Understanding ISRCs

By Rob Stewart - JustMastering.com - Last updated August 7, 2017

What is an ISRC code?

ISRC stands for "International Standard Recording Code". An ISRC uniquely identifies a recording amid all other recordings in the world, and can only be used to identify one recording (one track, or one song). Think of an ISRC as an internationally recognized fingerprinting system for each song you create, which ensures that whoever receives a copy of your music knows where it came from, and who created it.

Why would I want one for my music?

The primary reason for purchasing an ISRC for your music is to get paid any royalties from streaming, broadcast or purchases. Knowing who wrote and performed a song is important, however, you can help ensure that you actually get paid any royalties by uniquely identifying your song on a global level. The ISRC automatically associates a specific recording to a composer, publisher or other interested parties, and it is that association that helps facilitate any royalty payment processes when that song is broadcast, streamed or purchased. 

How do I get an ISRC?

You can get an ISRC through various organizations around the world. Some (not all) are linked at the bottom of this article. You can also get an ISRC from the digital distribution company that you choose to sell your music through.

Who is responsible for getting an ISRC, is there a cost, and who pays?

Ultimately, whoever has the interest in getting paid for the music is responsible for obtaining the ISRC. Afterall, if you want to get paid, it is in your best interests to make sure you have the code. There is a cost if you plan to get a code on your own, and it varies a little depending on the organization you are working with. You would have to pay that organization for the code.

What does this all have to do with Audio Mastering?

Even though ISRCs have nothing to do with audio or with sound, associating a master with the parties who created the music is an important part of preparing your music for distribution and broadcast. Many mastering engineers, including myself, offer to embed your ISRC information, along with other metadata (Artist and Album name, for example) right into the master for you.

Self mastering your music? You can embed your ISRC in your broadcast wav files yourself, using this free utility from Sonoris Audio Engineering called ISRC editor. This editor allows you to embed the ISRC in the EBUCore GUID (Globally Unique Identifier) field in the CORE portion of the metatdata, per the European Broadcast Union's EBU tech3352 specification. The utility will do one file at a time, but it works!


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