W. T. F. is an I. S. R. C.?

W. T. F. is an I. S. R. C.?


ISRC = International Standard Recording Code.

And using ISRCs can equal cash for musicians who record.

The official definition: an ISRC is a unique 12 character code encoded in a sound recording such as a song on an album or a music video, which allows collection societies to distribute royalties to the recording rights holder if and when that recording is played anywhere in the world.

If you want to release your tunes to the public, or get them played on the radio (internet radio counts), or add them to a music video, get an ISRC for each one (tip: get a different ISRC for different versions of the same song, e.g. remixes).

An ISRC identifies you as the owner of the recording so when that recording gets used, you get paid royalties.

And because the ISRC is a worldwide system (that’s what the international bit stands for, funnily enough), your recording can get played anywhere and you’ll earn royalties from it– as long as you’ve completed all the necessary admin with your collection society.

The smart musicians definition: an ISRC is a 12 character code burned into your track at the mastering stage. Making sure all your released sound recordings have ISRC codes means that if and when they get played anywhere in the world, the play will be recorded and you will receive a payment in your next PRS payout.

(Tip: find out more about that admin here – WTF is PPL?)

OK, I’m sold. But what does an ISRC actually look like?

The 12 character codes look like this:


  • AA equals the country code – if you’re in the UK it’ll be GB.
  • BBB equals the code assigned to the recording rightsholder (which is probably you if you’re self-releasing. This is the equivalent of having your own record company).
  • CC equals the last two digits of the year that the ISRC was given to the recording.
  • DDDDD is a 5 digit number unique to that particular track. So if it’s the first recording you’re registering in 2014, use the digits 00001; if it’s the second recording you’re registering in 2014 use 00002, and so on.

I’ve got a recording I wanna release. How do I get an ISRC?

If you’re a UK musician you’ll need to register with PPL.

(PPL are super helpful and will even talk you through adding ISRCs to your tunes over the phone.) When you’ve got your admin sorted, they’ll give you the first five characters of your ISRC numbers – the country code and the record label identifier (even if that record label is you on your tod) – and then you add in the year and the number of the recording as the last seven characters.

Make sure you get your ISRC encoded into your track when you send it off to get mastered – this ensures your code is embedded in every copy of the track, digital and physical.

Final smart tip (cos we love you): only add ISRC codes to finished tunes that you’re releasing – no point putting them on demos or ideas.