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What is an ISWC and how does it help you get paid?

Tip Published Friday 15 March 2024
What is an ISWC?

There are literally trillions of music usages around the world every week.

It’s our job to get the data from music users (like Spotify, Netflix, background music suppliers and more) and match it to your musical works and pay royalties.

A piece of metadata called an ISWC helps make matching and payments more accurate.

What is an ISWC?

The ISWC (International Standard Musical Work Code) is a unique, permanent and internationally recognised reference number to identify musical works (also known more commonly as ‘songs’ or ‘compositions’).

This identification number is linked to other valuable metadata for the work such as work title and creators. The ISWC distinguishes your musical work from other compositions around the world.

It’s the composition equivalent of an ISRC, which uniquely identifies sound recordings.

What’s the format of an ISWC?

An ISWC consists of the letter “T” followed by nine digits plus a “check digit” to protect the ISWC against allocation errors. An example ISWC is T-034.524.680-1.

Why are ISWCs important?

Metadata for musical works is crucial for royalty distributions. Getting an ISWC assigned to your work is an important part of tracking uses of your music.

If royalties are generated for usages of a recording of one of your songs, your ISWC helps APRA AMCOS, distributors, DSPs (Digital Service Providers), and other organisations know who to pay.

How are ISWCs assigned?

ISWCs are centrally assigned by CISAC (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers) for works registered through music rights management organisations (MRMOs) — yes yes, it’s another acronym— such as APRA AMCOS. CISAC will only assign an ISWC after receiving info about the work from an MRMO; you cannot request a new ISWC from CISAC directly.

Please note that ISWCs can only be assigned where all sharers in the work have IP Name Numbers (IPNNs) and the work registration has been processed by APRA AMCOS or one of our affiliates. Once processed, it typically takes 24-48 hours for an ISWC to be assigned.



What are Interested Party Name Numbers (IPNNs)?

IPNNs – sometimes referred to as ‘IPI Numbers’ - are international identifiers for right holders such as writers, arrangers and music publishers.

If you're an APRA AMCOS member, an IPNN would have been assigned to you when you joined. Your IPNN will be automatically included when you register your songs with APRA AMCOS. Your co-writer IPNNs will also be automatically included if you've previously registered works co-written with them. If not, we will add this information when we process the work registration.

How does APRA AMCOS use ISWCs?

We use metadata such as ISWCs in our processes to match reported usage from clients to the works in our system. This helps to ensure that your royalties are paid quickly and accurately.

ISWCs are especially useful when your music is used overseas. ISWCs help to distinguish between various works with similar titles or works by creators with common names around the world such as Smith or Jones or Wang. Our affiliated MRMOs can access ISWCs for your musical works via the ISWC portal and an international works database.

How do I find ISWCs for my music?

ISWCs for your works are available in the Writer Portal and Member App

What's the difference between an ISWC and an ISRC?

ISWCs identify musical works and ISRCs (International Sound Recording Code) identify recordings of musical works. A musical work can only have one ISWC but it may have many linked ISRCs if there are multiple released recordings of the work.

For example, ‘I’ve Been Everywhere' by the late Australian songwriter Geoff Mack.

1 musical 'work'

'I've Been Everywhere' Written by Geoff Mack. ISWC: T-060175650-6

350+ unique recordings

by artists including Dolly Parton, Rihanna, Johnny Cash. Each with its own ISRC.

It’s ISWC is T-060175650-6 but there are over 350 recordings, each with its own ISRC in our database.

DSPs such as Spotify often supply us with ISRCs when reporting streams. If you know the ISRCs for recordings of your works, please add the ISRCs via the Writer Portal (Sign In - APRA AMCOS Portal) or Member app. The more metadata we have for your works, the easier it is for APRA AMCOS to match the usages and pay your royalties.

Any other ISWC questions?

Please reach out via Live Chat or email us on [email protected]