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 weresimply 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.