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What is an ISRC? How Your Music is Tagged and Tracked

What is an ISRC? How Your Music is Tagged and Tracked

If you’ve ever distributed music to streaming services you might be wondering how your music is tracked between the various streaming platforms, radio stations and even on TV.

The answer is with a unique code assigned to your music called an ISRC—and if you want to track how, when and where your music gets played, you’ll need to get one for your releases.

Plus—ISRC codes are how you get songs tracked for payments from streams, radio plays, and licensing plays in movies and television shows.

ISRC codes are the international standard for tracking performances and sales of a song anywhere in the world.

In other words, ISRC codes are the most important piece of metadata you need to set up prior to releasing music.

Let’s take a look at everything there’s to know about getting an ISRC, how they work and how you can use them to monetize your music.

What is an ISRC?

An ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is an internationally recognized code that is uniquely encoded to any recording such as a song, audiobook or podcast. Every song you hear on the radio or elsewhere has its very own ISRC code.

Whether you’ve written an original track, a cover or a remix—you need an ISRC code to track performances and get paid.

Each ISRC consists of 12 alphanumeric characters.

ISRC code format

The first two letters indicate the country of the recording’s origin, followed by three letters for the registrant’s code, two numbers for the year of recording and finally five numbers for the song’s right’s holder code.

Why do you need ISRC codes and how are they used?

ISRC codes are the international standard for tracking performances and sales of a song anywhere in the world.

 

Get fast, insightful support and promotional tips, tools and tricks and distribution to 100+ music streaming platforms when you release your tracks with LANDR. Release a track.

Radio stations, streaming services, retailers, and broadcasters all send metadata about performances or sales of your music to the song’s rights holders, whether that be you or a record label.

This provides information about where, when and how often your song is played—and it’s required by streaming services, retailers and broadcasters for tracking and sending payments for streams and performances of your song.

So if you don’t have an ISRC code for your tracks you can’t get paid for your music—retailers and streaming services won’t even consider intaking your tracks for streaming or physical sale.

On top of that, if you want to change distribution services and migrate your catalog from one distributor to another, your song’s ISRC codes will be used to transfer everything properly.

How to get an ISRC code for your music

Whether you’ve written an original track, a cover or a remix—you need an ISRC code to track performances and get paid.

The good news is that if you use a digital distribution service provider to get your music on streaming platforms you’re totally covered.

For example, LANDR offers a complete digital distribution service that’ll automatically generate a unique ISRC code for any track you release to streaming platforms.

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On top of that, LANDR Distribution offers a handful of pretty impressive features that make managing royalty splits, promoting your tracks and analyzing stats about where your music is played and how often super easy.

You might not have an ISRC code yet if…

If you’ve only released your music on public platforms like YouTube, Bandcamp or Soundcloud, your tracks don’t yet have an ISRC code.

If you’ve only released your music on public platforms like YouTube, Bandcamp or Soundcloud, your tracks don’t yet have an ISRC code.

They will not automatically assign a code to your track since anyone can upload their sounds to these public platforms and streams are not necessarily monetized or tracked for payment.

If you want to track these streams, you must pay to create an ISRC code via your national ISRC agency—for example, the RIAA in America or Connect Music Licensing in Canada.

If your country doesn’t have a national ISRC agency, you can also obtain one via the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the international ISRC agency.

But, if you’re an independent artist this really isn’t necessary—these agencies are mainly there to serve major labels and rights holders for commercial acts.

You’re better off working with a digital music distributor since you get the added benefit of distributing your music to the major streaming platforms.

And with a LANDR Studio membership, on top of digital distribution, you also get access to a host of top-tier plugins, online mastering software, royalty-free samples and a handful of excellent collaboration tools.

ISRC you later

Get fast, insightful support and promotional tips, tools and tricks and distribution to 100+ music streaming platforms when you release your tracks with LANDR. Release a track.

It’s incredibly proactive and smart of you to be looking this stuff up. Great work!

Now that you know the important details about the ISRC system, you’re more than equipped to track your streams and make sure you get paid any time your recorded work is broadcasted or streamed.

Fortunately, today’s digital music distribution services make getting a unique ISRC for your tracks a breeze—no matter what digital distribution service provider you go with, you’ll get one for your tracks.

If you’re an independent artist your best bet is just to sign up with a digital distribution service that’ll manage your ISRC’s on your behalf and get your music on streaming platforms.

Wishing you the best of luck with your next release!

Alex Lavoie

Alex Lavoie works as a staff writer at LANDR by day and moonlights as a drummer for folk-rock outfit The Painters.

@Alex Lavoie

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