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YouTube to start issuing ISNI numbers to creators

By | Published on Tuesday 23 January 2018


YouTube has become a registration agency for the International Standard Name Identifier system, which means it will now start requesting and issuing ISNI codes from and to any creators who publish content via the video platform, including musicians and songwriters.

The ISNI system was launched in 2011 to deal with the fact that – because of a general lack of imagination amongst all parents ever – people who create stuff often have the same name as other people who create stuff. By using the ISNI code it makes it easier for distribution and publishing platforms to identify which exact people were involved in any one piece of content, which helps with attribution and royalty payments.

It wasn’t the first time it occurred to people that artists and songwriters having the same name could cause confusion. Other similar standards systems already exist in music for identifying specific performers and writers. In particular the IPN (International Performer Name) system for artists, and the IPI (Interested Party Information) system which is used by the music publishing sector and its collecting societies to identify songwriters, composers, arrangers and publishers.

The ISNI system is not specific to any one creative discipline, and codes can be allocated to anyone who contributes to a creative work. Which, according to the ISNI International Agency, might include “researchers, inventors, writers, artists, visual creators, performers, producers, publishers, aggregators, and more”.

Given that many musicians are also songwriters, and may also have careers as authors, actors, designers, producers and so on, the ISNI system is useful. Rather than having a code for each aspect of their career, they can have a single identifier. Or, as is more likely to happen – given how well established IPNs and IPIs already are – the ISNI could be used to unite all those codes that are specific to a creative discipline. Because you can never have too many codes.

Either way, YouTube will use the ISNI code to identify musicians and songwriters on its platform, allocating numbers to those who don’t already have one. It also plans to share those codes with any one creator’s business partners, such as record labels and music publishers, to encourage wider adoption of the identifier system.

Thinking about it, it would be a whole lot more efficient if everyone could just start writing, producing and performing under their ISNI code. In this social, sharing, blockchain age, we really should be moving beyond old fashioned names. I mean, I’d wear 0000 0001 1479 1200 on a t-shirt, and I’m not even a fan of Justin Bieber.

Says YouTube’s Technical Program Manager FX Nuttall: “By adopting ISNI, artists, songwriters and other creators will be unambiguously identified, enabling better visibility and tracking on YouTube. Bringing the ISNI open standard to music opens the door to more accurate credit for creators, discovery for fans, and transparency for the industry”.

Speaking for the aforementioned ISNI International Agency, which oversees the identifier system, its Executive Director Tim Devenport said: “We’re delighted to partner with YouTube on such an ambitious effort. Many organisations active in the music sector have already shown interest in using ISNI identifiers as part of the infrastructure they need to manage rights and royalties effectively”.

He added: “Working closely with YouTube, ISNI is very pleased to contribute its experience and skill-sets to these critical objectives. We view this as a transformative opportunity to offer the music industry a valuable identifier scheme and in so doing, to deepen ISNI’s knowledge of this domain and improve its technical facilities and approaches”.