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The Business of Music_Metadata

Over the next few blogs I’m going to take a look at the Business of Music.

Today, I’m starting at Metadata.

A Mastering Engineer’s task is not just limited to the technical aspect of the audio in terms of ‘sound’; but also meticulous record keeping and embedding of that information (metadata) in the audio files, especially if it is for distribution. This is all part of the Quality Control (QC) checks the Mastering Engineer has to do before final distribution.

So, What is Metadata?

Simply, metadata is any information that is included in a file whether it is for download or CD replication that is not program material itself. It is utlised to give your track it's own unique identity for tracking purposes. This metadata information is things like track IDs; start and stop IDs; ISRC, UPC, CD text information, and so on.

Metadata starts with the basic information about the track, this being

1) Name of the artist

2) Name of the track

3) Album

4) Year

5) Engineer

6) Producer and

7) Publisher

All of this information is encoded into the track

and then there's more. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important Metadata;


What is ISRC?

ISRC is an acronym for International Standard Recording Code: a unique 12 digit code that’s assigned exclusively to record companies, publishers, artists, in fact anybody who has a catalogue of music and registered with the recording industry standards body in their particular country. For South Africa, this is RISA (Recording Industry of South Africa).

The ISRC Code is used to track the broadcast of material for royalty payment.

A simple explanation would be: the digital fingerprint for your music or video production.

The code is structured as follows:

  • First two ASCII letters - country code.

  • Next three - a unique company code

  • The next 2 numbers indicate year of release

  • and the last 5 digits indicate catalogue number.

Example: ZA-20-RAP--00001

Your unique company code or code you are assigned will remain that code forever. You cannot however use the same catalogue code number (the last 4 digits) for a different track. Let’s have a look at this for a moment.

If track #1 on your album is the song “Who I am” and has the ISRC ZA-RAP-17-0001 assigned to it; then that code will forever be linked with “Who I am”; even if “Who I am’ is included on a compilation album with other tracks. Even if “Who I am” is track #8 on the compilation album.

The next track that you create, if it is a new track needing a new ISRC, will then be ZA-RAP-17-0002. And so on. You will change the year and last 5 digits of the ISRC code in numerical order for each track.

In South Africa, in order to get your own ISRC codes, you will need to register with RISA and apply for the code. Visit for more info on how to do this.

For other countries check online for for more info on which organization you should contact. You are looking for a recording standard industry in the country you are based in

You are also able to purchase ISRC codes, so again, check online for companies that offer those services.

How do you add ISRC codes to your track?

Not all DAWs are capable of writing ISRC codes into the file. You can find many useful applications online; or alternatively Steinberg’s Wavelab is a dedicated mastering editor; and well worth the purchase if you are going to be a serious Mastering Engineer. You can check it out here

Have a look at the links below for some great software options to embed Metadata into your files

Sonoris ISRC Editor:

For Wav and MP3 files:

Check out the video below for a quick demonstration

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