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ISRC & Barcodes 


Registering and protecting copyright of your songs and recordings, and other intellectual property associated with your artistic creations, are some of the most important things you can do to protect the royalties you are entitled to for their use. This information will help you get a fundamental understanding of some of the tools available to assist you achieve this. There are two main aspects that you should familiarize yourself with, they are the International Standard Recording Code and the product Barcode system. Creating an indelible cue sheet with digitally encrypted ISRCs and Barcodes hidden in the files of your audio or video masters is a complex but essential process. Peace of Eden provides an inexpensive service to anyone requiring ISRC and Barcoding.


The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC), defined by ISO 3901, is an international standard code for uniquely identifying sound recordings and music video recordings. IFPI has been appointed by ISO as registration authority for this standard. The ISO technical committee 46, subcommittee 9 (TC 46/SC 9) is responsible for the standard. Note that an ISRC code identifies a particular recording, not the song itself. Therefore, different recordings, edits and remixes of the same song will each have their own ISRC code. Songs are identified by analogous ISWC codes.

ISRC registrant codes are allocated by national ISRC agencies to both corporations and individuals. The usual practice is to do this free of charge, but national agencies may make a reasonable charge to cover their costs.

ISRC codes are always 12 characters long, in the form "CC-XXX-YY-NNNNN" (The hyphens are not part of the ISRC code itself, but codes are often presented that way in print to make them easier to read.) The four parts are as follows:

"CC" is the appropriate for the registrant two-character ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 country code

"XXX" is a three character alphanumeric registrant code, uniquely identifying the organisation which registered the code. Typically, the appropriate regulating body in each country will issue a three letter code to each record label. For example, the regulating body for ISRCs in the UK is Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL).

"YY" is the last two digits of the year of registration (NB not necessarily the date the recording was made)

"NNNNN" is a unique 5-digit number identifying the particular sound recording.

For example, GBEMI0300013.

An example, a recording of the song "Enquanto Houver Sol" by the Brazilian group Titãs has been allocated the ISRC code BR-BMG-03-00729:

BR for Brazil


03 for 2003

00729 is the unique id identifying this particular recording

Another example: USPR37300012 - a recording of the song "Love's Theme" by the Love Unlimited Orchestra.


US for United States

PR3 for the organisation

73 for 1973

00012 is the unique id identifying this particular recording

The Red Book CD digital audio standard enables the encoding of ISRCs onto CDs.



A bar code (also barcode) is an optical machine-readable representation of data. Originally, bar codes represented data in the widths (lines) and the spacings of parallel lines and may be referred to as linear or 1D (1 dimensional) barcodes or symbologies. But they also come in patterns of squares, dots, hexagons and other geometric patterns within images termed 2D (2 dimensional) matrix codes or symbologies. In spite of there being no bars, 2D systems are generally referred to as barcodes as well.

The first use of barcodes was to automate grocery checkout systems, a task where they have become almost universal today. Their use has spread to many other roles as well, tasks that are generically referred to as Auto ID Data Capture (AIDC). Newer systems, like RFID, are attempting to make inroads in the AIDC market, but the simplicity, universality and low-cost of barcodes has limited the role of these newer systems. It will cost about US$0.005 to implement a barcode compared to passive RFID which still costs about US$0.07 to US$0.30 per tag.

Barcodes can be read by optical scanners called barcode readers or scanned from an image by special software. In Japan, most cell phones have built-in scanning software for 2D codes, and similar software is becoming available on smartphone platforms.

Your songs and their recordings can be a valuable source of income for you, they represent a tangible asset that you should protect like any other. To achieve this here are 3 important steps you should take. They are:

  1. Assign an ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) in the cue data of your masters
  2. Asign a Barcode, EAN-13 for South Africa or UPC-A if you sell internationaly (internet). This should be in the cue data of your masters.
  3. Register your compositions (and their cue data) with a rights organization such as SAMRO