What is ISWC?

Stephen Cirino
Nov 4 · 2 min read

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An ISWC is a unique 10 character code assigned to a musical work or composition. ISWCs are recognized globally as the unique standard for world-wide identification of musical works. So, just like an ISRC, an ISWC represents a unique identification number used to separate your musical work/composition from all other similar works.

ISWC codes are used to identify information such as:

  • Song title
  • Songwriter(s)
  • Music Publishers
  • Song splits

Remember that each musical work/composition can only ever have one ISWC code attached to it, and this code should never be reused to represent other musical works/compositions.

However, while only one ISWC code can be attached to each musical work, that same musical work can have multiple ISRC codes attached to it. This is because the ISWC code represents the underlying composition, while the ISRC code represents the sound recording. So, for example, someone records your original composition and then goes on to create a remix of that song as well as a karaoke version. In total, there are now three separate sound recordings-the original recording, the remix and the karaoke version. Each recording is assigned its own ISRC code. However, they all came from the same musical work. As a songwriter, you are entitled to a share of each and every sound recording that stems from your original work. So, while you may only have one ISWC for your composition, this ISWC will be embedded into multiple sound recordings each with their own unique ISRC codes.

Who Needs An ISWC

If you write your own music and plan to release it publicly, you need an ISWC code. This is because the ISWC code not only separates your composition from all others, but it also helps link that composition back to yourself and your publisher so people know who needs to be paid when that composition commercially used.

How Are ISWC Codes Created?

An ISWC number is made up of the letter “T” followed by 9 digits and a ‘check digit’ that protects the ISWC against allocation errors. An ISWC looks like this:

Songs receive ISWC’s when they are registered at a performing rights organization (PRO). You can also get an ISWC code by visiting the ISWC International Agency and providing them with the title of your composition, the names of all contributors along with their individual IPI/CAE #, and a work classification code.

You can find existing ISWC codes by searching for your songs in your PRO’s respective repertory on their website.

Stephen Cirino

Written by

CEO - futuremgmt / Sr. Lecturer @UArts / Curator of relevant music business news / www.futuremgmt.com

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