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  ISRC Codes

International Standard Recording Code, CDDB (CD Data Base) and more

Please print out and read this article,
it contains everything we know to tell you about ISRC's!
Plus, read here for the explanation of CDDB!
(This is a "tip" page, not legal advice.)

John Vestman at the Nautilus Booth - NAMM
• ISRC codes are a simple numbering system similar to a serial number so you get paid for digital music sales You get it from the ISRC website (not government) for a one-time fee of $80. Many of our clients have used the ISRC website successfully.

• It is YOUR responsibility to provide the ISRC code information when you distribute your recording(s) for sale or download.

The main purpose for having an ISRC code on your CDR master is for written documentation purposes. Getting your own code and having us put it on your master CDR is just easier to keep track of.

You purchase ONE ISRC code for YOUR COMPANY. What they provide you is a portion of the numbers which, all together, will be the codes for your numerous songs. You will assign different numbers for different songs. (Keep reading)

• We feel it's better for the artist or owner of the recording to get the codes instead of having a digital distribution company like CD Baby provide the codes.

• Radio stations,
internet sales companies, BMI, ASCAP, etc. do not need your codes embedded on your duplicated/replicated CD's. CONTACT THEM to see what they need from you. In many cases, you will type the ISRC codes into website forms.

If you are going to use a digital distribution company like CD Baby, they will ask you to MANUALLY TYPE your song codes in the information fields on their website.

If you TYPE your ISRC codes, (next to the song titles and song length), on a piece of paper - you will have the same documented ISRC information as if you had the codes embedded on your CDR master.

• Save time! Call us about audio mastering, but this article tells you everything we know about ISRC codes. We can't add anything else verbally!

• ISRC Codes are NOT embedded in the audio files on a CD or CDR - they are written on a DATA portion of the CD (just like the track ID's)

• ISRC Codes are not embedded in MP3's upon conversion from an audio file

• If you are sending music (CD or otherwise) to a ratio station, include a TYPED PAGE with the ISRC code(s) for the song(s) in your contact information. Radio stations do not extract ISRC codes off of MP3's, aiff files, wav files, CD's or CDR's.

We assume you would contact the ISRC if you move your business location. Whoever owns the recording should probably get the ISRC code, but that's not required. As far as we know, the code you own does not expire. 

• Regarding VIDEO: Since John does audio mastering, not video sweetening, we wouldn't be the ones to place an ISRC code specifically in a video in the form of a meta tag. DVD authoring software might offer that function, but we are only authoring CDR masters (which can contain added data prior to "finalizing" or "closing" the CDR).

In our CDR masters, we can embed ISRC codes in the DATA track - but this data relates to audio files, not to video files. A text file containing an ISRC code could possibly be included as additional data, but for the most part someone who plays your video commercially would probably want any ISRC or copyright ownership listed or written into a form either on line or by a hard written copy delivered to the TV or cable network.

John Vestman
We provide outstanding audio mastering and mixing services. We can bring out the absolute best in your sound, particularly with HD Separation Mastering.

• ISRC Codes can be included in MP3's by using ID3 tags which allow information about the artist, copyright etc to be embedded. We can embed these codes for you using this software - plus we can add an image and lyrics too. Standard studio rates apply when we provide this service.

• It's easier to have your own ISRC code because if you ever want to release one of your songs on a compilation CD, you know what the codes are from your personal easy-to-find records.

We assume you would contact the ISRC if you move your business location. Whoever owns the recording should probably get the ISRC code, but that's not required. As far as we know, the code you own does not expire. 

• Regarding VIDEO: Since John does audio mastering, not video sweetening, we wouldn't be the ones to place an ISRC code specifically in a video in the form of a meta tag. DVD authoring software might offer that function, but we are only authoring CDR masters (which can contain added data prior to "finalizing" or "closing" the CDR).

In our CDR masters, we can embed ISRC codes in the DATA track - but this data relates to audio files, not to video files. A text file containing an ISRC code could possibly be included as additional data, but for the most part someone who plays your video commercially would probably want any ISRC or copyright ownership listed or written into a form either on line or by a hard written copy delivered to the TV or cable network.

SONG NAMES AND ARTIST NAME are NOT embedded in CD audio files or wav files. They CAN be typed into MP3 "ID3 Tags" (not audio CD files) with this software.

Confused about when your song names and album title don't show up when the CD (or CDR) is put into a computer (like when a commercially pressed CD does)?

