An ISRC is made up of 12 characters and split into four sections:
- The first two characters identify the country where the member is based (e.g., ‘ZA’ represents South Africa).
- The next three characters identify the recording right holder. The Recording Industry of South Africa allocates these three letters and numbers to each recording – they are specific to the rights of the owner. However, having an ISRC code does not imply ownership over a particular recording – if the recording is later signed over to a new owner, the code will not change.
- The next two characters identify the year in which the specific recording was given an ISRC.
- The last five characters are the choice of the right holder when allocating recordings with an ISRC. These characters are always numbers. The easiest way to organise this section of the code is to give the first recording ‘00001’, the second ‘00002’, etc.
Technically, no. If you are recording tracks for personal usage or creating a demo or rehearsal recording, it’s not necessary for you to acquire an ISRC code. If you’re looking to track the sales and radio play of your recordings, an ISRC code is of coursed highly recommended. And typically, you’re only going to burn the code onto the final version of your song. Keep in mind, these codes do not track inventory such as CDs that you’re looking to sell at retail level – retailers will need you to acquire a regular UPC or EAN barcode in order for you to sell your CD at their stores. However, this is completely different, and will track the sales of your physical CD once it’s scanned at the check-out.
So, if you need an ISRC code, how do you go about acquiring one?
You will need to purchase codes from the National ISRC Agency of your country. For South Africa, it’s the Recording Industry of South Africa (RISA). To do so, you will need to apply to become a member of the agency. Once this is approved, you will be able to assign ISRC codes to recordings at a specific cost, and will have to renew this fee annually in order to keep using the codes – regardless of how many codes you used for a particular cycle. If you’re just a songwriter or artist however, with no intent or experience in tracking record sales and radio play, there are managers within the agency that can be assigned to handle the responsibility for you.
Making money in the music industry can be complex, but the first step to tracking your digital and radio plays as well as sales is acquiring an ISRC code. Though SA Barcodes cannot issue these ourselves, we hope that this blog post was useful in getting some information about this relatively unknown code out there. Of course, do not hesitate to come to us to get a barcode for your physical CD!