What are ISWC and ISRC codes?

One of the biggest topics of discussion in the music industry concerns metadata and guaranteeing appropriate parties are compensated for their works. ISWCs and ISRCs are two key pieces in the conversation, both assisting the process of cataloging business transactions and ensuring everyone gets paid for those transactions.

Here, we’ll discuss what ISWCs and ISRCs are, how to obtain these codes, and why they are important to rights holders.

What is an ISRC?

An ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is a unique code assigned to a specific sound recording (CD, audio file, video, etc.) performed by an artist or band. Essentially, it is a recording’s identification number and is used to track and verify specific information about a recording, including:

  • Artist name
  • Track title
  • Album title
  • Label name
  • UPC

There should only ever be one ISRC assigned to a recording and it should never be reused for another recording.

Who needs an ISRC?

If you intend to sell your music, then you’ll probably need an ISRC. ISRCs can be issued and assigned by independent artists, record labels, and music distributors for each unique sound recording released on CD, download, or made available via streaming. So if an independent artist records an album with ten tracks, that artist would assign ten unique ISRCS (one per track), which would be linked to those specific recordings forever.

ISRCs are commonly used by digital music services, like Spotify, and by collecting societies, like SoundExchange. An ISRC can also be permanently encoded as a ‘digital fingerprint’ which allows music services to identify sound recordings in order to distribute sales and royalty payments to artists, record labels, and music distributors.

Where and how can an ISRC be obtained?

In the U.S., you can obtain an ISRC by visiting USISRC.org. The site is accessible to any independent artist or band, record label, and music distributor. You simply fill out an online form and pay a one-time $80.00 fee. You then have access to an online account with a “Registrant Code” and “Country Code.”

If you distribute your music via Songtradr, we will apply free ISRC’s to your tracks!

What is an ISWC?

An ISWC (International Standard Musical Word Code) is a unique code assigned to a specific musical work or composition written by the songwriter(s). Like an ISRC, you can think of it as an identification number that’s used to track and verify specific information about a composition, including:

  • Song title
  • Songwriter(s)
  • Music publisher(s)
  • Ownership share(s) or Music publisher(s)

There should only be one ISWC assigned to a musical work and it should never be reused to represent another.

Who needs an ISWC and how do ISWCs relate to ISRCs?

ISWCs can be issued and assigned by music publishers and songwriters for each unique musical work. For example, if a songwriter is signed to a music publisher and writes ten songs, the publisher would assign ten unique ISWCs (one per song), which would be linked to those specific songs forever. An ISWC, however, can be linked to an infinite number of ISRCs. This is possible because there can be several recorded versions of a song (i.e. remix, cover, etc.), each with their own unique ISRC, all linked to the same ISWC.

ISWCs are used by music distributors, digital music services like iTunes and Spotify, and collection societies like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. An ISWC can also be permanently encoded as a ‘digital fingerprint,’ allowing music services to identify recordings embodying musical works and distribute royalty payments to music publishers and songwriters.

Where and how can an ISWC be obtained?

You can obtain an ISWC by visiting the ISWC International Agency. In the U.S., ASCAP is the official ISWC issuance agency, but even if you are not a member of ASCAP you can still get an ISWC. All you need to provide is the following information:

  • Title of the work
  • Names of all composers, authors, and arrangers with their role and their CAE/IPI number (assigned by ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to songwriters and music publishers in the U.S.)
  • Work classification code (from the CIS standards list)

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27 Comments

gary hardcastle · September 20, 2018 at 11:22 am

Hi there
I’ve been producing music for 20 years now and looking at selling some of my music etc, how would I go about this?
Many thanks gary

    Kyle Warner · September 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    The first step is to begin uploading music.


    Here are directions to begin uploading to Songtradr: https://support.songtradr.com/hc/en-us/articles/115005397208-Upload-Your-Music

    Here’s an article we wrote on how to make your music stand out on Songtradr: http://themusicsolution.songtradr.com/2017/04/30/9-tips-to-get-your-song-noticed-heard-and-synced/

    Here are some tutorial videos on how to utilize Songtradr: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV1LGYsvGp1G2keI_A3n8-A/playlists

    Here’s some more information on Songtradr Pro which includes unlimited monetization, digital distribution and more: https://support.songtradr.com/hc/en-us/articles/360004991273-What-is-a-Songtradr-Pro-Subscription-

    Please let us know if there’s anything we can do to help you get started!