• We provide CD Text on your master CDR which is DIFFERENT than CDDB.

CD TEXT means if your CD player or DVD player has an alphanumeric text display (more than just the track number) your player's screen will show the actual song name, artist name, and album name if you have given us that information.

CD Text will not show up when the CD or CDR is inserted into a computer.

CDDB is what shows up on a computer. CD Data Base is when you (or the record label, or CD Baby, or Tunecore) type in the artist/song information into iTunes BY HAND. Windows Media Players may need you to send your CD to

For your computer to recognize your music when you FIRST put in a CD, your computer must be hooked up to the internet so that iTunes will send a digital signal to "recognize" the "audio signature" of the music and then "tell" your computer to display the song/artist names.

If your computer does not recognize your CD, then you must load your CD audio files into iTunes, then "Get Info" (right click) for each song, and MANUALLY TYPE IN the names, artist name, year, etc. for each and every song.

Next you select from the top menu of iTunes > ADVANCED > Submit CD Track Names

CAUTION!!!!! ONCE YOU LET GO OF THE MOUSE BUTTON to Submit CD Track Names YOU WILL INSTANTLY COMMIT TO THAT INFORMATION (revising that later isn't a breeze). BE SURE you have typed everything PERFECTLY. We assume no responsibility for any mistakes as a result of reading this article!

John Vestman advises that you handle this information for your music as carefully as possible. YOU MAY WANT TO HAVE CD BABY or TUNECORE do this for you.

It will take a few days before the information that is typed to show up on everyone's computer who is hooked up to iTunes/the internet.

More about ISRC codes:

• ISRC codes help you be sure your royalties are tracked properly (particularly important for iTunes).

• Having your own ISRC code is simpler than having a company (like CD Baby) assign one to you. The code is just a non-government "serial number" to identify who you are and who gets paid for the music.



• Yet another good article posted here

Apply for your own ISRC code . As of 2012, a $75 one-time fee is required to receive your master (or "company") ISRC code. You get the code from the ISRC, not from Vestman Mastering.

After your application is processed and you've received your main code from ISRC, you will create a specific ISRC code for each song, then send the codes to us when you book your session.

These codes are not difficult and the earlier you get them (even before the mastering phase) the better.

John Vestman mastered Win The Day - 2012 LA Music Award Winner

How we can help you:

• We bring out the absolute best audio quality in our client's music, even when previously mastered.

• We include embedding ISRC codes onto our client's masters, so long as they provide the codes to us.

• If you send us your previously completed audio CDR master, and it does not have ISRC codes on it, we can embed them onto a new CDR for a minimum charge of $100 per master.

In 90% of cases when clients have sent us a previously mastered project, we have been able to upgrade their audio quality at a cost of between $250.00 to $1,000.00 depending on the client's wishes.

• Don't fall into this trap: Recording studios often do a fine job of recording and mixing, but they OFTEN are not experts at mastering - and any "modeling" software they use does not come with 30 years of experience or musical knowledge. Our expert mastering is highly cost-effective for the results provided.

Remember, having the codes embedded on your CDR master is more for convenience, not for necessity. We recommend that your master includes these codes so it's easier to keep track of.

More about our services..
The most common misunderstanding about ISRC codes:

ISRC codes are not "embedded" into the actual audio files on your mastered CDR. (Mastered CDR's are also called PMCD's -- "Pre Mastered CD"). ISRC codes do NOT work the same way you can input text (song name, artist name, genre, etc.) info songs on iTunes.

An excellent reason to have us put your ISRC codes on your master is to make it easy to keep track of the songs and their corresponding numbers. The documentation we give you lists the songs and the codes so it's easy to recall the numbers and utilize them when you sign up for digital distribution (like iTunes, CD Baby, Rhapsody).

Sending a mastered CDR does not automatically give anyone your ISRC codes unless you include written documentation. Software (such as Sequoia or Pyramix) is required to extract ISRC codes off CDR Masters.

We do not recommend having the CD manufacturing plant embed the codes at the time of pressing. Why: CD pressing plants must copy the audio off of the first master CDR and make a new one with the embedded codes. A 2nd generation CDR master is subject to the kind of software they use, the speed of the burn, whether they type in the same CD Text as is included in our masters, and other factors. Give us your ISRC codes for your songs and we will embed them into your masters.
TuneCore is another way some artists get their music on iTunes, but...

