ISRC codes, UPC/EAN
(© Jeffrey de Gans v1.7, 26 August 2020)
Back in the days ISRC codes where used for CDs. We didn't have spotify, YouTube or Deezer. CDs where released by major recordlabels and those labels knew about ISRC codes and delivered them to the mastering-engineer who embedded them into the CD. As an artist you most likely didn’t even know ISRC codes excisted let alone know how to handle them. Don’t worry, you are not alone.
The music industry has changed a lot over the years. We have services like spotify, youtube, Apple Music and you don’t need a big label to release your music, you can do it pretty much all by yourself. But with that, as an artist or independent label, you need to know about ISRC codes. ISRC codes are not rocket science, it’s pretty simple once you know it.
An ISRC code is a unique identifier number that is exclusive to your song, a 'digital fingerprint', and is used for tracking information, payment distribution, protecting and controlling your own repetoire.
Every single track on Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer has an ISRC code assigned.
NL is the countrycode, so for the Netherlands it’s NL, Sweden SE, Belgium BE etc
ABC is the repetoire code, this is what you get assigned and is ‘your own code’
20 is the year of registration, so 20 is 2020
00101 is the 'recording code'
If you have your own ISRC repetoire code, you are responsible for the 'recording code' and it’s good practice to have a good administration for this. To make things easy I advise on numbering so that the last 2 digits are the tracknumber (NL-ABC-20-00101) and the first 3 digits are the release number (NL-ABC-20-00101). This way its easier to track, because from the number itself you can see which release it’s coming from. So the codes for 2 releases/albums/EP’s could look like this:
|Best practice||A less practical option|
track 1 NL-ABC-20-00101
track 1 NL-ABC-20-00201
track 1 NL-ABC-20-00001
track 1 NL-ABC-20-00004
When you are planning a physical release on CD as well, you need the same ISRC code for the CD as the digtal release. That could be problematic since for the CD, you need a DDP for the CD factory with the codes embedded. When using a distributor/aggregator, you get the codes after upload and obviously the CD needs to be pressed before the digital release. To avoid that I think it’s a good idea to make your own ISRC codes by getting your own repetoire code.
It’s also possible to embed the ISRC codes (free of charge), along with other metadata, into your masters following the official EBU/MPG BWAV standard. But beware! I’m not aware of any distributors reading those metatags right now (August 2020) This means, when uploading to an aggregator you still have to manually enter the ISRC codes!
A UPC/EAN is not free of charge but can be bought online. Just google for ‘buy UPC/EAN’ and you will find a lot of ‘online shops’ selling codes.
I made an excell sheet for filling out all infomation which you can send along with the mixes. You can download the excell sheet here
Some practical info and links
- International ISRC agency: http://isrc.ifpi.org/en/
- International ISRC database: https://isrcsearch.ifpi.org/#!/search
- ISRC Sena the Netherlands: https://www.sena.nl/makers/rechthebbenden/isrc
- Barcodes lookup and info: https://www.barcodelookup.com/
- Excellsheet for DDP’s https://www.dagoosemastering.nl/mail/CD_text_sheet_DGM.xls
I hope this information helped you to understand how ISRC and UPC/EAN codes work, how to use them and how to get them. If you still have questions, feel free to ask.
With kind regards,
“Mastering is the final step before your music is released to the world. I take that very seriously.”