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Is Your Music Really Yours? – Get Familiar with ISRCs

Is Your Music Really Yours? - Get Familiar with ISRCs

Is Your Music Really Yours? – Get Familiar with ISRCs

A reader went through a post and shot me a mail with this stuck out phrase,

“showbiz lawyer, which is this one again?”

and I replied him with a smile saying,

“…as an artist, you have to either learn the business aspect of music or let competent hands handle that.”

In today’s read, I question every music performer and publisher out there. Is your content really yours to own? Have you acquired proper copyrighting claims to ensure you get your money’s worth for your content? And have you heard about the ISRC?

ISRC simply aims at uniquely identifying sound recordings and music video recordings. The code was developed by the recording industry which codified the standard as ISO 3901 in 1986 and updated it in 2001.

An ISRC identifies a particular recording, not the work (composition and lyrical content) itself. Therefore, different recordings, edits, and remixes of the same work should each have their own ISRC.

Credit – Studio 301

Now each of these codes is a unique 12 digits of which can be bought from an ISRC manager or service provider. I already saw an ad for Spinlet Nigeria selling the codes.

  • The first question is, how does one get the code into his record?

This has to be done by the sound engineer once the record is ready for distribution or release.

  • The next question in your mind is, does every record need this code?

Well, not all records need an ISRC, as demos do not. But for records with plans on distribution to the public and commercial release, it is advisable to get the codes. Initially, in the U.S, it was distributed free till 2009 when RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) placed a charge for it, as the system or database needed to be maintained.

However, some record and publishing companies offer this as apart of their services costing about $50+GST as a one-off project fee covering all ISRC on your releases. But If you are a record label, or an artists signed to a label, usually the label organizes ISRCs internally. Check with them before accidentally having ISRCs issued twice!

  • What does one stand to benefit from purchasing these codes?

Firstly, these codes are compatible with standards developed in the field of consumer electronics and are readable by hardware already used in the recording industry. Secondly, it can be used to track sales of your records and radio plays for accurate data in royalties payments especially in a country like Nigeria where artists have overtime accused COSON of not paying royalties.

That said, it might interest you to know that Trace Naija pays 20% royalty to COSON as established in the Afrima Music Summit 2017, which I attended.

Also, Nigerian radio stations pay royalties these days so you might want to reconsider waving that aspect off if you have been doing such for years.

Thirdly, records are often illegally used for commercials in Nigeria as artists never sue for lack of a license to use their intellectual property, these codes help tracks such illegal moves.

And finally, it proves legally that you own the record, as we have not fully embraced copyrighting a record. What about aiding in gathering demographics due to the sales and radio airplay? Well, that would be the 5th benefit, would it not?

An advice to artists, kindly and always remember that in as much as you want to put out so many records and hits, you shouldn’t be living a fake & broke life hence take the music business seriously.

Until next week when you shall be reading more about my thoughts, research and little understanding of this somewhat monotonous music industry, keep a date with me the showbiz lawyer (only one chestnut).

Best regards.

Henry Ezikeoha
Henry Ezikeoha
Do i need an introduction? Oh yes, I'm fondly called henreechestnut or showbizlawyer. I have been in the entertainment industry for more than half a decade; including handling events and media packaging, talent management and currently A&R. I call myself a legal entertainment connoisseur.

1 Comment

  1. run8factory run8factory says:

    Answer the good question by reading the article Cc @henreechestnut

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