Do your own research
as to who has the best payment plan.

Check this chart which may shed some light on download payments.

If you have mastered your own CD, but you do not have ISRC codes embedded on your master, we can do this for you for a nominal charge.... but it won't make "all the difference" for getting your music digitally distributed! Companies like CD Baby want you to have codes, but they do not require these codes to be ON the CD's you manufacture. In fact, there is a page where you must manually type in the codes for CD Baby.

Remember a recording is different than a song - the ISRC code belongs to the specific recording of each song. Remixes, singles or soundtracks that differ in any way from a specific recording should have a separate code number.  It's easy!  And did we mention, do it now?

You will get your company code from the RIAA by email or fax.
It will be a simple set of letters/numbers similar to this:


The QM is the country
The 3 letters/number/set is "you"
(Note: QM stands for United States)

You make up the rest of the codes

The rest of the code will consist of: two numbers (like 09) for the year,
and five numbers after that (00001) for the song.

Final code song 1 = QMJVM0900001
Final code song 2 = QMJVM0900002
Final code song 3 = QMJVM0900003

You only apply ONCE for a code in your country.  Your code stays with you forever!  You as an artist, record company, production entity, etc. keep your code (the QM-JVM in the above example) and simply change the year identifier each new year.  Then you just pick how you want to continue the sequence of designation numbers for any songs under your control.  If you released 32 songs in 2006, you can start the next year with the designation number at 00033 or 00001 if you wish.

• This is really easy, but you are responsible to record, store and maintain written or filed records of the code(s) that the RIAA gives you.

You are responsible to know which songs/pieces of music you assign your individual codes to, as well as the sequence on any album or song collection you release.

• File or keep your codes in a secure place in case you ever need to refer back to them
(for instance if a digital download company or other person requests your information). 

Remember - do it now.

How to Construct an ISRC

The ISRC consists of 4 segments:

COUNTRY CODE: The country where the registrant applies for a Registrant Code (2 characters).   
REGISTRANT CODE: Portion allocated to the Registrant by a National Agency (3 alphanumeric characters).   
YEAR OF REFERENCE: The 2-digit year in which the ISRC was assigned to the recording.   
DESIGNATION CODE: The code assigned to the sound recording by the registrant. This code may not be repeated within the same calendar year (5 digits).

Example: ISRC US-S1Z-09-00001

An ISRC is constructed using these four distinct segments:

1: Country
US - The first two-character segment is determined by the registration authority to which you apply. This will remain constant regardless of the territory in which your recordings are distributed.

2: Registrant
US-_ _ _ - These three characters are uniquely allocated to you by the National ISRC Agency.

These first two segments combine to function as a unique prefix: US-_ _ _, which will allow you to assign ISRCs to recordings.
The next two segments are used by you to create ISRCs for each individual recording, e.g. a track on a CD.

3: Year of Reference
US -_ _ _- 09 - These two characters represent the year in which you create the ISRC, regardless of when the recording was made or when the Registrant Code was allocated. For 2009, your ISRCs will use '09' and for 2010, '10' ...and so on.

4: Designation
US-_ _ _ -09-00001 - The final five character part is used to create a unique code for each recording or track. You should take care to ensure that duplicates are not issued and that you do not issue more than one ISRC to the same track. Only numeric digits are acceptable in this segment.

We recommend beginning with 00001 and moving up sequentially from there: US-_ _ _-09-00001, US-_ _ _-09-00002 ....US-_ _ _-09-00139. In 2010 the Year of Reference will change to '10' and you can begin with a new sequence of designation codes.

A sample set of Registrant Codes might look like:

Album 1:
track 1: US -_ _ _ -09-00001
track 2: US -_ _ _ -09-00002
track 3: US -_ _ _ -09-00003
track 4: US -_ _ _ -09-00004
track 5: US -_ _ _ -09-00005

Album 2:
track 1: US -_ _ _ -09-00006
track 2: US -_ _ _ -09-00007
track 3: US -_ _ _ -09-00008
track 4: US -_ _ _ -09-00009
track 5: US -_ _ _ -09-00010

And so on...

Video Recordings

The same Registrant Code can be used to assign ISRCs for audio and video recordings. We recommend the use of a "9" at the beginning of the designation code to assist in distinguishing between audio and video recordings.

