What's an ISRC code? What's an ISWC code? And how do you get them?

ISRC and ISWC codes are important identifying codes for your music. These codes allow use of your song to be tracked so that you can get paid royalties.

What is an ISWC code?

ISWC stands for ‘International Standard Musical Work Code’.

An ISWC code is a unique identifying alphanumeric code assigned to a song composition.

Each 11-character ISWC code begins with the letter ’T’, a unique nine-digit number, and a single-digit called a “check digit”. An ISWC code looks like this: 

T-123456789-0

How do I get an ISWC code for my song?

ISWC codes are assigned when you register a song with an organization like BMI. They will automatically assign an ISWC code to your song.

What is an ISRC code?

ISRC stands for ‘International Standard Recording Code’.

An ISRC code is a unique identifying alphanumeric code assigned to a sound recording of a song or a music video.

Each 12-character ISRC code is broken into 4 sections:

  • the first 2 letters are a country code
  • the next 3 letters are a registrant code
  • the next 2 numbers are the year code
  • the last 5 numbers are the identifying code assigned by the rights holder

ISRC codes are encoded into sound recordings when they’re released. The ISRC code allows organizations like distributors, PROs, and MROs to track where music is played and pay the artist.

How do I get an ISRC code for my song?

You can get ISRC codes from an ISRC agency such as IFPI, the international ISRC agency, or the domestic agency for your country. If you release your music through a distribution service like Tunecore, CD Baby, or DistroKid, then they’ll usually give you the option to enter your own ISRC code or assign one for you.

ISRC versus ISWC

An ISWC identifies the composition. An ISRC identifies the sound recording of that composition.

For example, take a look at the song “I Will Always Love You” written by Dolly Parton and made famous by Whitney Houston.

Dolly Parton’s composition of “I Will Always Love You” has an ISWC code.

There are many recorded versions of “I Will Always Love You” - from Dolly Parton’s studio recording to Whitney Houston’s studio recording for a movie soundtrack to Whitney Houston’s live recording at a concert to a recording of the song by the cast of Glee.

Each recording of the song shares a common ISWC code but has a unique ISRC code.


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