The MPG’s (Music Producers Guild) Mastering Group has made a key breakthrough for all recording artists and copyright owners, as it begins work with the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) to create an industry standard for embedding ISRCs within digital music files.
The collaboration between the two organisations will aim to simplify accurate file identification and content tracking, as well as help royalty agencies develop more precise systems for payments. This would subsequently safeguard the incomes of all artists and copyright owners when their music is aired.
MPG Mastering Group board member and Alchemy Mastering engineer Barry Grint, who led the initiative, commented: “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 programme – 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 practice.”
The MPG Mastering Group acknowledged that this was a serious problem and that the industry was in need of an approved method for embedding ISRC data within a WAV file. Such a method was subsequently introduced by the EBU, who had developed the Broadcast WAV File (BWF), a variant of the WAV file for use by broadcasters. However, while 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. Furthermore, workstation manufacturers offering the ability to create BWF files did not have a consensus as to the fields in which data should be entered.
Grint then approached the EBU with a request to adapt the BWF standard so that ISRCs 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,” he said. “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 recognising 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.”
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