Metadata Guru

As artists continue to create songs, and music continues to be consumed more and more, there is one aspect in the music world that needs a bit more love.


Metadata is a must in this digital day and age, and when you release a song to the world, not having the right metadata could mean organizations like BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, Sound Exchange, Nielsen Sound Scan do not properly identify your music.

With that in mind, let’s look at the most common pieces of metadata used in the music world.


A UPC (Universal Product Code) or EAN (International Article Number) is a unique code used to identify a product, such as an album, single or ringtone. Every release will have a UPC or EAN. The key piece to remember is that each version of the release will have a different UPC. For example, a digital version and a physical version of the same song will have a different UPC or EAN code.


The International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) is an international standard code for uniquely identifying Sound Recordings and music video recordings.

Once a song has an ISRC, that ISRC should stick with that version of the song for its entire life. Let’s say your label releases a song as a Single, and then includes the very same song in a compilation album, the label will use the same ISRC code for the song, and use a different UPC for the compilation album.


The ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) is a unique, permanent and internationally recognized reference number for the identification of musical works. This number is assigned by the Performance Rights Organizations (BMI, ASCAP, SESAC). When the publishing side of a song has been registered, this particular number will remain with the publishing aspect of the song forever. For example, if a song is written and is recorded by multiple artists, the ISWC will remain the same on all versions. This will ensure that the correct songwriter and publisher receive royalties for these renditions of the song.

How do you manage all of this information?

Even though there are software and services out there and readily available that can help you manage your music catalog, a well-formatted spreadsheet with the vital metadata for each song, release or version would be as effective. My best advice — update your spreadsheet regularly, and with every new release.

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