ISWC, ISRC, IPI, IPN, ISNI… Why are your music unique identifiers so important?

In the music industry, the importance of unique identifiers like ISWC, ISRC, IPI, IPN, and ISNI is paramount. These codes are instrumental in distinguishing and overseeing musical compositions and recordings, guaranteeing precise attribution, identifying the rightsholders, efficient music rights management, and equitable royalty distribution. 

This article explores the vital significance of these music identifiers, revealing their contributions to the integrity, transparency, and efficiency of the worldwide music ecosystem.

ISRC, ISWC, INI, IPI, INSI... Discover what all those terms mean!

What are music unique identifiers?

Music unique identifiers are alphanumeric codes designed to distinguish and manage various elements within the music industry, ensuring accurate identification, attribution, and tracking. Prominent examples include: 

  • ISWC, for the musical work;
  • ISRC, for the sound recording;
  • IPI, for legal rightsholder;
  • IPN, for performers;
  • ISNI, for public persona name. 

Let’s dive into each one specifically.

What is ISWC?

The ISWC, or International Standard Musical Work Code, serves as a permanent and unique identifier for a musical work. 

Who issues the ISWC?

Traditionally, these codes are issued by Performing Rights Organizations (PROs). ISWCs are usually given after a work registration, and it can take between 4 weeks to 8 weeks to get one. 

With MusicTeam®, our music platform for independent creators, we can however get it before work registrations, in 2-4 days. 

Why is the ISWC important?

The issuance of ISWCs plays a crucial role in the music industry’s royalty distribution process. Digital Service Providers (DSPs) have agreements with PROs and Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs) globally to determine royalty rates for their members, including writers and publishers. 

DSPs send reports to PROs and MROs, detailing the sound recordings streamed within a specific period. In these reports, PROs and MROs seek to match the underlying musical works and rightsholders, using metadata like ISWCs, IPIs, ISRCs, artist names and sometimes legal names. Too often, ISWCs or IPIs — vital identifiers that aid Societies in their matching process to determine royalties on the musical works — are missing from the DSPs reports. This results in delayed identification of the underlying musical works, the identification of its rightsholders as well as the distribution of royalties to the rights owners.

What is ISRC?

The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) is a unique identifier assigned to individual sound recordings. It serves as a standardized and internationally recognized code for identifying a specific sound recording or audiovisual. 

Each unique recording receives its own ISRC, allowing for accurate tracking and management in the digital music distribution and broadcasting industry. You cannot distribute your recording without an ISRC.

Once an ISRC is assigned, creators must ensure they are not associating a new ISRC with the same recording. The reason behind this requirement is to avoid confusion in tracking, reporting, and managing the usage and distribution of the recording. Consistency in the ISRC allows for accurate identification and attribution of the recording across various platforms, such as streaming services, radio, and digital stores. 

Are ISRC and ISWC the same?

No, ISRC and ISWC are not the same. The ISWC is assigned to a musical work, the underlying composition of a sound recording and the ISRC is assigned to a sound recording. The ISRC is used to uniquely identify individual sound recordings, tracking usage and royalties for specific versions of a song. On the other hand, ISWC uniquely identifies musical works, helping manage rights and royalties for the underlying work, regardless of specific recordings. 

What is an IPI number in music?

IPI, or Interested Party Information, functions as a permanent and unique identifier for rightsholders associated with a musical work. It is similar to a social insurance number that represents legal entities, including both writers and publishers.

Who issues the IPI?

This identifier is exclusively issued by Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), and all rightsholders who are members of PROs automatically receive an IPI.

Why is the IPI number important?

In the context of the royalty distribution process, missing IPIs can have a significant impact on creators. When PROs are unable to locate ISWCs in the reports sent by DSPs, they turn to IPIs as a crucial alternative. IPIs then help to swiftly identify the rightsholders of underlying musical works. 

Importantly, for musical works that are ineligible for ISWCs, the IPI takes precedence in identifying rightsholders and expediting royalty payments. This number entails a better recognition when it comes to the writer’s share vs the publisher’s share.

What is an IPN number?

The International Performer Number (IPN) is attributed to performers, whether artists, musicians or any performer working on a sound recording. It represents the legal person behind the performer’s name. 

Who issues the IPN?

The IPN is issued by Collective Management Organizations (CMO). As it is not publicly available, you need to ask your CMO to get it. SCAPR is the international body that oversees the issuance of the IPN.

The importance of the IPN

To accurately identify performers on sound recordings, you need an IPN. It ensures that performers are appropriately credited and compensated for their work, especially if two artists have the same name. It also facilitates international collaboration and data exchange between CMOs, enhancing transparency and efficiency in the global music industry.

What is the ISNI number?

ISNI, or International Standard Name Identifier, serves as a unique identifier for public entities, which can encompass both organizations and individuals. This identifier may be associated with a display artist name or a legal name. The issuance of ISNIs is managed by ISNI agencies, and in the near future, there are plans to issue ISNIs specifically for artists.

This is the only identifier that can be assigned to a band.

What’s more, from January 2024, you will be able to get your ISNI directly from our MusicTeam® platform if you choose to distribute your music with us.

Missing ISNI – How does it affect creators & artists?

The absence of ISNI can impact creators and artists, particularly in the context of the evolving landscape of music distribution

While ISNI does not directly facilitate the collection of royalties, its importance lies in ensuring accurate attribution on digital service platforms. The collaboration with DSPs aims to enhance the visibility and organization of artist pages, particularly in the context of the democratization of music distribution. For example, ISNI helps DSPs correctly associate releases with the respective artist pages, a task that may be more challenging in the do-it-yourself (DIY) music business.

Music unique identifiers are essential for accessing your royalties

After reading this, you will no doubt have realized how important these identifiers are for recovering your royalties. The absence of these music metadata have a significant impact on creators. Without these identifiers, it becomes challenging for PROs to accurately identify and reconcile musical works and rightsholders, leading to potential delays and inaccuracies in royalty distribution. 

This can result in financial losses for artists and composers who rely on these payments. Furthermore, it complicates the task of tracking the usage of music across various platforms and geographical locations. 

To ensure fair compensation and proper management of music copyright, the adoption and accurate use of these unique identifiers are imperative. They serve not only as tools for rights management but also as a foundation for a transparent and efficient music industry ecosystem.

Let MusicTeam® help you with your metadata

If you don’t want your royalties ending up in the blackbox, you need in-depth management of your metadata. That is one of MusicTeam®’s greatest strengths as we strive to provide the best for independent creators. Create your account so we can start working together!

Published On: December 21st, 2023Categories: Music Metadata

About the Author: Chloé Dagenais

Co-founder & Head of Product of MusicTeam®. She graduated from Berklee College of Music in music business and from Birkbeck University of London in information systems. She wrote her thesis on the rights management for songwriters and performers in a digital world and it is through to her vision that MusicTeam® was developed.