in music which protects the integrity of the artist, as well as trace how much money is owed in royalties due to the track being played on the radio.

With many radio stations depending on automated CD decks that churn out the songs to be played one by one, having an ISRC code embedded is a handy tool for the artist as the radio will automatically feedback that the song has been used.

If a track ever showed up anywhere with a false ISRC code attached to it, this usually means that some level of piracy has taken place in order to reproduce the song illegally.

Tracks that don’t use an ISRC codes are very hard to trace and if one isn’t embedded on a track before it is submitted online, it can become nigh on impossible to prove that the song has been downloaded in order to get you the royalties that you are entitled to; with many outlets offering free ISRC codes, they are a worthwhile investment. Members of PPL and PRS tend to opt for an ISRC as it allows them to get a more accurate gauge on the earnings that their song has generated.

If you sell your music via platforms such as iTunes, an ISRC will also inform you of just how many you have sold, allowing you to get a clear gauge on just how well your track is doing. The codes are completely unique and allow the rights holder to recognise their tracks straight away.

Split into four sections, the ISRC code comprises of the following:

  1. The country where the member who has the ISRC code is based is used as the first two characters, for example if the member is based in the United Kingdom, the code will start with ‘UK’.
  2. Three characters then follow which are unique to the right holder of the recording; these numbers will never change even if the recording is licensed to somebody else a few years down the line.
  3. The year that the recording was given an ISRC is then placed next in two characters, so for example 2014 would be 14.
  4. The final segment of the code consists of five characters that the right holder chose when they paired up the ISRC with a recording; they are always numbers and never letters.

Barcodes (UPC)

A barcode is a code that identifies a product as a whole, as opposed to the one track that an ISRC code represents. Most people will be familiar with a UPC code as it is one of the most common forms of identifying a product.

Found on the back of a digital product, the bar code is usually scanned during every sale, which in turn generates reports that feedback the list of music sales for that week, allowing chart positions to be compiled. They also allow your product to go straight onto the shelves of a retail outlet, meaning that they are ready for the public to purchase pretty much straight away.