For audio recordings, the string of digits and letters could be: US-_ _ _-09-00001 through US-_ _ _-09-89999

For video recordings, the string of digits and letters could be: US-_ _ _-09-90000 through US-_ _ _-09-99999

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ISRC Assignment Guidelines

If you have applied as a rights owner, you should only use your Registrant Code to assign ISRCs for recordings that you own. If you are working on behalf of someone else, you cannot use this Registrant Code, and you should ask the owner of the recordings to apply for a Registrant Code themselves so that they can assign ISRCs.
Separate arrangements are available where you can get a Registrant Code for use with other people's recordings (see above ISRC Manager information)

The ISRC folks also have provisions in place to allow for the assignment of ISRCs for content that you license. This is available only for licensees who have tried to, but cannot, obtain an ISRC from the licensor. If you have applied as a non-rights owner, you may refer to the guidelines you reviewed prior to being allocated your Registrant Code. This rule does not apply.

Additional details can be obtained by emailing the ISRC

An ISRC should remain with its recording for the life of the recording regardless of changes in ownership, licensing, territory or method of distribution. The rights may vary territory by territory but the ISRC remains the same.
You should take particular care to ensure that you (i) never assign the same ISRC to two different recordings and (ii) never assign an ISRC to a recording that already has an ISRC issued.

You should keep good records of the ISRCs that you assign using this/these code(s). As a minimum you should store the information necessary to distinguish one ISRC from another but you will probably find that you need much more than this for your own purposes.

Although you do not need to inform us of the ISRCs that you assign, we recommend that you register the recordings and their ISRCs with the local performance rights organization that deals with sound and/or video recordings (as distinct from the organization that deals with songwriters rights - who you may also want to contact if you are the songwriter). In the US, this organization is Soundexchange. This should help you if you are eligible for royalties from public performances, for example on satellite radio.

You should review the ISRC Handbook and other information on the ISRC web site at, and you should be very careful to comply with all the ISRC rules. New information is posted to that site from time to time and you should look for it.

You should comply with the relevant copyright law. Normally this will require you to have permission for the owner for any recorded material included in your recording.
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About the US ISRC Agency

The Recording Industry Association of America has been appointed by the International ISRC Agency to oversee the ISRC system within the United States and its territories. As the U.S. Agency, we promote and monitor the ISRC system within the United States and its territories.

The ISRC regularly performs the following duties:

ISRC Registrant Code Allocation
They allocate Registrant Codes for use by recording rights owners and third party administrators to create ISRCs.
Provide Local Support
They provide Registrants with guidelines on the practical implementation of the system and resolve operational problems for all users in liaison with the International ISRC Agency.
Encourage Proper Use of the ISRC System
Their goal is to ensure that ISRCs are assigned to all tracks of digital recordings and that the system effectively serves the needs of recording rights owners, collecting societies, broadcasters and others.

Here's the homepage for the
International Standard Recording Code
and you can read the whole handbook, or skim the highlights that follow...

Q) Does our company have to be a member of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) or my national music industry trade association in order to be eligible to assign ISRCs to our recordings?

No. The ISRC System is constructed so that any entity creating sound or music video recordings can issue ISRCs regardless of their membership of, or standing with, industry associations and other bodies.

What's in the actual code?

An ISRC is made up of four elements:
* ISO Country, e.g. GB for the UK, or US for the USA, DE for Germany, etc
* Registrant Code, a three alpha-numeric unique reference
* Year of Reference, the last two digits of the current year, e.g. '05' for 2005
* Designation Code, a five digit unique number, e.g. '00013'

The ISO Country Code and the Registrant Code are issued by the National Agencies or by the International ISRC Agency; the rest of the identifier is then allocated by the entity wishing to identify their sound or music video recordings.

Are the hyphens included when encoding an ISRC onto a CD?

No. The hyphens are only used when the ISRC Code is visually presented. Check out Section 3.5.1. More detailed information about ISRC implementation in software can be found in the ISRC Handbook, Section 4.10

Our company has just acquired the rights to a recording that already has an ISRC. Do we have to apply for a new ISRC for this recording?

No. The ISRC remains the same, regardless of changed ownership. The first owner of the rights to a recording normally assigns an ISRC. Once assigned that ISRC identifies the recording throughout its life. Changes in ownership do not affect the ISRC. However if changes are made to the recording that involve new artistic input and these affect the rights associated with that recording, and it is re-issued, the new owner must assign a new ISRC, using their Registrant Code.

