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ISRC - International Sound Recording Code

The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music videorecordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) recommends that all music producers use ISRC.

Benefits of using ISRC

The ISRC system is the key to royalty collection for recordings in the digital information age.

  • ISRC is a unique, reliable, international identification system.
  • ISRC provides a unique tool for the purpose of rights administration.
  • ISRC is a useful identification tool in the electronic distribution of music.
  • ISRC coding is compatible with standards developed in the field of consumer electronics and is readable by hardware already used in the recording industry.
  • ISRC is cost effective - it can be put into operation without requiring special investment in equipment or technologies.
 The ISRC has been developed in order to facilitate the accurate exchange of information on the ownership, the use of recordings and to simplify the administration of rights in them. It is a global, unique method of identifying sound and music video recordings.

By identifying all sound and music video recordings that are released, regardless of the format that they are released in, the ISRC enables the tracking and tracing of these recordings through the music value chain.

Potential users of sound and music video recordings will also find it easier to obtain information about the current rights owner because repertoire databases will provide this information with the ISRC.

In addition in many territories the ISRC is increasingly becoming a tool in the fight against piracy.

The adoption of the ISRC system by the music community as a whole has the following benefits:

  1. ISRC, being the worldwide recognised standard for recording identification, can easily be accepted and implemented internationally and allow interoperation of different databases and systems.

  2. The ISRC coding system is compatible with standards developed in the field of consumer electronics. Incorporated in appropriate digital and manufactured recording media it is readable by hardware equipment.

  3. The ISRC is increasingly used in electronic copyright management systems and Digital Rights Management systems.

  4. The implementation of ISRC is cost effective; ISRC can be put into operation without requiring special investment in equipment. It only requires a structure able to deal with the administration of ISRC within the organisation using it.


Where do we apply to get an ISRC?

Contact the National ISRC Agency for your territory. An up to date, alphabetical list is available here. If there is no ISRC Agency in your territory, you can obtain an ISRC from the International ISRC Agency (email:

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.

How is an ISRC constructed?

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. 03 for 2003

  • 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. Please see 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 please see Section 4.9

Our company uses an in-house code for identifying our sound and music video recordings. We then use this in the desgination 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 company issues 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, please see 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, please see Section 3.6

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

It is strongly recommended that organisations have formal procedures for assigning ISRCs. These should make responsibility clear and ensure that duplication or confusion when assigning the identifiers does not result.

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 allocated, an ISRC must not be re-used under any circumstances, more detailed information is available in the ISRC Handbook please see 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

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