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CISAC formally launches revamped ISWC system

By | Published on Thursday 24 September 2020


CISAC – the global grouping of song right collecting societies – has today formally launched a new system for the ISWC data standard that it manages. That new system, it says, should speed up the issuing of ISWCs and reduce the risk of data conflicts occurring as new works are published.

The ISWC – or International Standard Musical Work Code – is the data standard for, well, musical works. It’s the code that allows us to identify each individual song because, well, you know, songwriters keep writing songs with the same title. Many collecting societies also have their own codes for identifying individual works within their databases, but ISWC is the global industry-wide standard.

Such data standards have become ever more important in the digital age where the music industry is processing billions and billions of lines of usage data every month. Ensuring the right people get paid when music is played means ensuring that every song has a single ISWC and that it is logged with all of the music industry’s databases.

On the recordings side, the equivalent data standard is the ISRC. One of them needs to be assigned to every recording, likewise logged in all the databases. And then the tricky bit, every ISRC needs to be matched to the ISWC of the song it is a recording of.

Given how crucial all this data gubbins now is, two years ago CISAC announced a plan to overhaul the way ISWCs are managed, in order to increase the accuracy and speed with which the codes are issued. Speed is key because new recordings can be released so quickly these days, and it’s not uncommon for recordings to be streaming in their millions on the digital platforms while the song it’s a recording of doesn’t yet have an ISWC attached to it.

Announcing that that overhaul was now complete and a new ISWC system is in place, CISAC said this morning that the revamp “will improve the accuracy, speed and efficiency of societies’ work in tracking creators’ works and paying royalties. It will help societies and music publishers manage the trillions of data transactions generated by the growth of music streaming”.

CISAC added that over 100 collecting societies have already migrated over to the new system, and that said system will soon be rolled out to music publishers and digital music platforms.

Commenting on all this, CISAC President and Abba man Björn Ulvaeus says: “The upgrade of the ISWC could not come at a more timely moment for songwriters and composers, who are now depending more than ever on digital income for their livelihoods”.

“ISWC is one of the most important identifiers in the music industry and I’m delighted that the upgrade is now completed and is being implemented across the sector”, he goes on. “It will track music works better and faster and help put more money more quickly into creators’ pockets. The key now is to make sure the system really does go global – it needs to be universally applied to bring the potential rewards it offers to all players”.

Meanwhile, CISAC Director-General Gadi Oron adds: “At a time when creators need digital revenues more than ever before, we are launching a major upgrade to the ISWC system which will lead to massive improvements in the way music works are identified and licensed”.

“The new system will save time and costs for all parties and most importantly, will help deliver more royalties to creators”, he concludes. “We are now working closely with our partners across the music sector to make sure the upgraded system is used universally across the digital music market”.