What sorts of changes to an existing recording that already has an ISRC require a new ISRC?

These are some of the modifications to a recording that would require the allocation of a new ISRC:

* Restoration of historical recordings
* Changes in playing time
* Remixes/edits
* Compilations

More detailed information can be found in the ISRC Handbook Section 4.9

Our company uses an in-house code for identifying our sound and music video recordings. We then use this in the designation code of the ISRC. Sometimes an in-house code may apply to two versions of the same recording because we have remastered some of our backstock for re-issue. Can we use the same ISRC for the new remastered version?

No. Re-use of an ISRC that has already been allocated to another recording or to another version of a recording is not permitted in order to guarantee the unique and unambiguous identification provided by an ISRC. A new ISRC should be assigned whenever a recording has been re-issued in a revised or re-mastered form, even if both items have the same in-house code.

If a recording has been issued without an ISRC, can it be assigned one retroactively?

Yes. Recordings, which have not been assigned an ISRC, should be provided with one before it is re-released. If the recording has changed ownership, and did not have an ISRC originally and is being released unchanged by the current rights holder, the Registrant Code should be that of the current rights holder. The Year of Reference should be the year of allocation of the new ISRC.

Our artist plans to issue both sound and music video recordings. Do both types of product get an ISRC?

Yes. As well as using the ISRC to identify sound recordings and music video recordings, ISRC may be used to identify associated audio and audiovisual material, more detailed information can be found in the ISRC Handbook - Section 4.4 and Section 4.5

Does the ISRC System distinguish between sound and music video recordings released by the same company?

As national legislation often differentiates between the administrations of rights in sound recordings and in music video recordings (for instance as phonograms or videograms), it is recommended that the procedures for assigning ISRC include a means of distinguishing between audio and audiovisual formats in order to facilitate rights management.

It is left to the discretion of the National ISRC Agencies to decide the appropriate method of administering this distinction, more detailed information is available in the ISRC Handbook - Section 3.6

Which part of our company should be responsible for issuing ISRCs to our releases?

The head honcho... the record company.... the main dude or dudette... whoever's in charge, but ultimately it's up to YOU to be sure it gets done....! Be sure you get it right. It is important that ISRCs are actually encoded into appropriate digital products. And since ISRCs are normally allocated at the point prior to the preparation of the final production Pre-Master it is recommended that the responsibility for assigning ISRCs is linked to the area responsible for this process.

What happens when an ISRC is assigned to the wrong item? How can the problem be solved? Can we re-use the ISRC on the item for which it was originally intended?

Once set up, an ISRC must not be re-used under any circumstances, more detailed information is available in the ISRC Handbook - Section 4.1.3

Can ISRCs be applied to promotional material?

Yes, 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 exploited- this does not necessarily imply monetary value. More detailed information is available in the ISRC Handbook, please see Section 4.1.2 & Section 4.9.3

How are Classical recordings identified using an ISRC?

In classical music, the performers often vary from movement to movement (consider for example Handel's Messiah) and increasingly the individual movements are being broadcast separately. Because the rights often vary from movement to movement, it is recommended that separate ISRCs be allocated to each part (e.g. track) of a composite recording as well as an overall ISRC to the recording as a whole. More detailed information is available in the ISRC Handbook - Section 4.9.11.

Other formats and info

Unless you're having your pressing plant upload the ISRC codes, we'll input them during the final stage of mastering. Our system will allow an ISRC to be associated with each track. Contact us regarding point of sale codes such as EAN/UPC.

The process for Mini-Disc is very similar to that for Compact Disc. If you're making DVDs, the ISRC is contained in the packet headers of an audio stream and can be included by the authoring systems of your DVD production engineers. DVD-Video has a similar structure to DVD-Audio and the ISRC can be added by authoring systems. Contact us regarding SACD's. VHS Music Video and other analogue tape formats have no clear place to carry ISRC information. Where music videos are provided to broadcasters, it is recommended that they should carry an ISRC number on the time clock before the video and documentation accompanying the video.

Most formats for electronically distributed music allow the inclusion of an ISRC, which can be inserted by authoring software other than our mastering system. Where electronically distributed formats include several tracks, the ISRC of each track should be associated with it in the metadata of the file. 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 an ID3 tag.

Thank you to the International Standard Recording Code folks for the info!

Date created: 01/07/05 - updated 12-7-12

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