AllgemeinMusic Business

4 codes every songwriter should understand

Songwriting is more than a creative hobby! While a lot of people do not understand that the process of writing, as fun as it can be on one day, can drag you down and demand enourmous brain power and discipline on another. It is an acutual job, which people outside of the music industry tend to overlook. Aside from the writing itself, songwriting is a business that demands the same dedication to adminstrative works as any other business does. This includes taking care of monitoring your song placements and checking if your royalty payouts are correct.

This is why today we will look into four numeric codes every songwriter should be aware of and have at hands when releasing and monetizing songs! Here we go:


The ISRC Code is a code designated to each individual song recording (master recording of a song). It stands for “International Standard Recording Code“. The ISRC is a must, once you release a sound recording, either through a DSP (Digital Service Provider), which is your digital distribution service (e.g. Tunecore, CD Baby, Distrokid etc), or when releasing songs on an CD, Vinyl or tape (a physical product so to say). Depending on which country you live in, there´s different “entities” that you can get your own ISRC Code generated from. For US residents, this would be, in Germany you can get it from BVMI in UK it is PPL that generates those: 

If you publish songs through a DSP, they will often generate the ISRC code for you, which is fine! But better to register your own ISRCs in any case, especially once you get more professional.

The ISRC Code is a 12 digits code, containing a 2 digit country code, a 2 digit label/master owner code and the rest are 8 numbers. Why is this code important? It is a worldwide identification code for your master recording. If your sound file was a person, this would be their passport number.


This code is the songwriter´s code for each song. It is provided to you by your PRO.

The ISWC code is the “International Standard Musical Works” code. Kind of what ISBN is for books.  It is a song identifier as well, but this time with regard to the composition, not the sound recording. This code makes sure each song that holds a copyright (by you, your cowriters and your publishers (if you aren’t self-published)) can be identified and all parties  can be paid out in royalties. Let´s say you have self-released your first single, that you yourself have written. You will need both the ISRC to make sure you get the payments from your DSP (if you are the owner of your recorded song version), but next to that you are also the songwriter, and therefore are also granted copyright royalties (Performance rights royalties and digital mechanical royalties) for the use of your composition! Even if you yourself recorded it, you get to collect these various royalties!

Now let´s pretend that one day another artist decides to cover your song. They will make their own sound recording and release it. In this case, they would get payments for their master recording creation through their DSP, but you as the songwriter would also get payments also, since they used your song (so the writer´s and publisher´s share of your composition will be paid to you. Note: The “publisher” with regard to the composition has nothing to do with the person publishing/distributing a master recording. Check this blogpost to get the idea.) ! That´s why the ISWC Code is essential!

ISNI Number

The ISNI Number is a number designated to you as a contributor to creative works (whether that be as performing artist, writer, procducer, graphic designer…you name it). It is a number that will be registered in a database, so people can find your credits on songs and recordings more easily and see if you hold any percentages in any copyrighted works. You can register your ISNI number directly at

CAE/IPI Number

Where the ISNI  refers to any kind of contributer, the CAE, now called IPI number refers to the copyright owners in a musical composition. So this is a number identifiying songwriters and publishers. it is provided to you by your PRO.

IPI stands for “Interested Parties Information

Hope this was helpful!

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