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ISRC & ISWC – What’s the Difference?


The music industry is full of acronyms. ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and HFA are the big ones that everyone should know about. But if you really want to take your publishing rights seriously, there’s a lot more to learn. ISRCs and ISWCs are becoming more crucial to proper royalty collection everyday. Do you know what they are?


International Standard Recording Code
Format: US-S1Z-99-00001
Where it comes from: ISRCs are usually provided by your label or distributor.
Definition: This 12-character alphanumeric code is used to uniquely identify a sound recording. It is basically a recording’s identification number. Each recording should only have one ISRC, but one song can have multiple ISRCs if the song has been recorded, remixed or edited more than once.
Why you need it: Publishers, collection societies and music services use ISRCs to match master recordings to underlying compositions. If your ISRCs aren’t being sent to collection societies, services like Spotify might not know who to pay when your songs are streamed.


International Standard Work Code
Format: T-123.456.789-Z
Where it comes from: ISWCs are assigned by PROs when your songs are registered.
Definition: This 11-character alphanumeric code is used to uniquely identify a musical work. It is basically a song’s identification number. Each song should only have one ISWC, but arrangements, adaptations and translations should receive their own unique ISWCs.
Why you need it: An ISWC helps those who wish to use your music distinguish your song from similarly titled songs and provides valuable metadata.

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5 thoughts on “ISRC & ISWC – What’s the Difference?

  1. Hello there,

    Thank you for that info. I have Distrokid as my Distribution service: I have asked them about having my own ISRC codes to register by myself ( they offer to do it for me) . Here´s their answer:” If you opt into the Musician Plus or Label plan, you are welcome to use your own ISRCs. Otherwise, we will create ISRCs for you, which can only be used for DistroKid purposes.”
    Any chance you could advise me on that?
    Thank you very much

    1. Hi David. Regardless where you get your ISRC codes, they should serve the same purpose: identifying your recordings. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email us at

    2. Not enough information involved by the way!

  2. […] Codes (ISRCs) and music work International Standard Work Codes (ISWCs). These codes provide standards for incorporating metadata within songs, which is a crucial step towards identification of songs for the purposes of tracking. […]

  3. Certainly, there should be a better explanation than that. Thank You

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