Gary Fox · September 20, 2018 at 4:12 pm

My question is about 2 of my 10 songs have a co-writer whom do not have an Email address and I can not put her information in due to error is their another way to input her ownership percentage ? I am a member of BMI and can I obtain an ISWC through their Licensing Organization ?

    Kyle Warner · September 21, 2018 at 7:03 pm

    Hi Gary,

    Please email support@songtradr.com !

      Jonnathan Ardila · May 30, 2019 at 2:06 am

      My question are:

      If I am a Celtic/Folk composer and musician from Bogotá, Colombia.

      How I could protect my songs worldwide? Copyright in my country is a guarantee in these cases?

      Which are the steps?

      Is it necessary produce them in albums or just with my scores or MIDI files?

        Peter Schneider · October 8, 2019 at 8:49 pm

        Thanks for the comment, Jonnathan. Can you send us an email at support@songtradr.com so we can learn more?

Will Kimbrough · September 20, 2018 at 4:18 pm

The big question is—how do independent artists embed or connect ISRC and ISWC codes to individual songs for single release to streaming, etc? Thanks!

    Kyle Warner · September 21, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Hi Will,

    When you fill out your release details there is a field to enter all of your ISRC’s.

Robert Frost · September 20, 2018 at 6:38 pm

I am a poet/rapper/song writer.i would like to collaborate with Songtradr concerning my work.
Thank you

Tumelo Nkosi · September 20, 2018 at 7:41 pm

As a South African can I still be able to obtain the ISRC code and ISWC with songtradr?

    Kyle Warner · September 21, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Yes!

Allan Klinbail · September 20, 2018 at 8:31 pm

How do Australian’s obtain these codes?

Blurryface · September 21, 2018 at 12:09 am

What should I do???

James Carrera · September 21, 2018 at 12:56 am

Good information I appreciate it

Senzo · September 21, 2018 at 5:55 am

I’m a rapper and I really need ISRC and ISWC codes

    Kyle Warner · September 21, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    If you create a release on Songtradr we will automatically assign your songs ISRC’s for free!

khulekani · September 21, 2018 at 8:13 am

i want to know on how can i get ISRC code for my songs as song trade distribute my music. on behalf.

    Kyle Warner · September 21, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    Hi,

    If you create a release on Songtradr we will automatically assign your songs ISRC’s for free!

Nelly k rehabilitater · September 21, 2018 at 12:17 pm

I love music

Darrell G · September 22, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Are the two systems mutually exclusive like the PRO’s? If you have ISRC’s can or do you also even need ISWC’s? Would you ever need both? What’s the difference and why would you choose one over the other? Kind of a barrage but thanks!

Gina Ashley · September 22, 2018 at 7:30 pm

If have an ISRC and or ISWC and you re-mix your track several times, does each mix get a number?

    Kyle Warner · September 24, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    ISWCs can be issued and assigned by music publishers and songwriters for each unique musical work. For example, if a songwriter is signed to a music publisher and writes ten songs, the publisher would assign ten unique ISWCs (one per song), which would be linked to those specific songs forever. An ISWC, however, can be linked to an infinite number of ISRCs. This is possible because there can be several recorded versions of a song (i.e. remix, cover, etc.), each with their own unique ISRC, all linked to the same ISWC.

    So each track will only have one ISWC, but each different version of their track should have their own ISRC.

gangstah manachi · September 26, 2018 at 12:14 pm

I’m a reggea and dancehall artist and I really need ISRC and ISWC codes

    Kyle Warner · October 10, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    If you create a release on Songtradr we will automatically assign you ISRC’s for free!

Ngwa Dieudonne · September 26, 2018 at 11:21 pm

Hello great initiative there I have two questions: can people from all over Africa upload in songtradr and how can we help those talents in Africa that are not accessible to upload and monetize on songtradr. Can others manage their music by uploading and monetizing on their behalf as managers.

Candice · December 11, 2018 at 11:29 pm

Do I need BMI for the ISRC ?

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