ISRC and UPC codes

by Joey Mason in Distribution February 07, 2017

The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code)

The ISRC code is a a globally recognized standard numbering system that is used exclusively in the music industry to uniquely identify sound recordings. It is composed 12 alphanumeric digits that when decoded, specify which country the code was issued, the year in which it was issued, and who issued it. For example, an ISRC code issued by Repost might look something like this: QM-42K-13-00001. You can see that the country code for this ISRC is QM, which tells us that it was issued by a US company (US, QM, and QZ all refer to the United States). The 42K lets us know that the code was issued by Repost. Finally, the 13 lets us know that this particular code was issued in 2013.

ISRC codes are critical for both digital stores and music distributors for tracking sound recording revenues. However, they cannot be used to monitor a particular sound recording’s songwriting credits, as it’s possible for multiple sound recordings to exist for a particular musical composition. Monitoring songwriting credits is a task left solely to the US Copyright Office and is usually handled by your publishing administrator.

If you want to monetize a track on SoundCloud or distribute it to iTunes, Spotify, etc., you will need an ISRC code. Thankfully, if you don’t have one, Repost will issue one for you.

Example of ISRC Code Format:

The UPC (Universal Packaging Code)

The UPC code is a type of barcode used in many countries to identify physical goods sold in stores. They are issued by GS1. Back in the days before digital music, UPC codes were absolutely critical for music distribution. They were used in retail stores to uniquely identify an album as it was scanned before being purchased. Nowadays, most albums are not physically distributed, so the UPC code is in some ways obsolete in the sense that it will never actually be scanned in a retail store. However, they still serve an important purpose as many digital stores use them as a unique identifier for a release.

Example of UPC Code Format: