The push for music tagging using ISRC codes

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Mark Lyndersay-

Bit depth 1371

BRAND LYNDERSAY

TT BEGAN distributing its own country-specific International Standard Registration Codes (ISRCs) in September 2020. Since then, 396 rights holders have received holder codes, with 200 registering in the first six months.

The Copyright Organization of TT is the official agency for the distribution of TT-ISRC codes. An ISRC is a unique 12-digit number consisting of a country abbreviation (TT), a three-digit holder code, a two-digit year code, and a case-specific designator code .

The registrant is always the master rights holder, the master file owner of the sound recording. This can be the writer, performer or producer, but is normally the person who paid for the services of producing, recording, mixing and mastering the musical work, according to Maarten. Manmohan, project manager at MusicTT.

Each registrant can request up to 100,000 codes per year, but each code is issued for and linked to a specific registration. MusicTT itself has registered 16 codes for music released on its two teaser artist albums created under the Project Spotlight I and II initiatives and will release eight more for the third album to be released for the project.

Having a national ISRC country code makes the geographical origins of recorded music clearer and allows paying agencies to more easily allocate royalties for the use of recorded works.

Any work published by a TT artist before September 2020 on any digital platform already has an ISRC code embedded, but it will most likely be a code owned by the platform. It is not possible to replace this code, but remixed, remastered (with changes) or new compilations may be released with new codes.

How did it work in the artistic environment of TT first, then in the creative environment of business?

“Most artists who operate at a high professional level and have worked with record labels or international management are familiar with ISRC, metadata and digital music monetization,” Manmohan said.

“In a traditional music ecosystem, the music/record label would be the master rights holder and the one who would issue the codes and manage the revenue from the digital streaming platform (DSP) on the releases, but our ecosystem is made up of many freelance artists who have to manage all of these elements on their own.

“There is a gap in the knowledge base for mid-level and entry-level artists and producers, but we have seen an increasing number of artists accessing our educational offering on digital distribution, metadata and music monetization through MusicTT’s RGBR webinar series.”

Given the general low understanding of the importance of file metadata in digital creative works, what is the value proposition for a local ISRC?

“ISRCs are typically issued by digital distribution companies like Tunecore and Distrokid who then push the music to DSPs like Apple Music and Spotify,” Manmohan explained.

“The problem is that ownership of these codes belongs to the distribution company and not the artist or label. This makes verifying your digital streaming and sales data very difficult and may reduce your potential revenue from these activities.”

The most common distribution method for mainstream local music tends to be a music video streamed on YouTube, and a music video counts as a separate recording and requires a separate ISRC.

Efficiently embedding an ISRC code on a video streaming platform should be part of a larger strategy for encoding file metadata to identify authorship and monetize views.

Manmohan suggests services like DistroVid, Vevo, and Symphonic as examples of services that streamline downloading videos for streaming. If an artist’s music is used without permission in another video, that data allows for either a takedown or monetization of incidental use.

File metadata is a finicky but essential aspect of digital art. While thieves can strip metadata from digital files, creators must clearly identify their work through tags to lubricate the legal use of creative works.

A search using a tool provided by music licensing agency PPL in the UK yields 105 songs attributed to Machel Montano, seven of which have no ISRC data. None of them have a TT ISRC listing, having been registered by a range of international distributors.

MusicTT offers the services of MusicMotif (motifmusicservices.com) to plan their integration strategy.

Although the code can be embedded in an MP3 or MP4 file, encoding each file on a commercial CD or preparing the code for digital streaming requires a little more work.

MusicTT has a topic-specific web page for ISRC explanations and resources at https://musictt.co.tt/isrc/.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An extended version of this column can be found here

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