The digital revolution of the music industry has created endless possibilities to share music on a global scale - awesome! However, this is creating additional complexity for the creators to ensure a fair reward of their hard work and creativity. This in itself is becoming an increasingly important topic since stream revenues are constantly dropping in parallel.
These days, the DIY musicians like myself provide a significant contribution of new and creative content to streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Napster, Amazon Music and YouTube, just to name some of the established services. On the other hand, DIY musicians need also to pay attention to get fairly rewarded, which is a tedious and unattractive task to do - and it is quite non-creative.
Popular streaming platforms are only accessible for releasing own music through so-called "aggregators", which often are labels themselves. They collect some meta data in a structured process. This ensures that the revenues from the streaming of the music can be traced back to the creator and reward him for his contribution/s.
The picture shows an example of a recent release of my new album 'So Pure' published through the swedish aggregator "AMUSE". Meta data contain some important numbers like UPS, ISRC and release ID. Moreover, the original writers and performers/artists of coversongs are also part of the meta data collection. However, in order to ensure full rewarding, even more international numbers/codes are necessary. This is about the meaning of these numbers and how to manage them intelligently without additional cost and payments.
Why are music creators not always paid adequately?
Here is the thing: When creators upload their music onto websites or submit it to a distributor, aggregator, a label, or even share it via email, the essential song and recording information is sometimes absent. Tens of thousands of tracks are released every day, frequently lacking the important key information. Industry organizations, including Spotify, reward creators to the best of their abilities, but they are limited to the information they have on file. When creators, managers, or labels try to look back in time to figure out who did what, where, and when on a song, it becomes almost impossible.
What information needs to be included in a release?
Like most people have a social security number or a passport ID, the music industry has established a number of identifiers (IDs) to enable a connection between creators to their musical work (songs). Since many different people can have the same name, identical song titles, or even album titles, these identifiers are necessary to keep track of an individual's work. There are FIVE different types of song and recording IDs that one needs.
What are the most important FIVE KEY IDENTIFIERS?
The IPI is the code to identify songwriters: If you are a songwriter or contribute to the creation of the song, you must have an IPI number so people know who to pay! To get an IPI number, you need to sign up with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO). PROs are responsible for collecting income on behalf of songwriters and music publishers when a song is publicly broadcast or performed. Public performances can include play on television or radio, in clubs and restaurants, on websites, or on other broadcasting systems. This can be e.g. SUISA (Switzerland), GEMA (Germany), the ASCAP / BMI or SESAC (United States of America) or any other PRO in the respective regions of the world.
The ISWC is the code to identify the song: The ISWC is an ID for your original song, so the lyrics and melody. So, if you or someone else records your song and gets 10 million streams, you will get credited and rewarded if your song has an ISWC. You will get an ISWC code by registering the new song with a PRO or a publisher. For instance, the songs registered via SUISA (Switzerland) have a common international format, e.g. T-303060334-6 for my song 'Sabroso'. However, there is - unfortunately - no link between ISWC and ISRC codes.
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the code to identify the actual recording: The ISRC code identifies each unique recording. You can get an ISRC automatically created with Session Studio, or with a distributor or label. There must be a unique ISRC for all recordings on a song, for example an album version and a live version of the same song.
The IPN is the code to identify performers: If you perform on a recording of a song in Europe, you need an IPN to ensure you’re fairly credited and receive your neighboring rights. To get an IPN, you need to register with a Collective Management Organization (CMO), who collects on behalf of performers, since PROs collect on behalf of songwriters. The IPN represents music performers. PPL is providing free ISN codes upon registring. PPL can optionally be authorized to collect the worldwide revenues for an artist or label.
The ISNI (International Standard Name Identifier) is the code that brings the other four together: ISNI is a public ID that can be seen by all. By adopting an ISNI, artists, songwriters, and other creators can be unambiguously identified and therefore credited for their work. The ISNI links your other IDs together and keeps track of you as an individual for your contributions, both on the musical work and also as a performer on the recording. Here you can find instructions and more information on how to apply for an ISNI-ID. There are specialized ISNI service profiders available for musicians / performers / artists / bands or labels. In my case, I used Sound Credit to register an ISNI-ID as an artist.
Are all FIVE KEY IDENTIFIERS necessary?
This is case-by-case different. If you compose, record, and perform music, then all five are necessary. In case of a songwriter, only the IPI, ISWC and ISNI are relevant. In case of a performer, only need the IPN and ISNI count. Different companies use different IDs, so the best thing to do is use a tool like Session Studio to capture every relevant ID possible.
What is the next step?
Once all five IDs are generated, the songs created by a musician can be identified, and ultimately traced back and credited and/or paid. The important thing to do as a creator is to ensure that the identifiers are included when shared or released.
Are there helpful tools available?
Since I'm a music creator myself, I truely understand that not all creators adhere to the admin and ID parts. This is compounded by the fact there are so many people involved (normally) in making music, and most people don't even track who did what, when, and where at the point of creation.
But there is help out there - the software Session Studio was exactly created by musicians like Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA) and Niclas Molinder (Songwriter/Producer) to assist during the entire process to get rid of the admin work as far as possible. This software is available for all platforms, desktop computers, laptops and mobile phones. It is super simple for the creator to attribute the IDs to all their music, without having to know the details, and to help creators at every stage during the creative process. Moreover, it has collaboration, recording and performing tools built-in. I tcollects every role and contributor in the studio. In a recording session, for instance, a simple check-in via QR-code - that's it. Organization and agreement on splits right during the take is a great feature as well. Upon release it is ensured that all relevant information is handed over to the label / distributor / aggregator / publisher.
In times where revenues of streaming services drop day-by-day it becomes increasingly important to keep track on the above mentioned IDs and collect as much as possible the different value streams associated with our creative work. Without this, the streaming platforms will easily dry out. The creators need to be valued for their immense content input which is not for granted!