The Music Producers Guild’s Mastering Group has achieved a significant breakthrough for all recording artists and other copyright owners by working with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to create an industry standard for embedding ISRCs within digital music files.
This major step forward will make accurate file identification and content tracking much easier and could help royalty agencies develop more precise systems for payments, thereby safeguarding the incomes of all artists and copyright owners when their recordings are played on air.
MPG Mastering Group board member and Alchemy Mastering Engineer Barry Grint, who led the initiative, says: “ISRC stands for International Standard Recording Code. Every song released – and indeed every version of that song – is allocated a unique ISRC by the record label. In the past the ISRC information was included within sub data streams of a CD, so a track could be identified by its associated ISRC.
“However, now that we have entered the digital age and are increasingly using digital WAV files, the ability to securely associate ISRC data with specific tracks has been lost because the only common way to incorporate ISRC into a WAV file is via the file name. If someone renames the file – or if the name is truncated or amended by a software program – the vital ISRC information can easily be lost. Unfortunately many record companies are not aware of this and simply assume that ISRCs are being embedded into WAV files. Technically that just isn’t possible so many mastering engineers were simply adding the code to the file title, which was an insecure practise.”
The MPG Mastering Group recognized that this was a major problem and that the industry needed an approved method for embedding ISRC data within a WAV file. Fortunately the EBU had developed the Broadcast WAV File (BWF), a variant of the WAV file for use by broadcasters. Although this variation allows for metadata to be added within the file, no standard had been defined as to how and where the data should be stored. Also workstation manufacturers offering the ability to create BWF files did not have a consensus as to the fields in which data should be entered.
Barry Grint approached the EBU and asked them to adapt the BWF standard so that ISRC’s could once again be included in metadata in a regular way.
“The new system is simple to implement and the MPG is encouraging workstation manufacturers and record companies to use BWF in preference to WAV as the standard specification for file exchange,” Barry Grint says. “Once adopted, this system will allow ISRC to flow through the whole production chain. iTunes and other aggregators will be able to pull the ISRC through during encoding and broadcast playout systems can easily be adapted to recognise the ISRC, making airplay reporting far more accurate.
“This is a major step forward for the music industry as it gives us the opportunity to identify with certainty every digital Master file regardless of how that file is named. We would like to thank the team at the EBU for recognizing the importance of this to the MPG and the Music Industry worldwide and the speed with which they were able to bring this about. By making ISRC the cornerstone of asset management and royalty reporting, we should be able to ensure a more accurate system of royalty payments and writer/performer credits, thereby supporting the income of all recording artists and copyright owners well into the future.”
About Music Producers Guild (UK):
The Music Producers Guild (UK) is an independent and democratic organisation that encourages the highest standards of music production, and actively engages with other music industry organisations to campaign and lobby on matters of important mutual interest.
The MPG represents and promotes the interests of all those involved in the production of recorded music, including producers, engineers, mixers, re-mixers, programmers and mastering engineers. www.mpg.org.uk