New improved music identifier will help creators in the all-important digital market

Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

The new ISWC system comes at a time of sharply reduced income from traditional sources

Music creators stand to benefit from new improved technology that will help track their works better and remunerate them faster in the increasingly important music streaming environment.

A two-year project to modernise the global ISWC system, the unique code that identifies music works and helps remunerate their creators and publishers, has been completed and is officially launched today by CISAC, the International Confederation of Authors Societies.

The new system, upgraded by CISAC for the first time in 15 years, 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.

The upgrade comes at a crucial time when songwriters across the world have seen the collapse of their traditional income streams, especially live concerts and public performance.

Following a “switchover” in July, over 100 authors societies have already migrated to the new system. The development of the system, commissioned by CISAC to Spanish Point Technologies in January 2018, is supported by companies and organisations across the collective management, publishing and digital services community.

The new ISWC system will also be shortly rolled out for use by the publishing community and digital music platforms.

CISAC President Björn Ulvaeus said: “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. 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”.

The new ISWC system will improve the information flow between societies, publishers and platforms, helping keep pace with the explosion of music streaming. CISAC societies collections for digital music rose 27% in 2019 to €2.1 billion in 2019 and have almost tripled in the last five years, despite still accounting for only 22% of all music collections. Over the last 15 years, more than 50 million ISWC codes have been allocated to music works.

The new ISWC system brings key benefits to societies:

  • Greater accuracy. Codes will be assigned centrally, by CISAC, to avoid duplication and
    inaccuracies. The new system will end the current practice of having ISWC codes allocated by individual societies, a practice that leads to many data integrity challenges. Central assignment will guarantee that each song will get only one unique code.
  • More speed. The new system dramatically reduces the time it takes to assign ISWCs. Unlike today, when assignment is often delayed by the need to complete work registration, ISWCs will be available almost instantly. The codes will then be ready for use by all partners in the commercial chain (publishers, sub-publishers, digital services) within hours of the work’s release, so that a song used on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music or others can be monetised without delay.
  • Increased efficiency. More remuneration for creators. The new ISWC project takes the friction out of the digital licensing process, reduces costs and brings more value. The fully functioning automated allocation system will save societies time and resources and hand more remuneration back to the creators they represent.

For the newly launched ISWC interface allowing a much more flexible and interactive use of the ISWC by societies and publishers, see

APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston said, “Our members rely on us to simplify their administration and let them focus on creating new music works. The new central ISWC system is set to bring more speed, accuracy and efficiency to tracking unique works globally, and importantly, get royalties to creators faster.”

Gadi Oron, Director-General of CISAC, said: “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. 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”.

For more information on the ISWC, see

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