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What is an ISRC?

4 min read

An ISRC is the unique identifier for sound recordings.

It is used to link a sound recording to its core metadata including musical works.

What is an ISRC?

An ISRC, or International Standard Recording Code, is a 12-character code of numbers and letters assigned to a or music video.

ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier assigned to sound recordings and music videos. The use of ISRC provides efficiency and exactness when referencing a specific recording in a large dataset. This avoids the kind of ambiguities that can arise, for example, when different or need to be distinguished from the original version or when the metadata is translated into different languages.

ISRC is used to track how and when sound recordings and music videos are used across various media platforms, such as radio, TV and streaming services. It helps ensure that the performers and owners of the sound recordings receive the correct payments when those sound recordings are used. It is also used to link a sound recording to a .

ISRCs are used for accurate data management, tracking & administration by many music industry parties:

Each sound recording has a unique ISRC, which means that different recorded versions of the same musical work, for example, a studio version, a live version, a , or a cover, will each have their own unique ISRC code.

Music videos are also assigned ISRCs. Music videos entail video production and video recording elements, with their own contributors, which go beyond the sound recording. So even if you release a sound recording and use the exact same audio for the music video, the music video would require its own distinct ISRC.

You can learn more about ISRCs on the IFPI's ISRC website.

Who is an ISRC for?

An ISRC is for sound recordings. ISRC is assigned to a recording by the owner or the of the sound recording. These parties may assign ISRC or may request an to assign the ISRC on their behalf. Many other parties beyond the owner or exclusive licensee depend upon the ISRC, hence, the ISRC should be provided when the sound recording or its metadata are distributed or when is reported.

How do you get an ISRC?

Any of sound recordings can, on request, obtain an ISRC prefix: a unique string of five alphanumeric characters, which enables the creation of 100,000 ISRCs per year. A request for an ISRC prefix should be addressed to the ISRC registration agency for the territory in which the producer is based or to the International ISRC Registration Authority. This ISRC prefix is then used to assign an ISRC before a sound recording is released.

Any or exclusive licensee of a sound recording may, when that sound recording does not already have an ISRC, utilize an ISRC Manager to assign ISRC. ISRC Managers are entities such as digital or , which have been appointed to assign ISRC upon request. An ISRC assigned by an ISRC Manager belongs to the sound recording and will be used in all circumstances for identifying that sound recording.

Learn more about distributors and aggregators in our The Music Industry Ecosystem topic.

For a list of ISRC registration agencies and ISRC managers, visit the IFPI's ISRC website.

Why is an ISRC important?

The ISRC is how your sound recordings and music videos will always be identified. It is unique and essential for accurate data management and payments to , record labels, , and indirectly, and who depend upon linking musical works to their correct sound recordings. Keep track of it; it will be used to link it to the musical work and to report plays and income back to you both as a songwriter or performer.

Image credit: Martin Fabricius Rasmussen